When Aleah Jones entered her freshman year at Bonners Ferry High School, she was especially looking forward to her art class, a topic she has explored since the sixth grade. But after one week in basic art, she said it quickly became apparent that she was far more advanced than what the class was geared toward.
Art teacher Josh Knaggs said the basic art class teaches things such as the color wheel and other introductory concepts. He was reluctant to allow Aleah to test out of his class until he could see some of her work, so he first asked her to bring in some of the pieces she had created.
“I got two pages into her portfolio and said immediately, ‘You are in the wrong class,’” said Josh. “She had some of the best drawings I’ve ever seen.”
Aleah is extremely talented and devoted to her passion of art. She prefers to create graphite (pencil) drawings and oil paintings but said Mr. Knaggs helps push her out of her box.
“He has really encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and branch out to other things such as watercolor,” said Aleah.
Now a sophomore, Aleah is in AP art which allows her to create and produce art throughout the week as she works somewhat independently with the hope of earning college credit and possible scholarships.
“The (AP) students submit their portfolios to the College Board, which is an organization in charge of standardized tests for college admissions. They employ artists and professors from around the country to critique the students’ work and grade it based on the 0 to 6 rubric,” explained Josh, adding that Aleah’s work is definitely worthy of a score of six. “A score of four or higher sees one credit awarded to the student. A score of six is ranked exceptional, and they are then in the arena of scholarships, not that money is guaranteed, but the opportunity is greater as colleges want talent in their ranks.”
Aleah says she loves seeing the finished product of her work and “taking what’s in her head and creating something whether based in reality or not.”
It is curious to note that Aleah’s interests are on the opposite ends of the spectrum with Renaissance art and the contemporary “street art” being her favorite to create. The inspiration for each comes from Rembrandt and Etam Cru, a duo that consists of street artists Sainer and Bezt who create massive street art murals that are often several stories tall and rich in color and known throughout the world.
The time Aleah spends engaging in art is indicative of her passion. Working anywhere from five to seven hours each day, including her flex and lunch periods, Aleah says she has learned to make the most of both her time and materials.
She credits Mr. Knaggs with instilling in her a good work ethic. “I’ve learned that when things get difficult, it’s OK to put it aside for a while. There will always be something else to work on,” said Aleah, adding that when she comes back to a project after setting it aside it allows her to be more creative. She tends to work on her oil paintings over the weekend when she can devote more time to it given that it is a longer process. “You have to draw, find a board and then begin to paint,” she said.
In addition to art, Aleah is a softball player and also expresses herself through music as a guitar player. But it is in drawing that she finds her escape. “Once I start drawing, I don’t think of anything else,” she said.
So far this school year, Aleah estimates she has created approximately 50 pieces of art. And as talented as she is, it surprises some to know that her pencil drawings, much to the dismay of her teacher, are all drawn with a mechanical pencil.
While Aleah realizes she has talent, she is also very humble. “I need to spend more time with certain areas of my pieces instead of rushing through it,” said Aleah about what areas she needs to improve upon. “I also need to try new mediums.”
One of Aleah’s goals is to start drawing more portraits of people she knows, an area she has been reluctant to pursue for fear people may not think the end product looks like the subject she is drawing. “She is plagued with an artist’s temperament,” jokes Josh. “She’s never really totally happy (with her finished product).”
But if her own self portrait is any indication, she has nothing to worry about. “I think that is her best piece of art yet,” said Josh.
For those who enjoy art but may not have the confidence they need, Aleah advises to take your time. “It takes a lot of practice. I’ve done it every day for so long. Find something you like and just keep experimenting,” she said.
As for Josh, he is amazed at the pieces she draws and paints. “My intent is to take her as far as she wants to go with her art,” said Josh. “I feel blessed to interact with such talent.”