Senior recalls long relationship with artistic path

For many students, the reminisce of art brings back poor memories of creating distorted animals and people, random spots of mixed colors and a disappointed look as the finished product never turned out as envisioned.

Beating the odds, at the age of 13, Elizabeth Relph, who’s now a senior, discovered that art was much more than a required junior high course.

Relph said, “Up until about eighth grade, I never really had a class specifically for art. When other people would complain about having to go, that’s when I realized that I actually looked forward to it. After doing a few projects, I noticed that things came a lot easier to me than some of my classmates. When I got to high school, I decided that I would explore this little niche.”

Through many courses offered at the high school as well as personal exploration, Relph has created dozens of pieces with a variety of techniques and materials.

“I have be able to use multiple types of paints and materials, but I usually paint with acrylics, and every so often I dabble with watercolor. Watercolor has a sort of simplicity about it, but I think it’s a daunting task to be painting and know that if you mess up, it will be really hard to fix. I love using acrylics because I make mistakes all the time, but with this kind of paint, you just cover it up.”

On average, it takes Relph two weeks to finish a project, but she said the rewarding feelings after completion are well worth the efforts.

“Satisfaction is what comes to mind after completing a piece. Knowing that you created something out of some colored goop and a brush is so strange. It’s cool to be able to stand back, look at something awesome and say, ‘I did that.’”

Amongst dozens of completed pieces, Relph finds a deeper love for a creation made her junior year of high school.

“My favorite piece that I’ve done is a monochromatic portrait of an old woman. I referenced a photo I found online and incorporated a collage of newspaper articles in the background. The piece itself represented the effects of poverty. The piece conveyed a lot of emotion, which was also really cool to get to bring to life.”

Furthering her love for art, Relph has been continuously inspired by a close family member who lives out his artistic passion.

“I have a cousin that designs shoes for Nike in Portland. When he was in high school, all he wanted to do was play college basketball — and he could’ve too. After a few knee injuries, his basketball dreams were crushed, so he turned to another passion of his: art. Watching him go through the design program at Iowa State and seeing where he’s at now reminds me that even if the plans I have for myself don’t turn out, sometimes that just means there’s something even better out there for me.”

In addition to a family inspiration, Relph often turns to her current art teacher for motivation and opinions as she works on pieces.

“Ms. Luensmann who is now Mrs. Olson, has been my biggest motivator. I’ve known her since she was my ninth grade volleyball coach, and she’s been my teacher in six classes since coming to the high school. She’s the person I go to when I need opinions or criticism. She questions my reasoning behind the artistic decisions I make and also pushes me to have new and original ideas. Whenever I’m struggling to execute the vision I have for something, she either offers a suggestion or tells me to stand back and take a new perspective.

Though Relph does not plan to go into artistic studies in the fall, she plans on keeping her passion close to heart.

“I will always continue to paint, but I’m not planning on pursuing a career in the art field. Instead, I will most likely end up in the animal science field because that’s also another interest of mine. For me, art is a hobby and something that I do to take my mind off of school work and other stressors. If I were to make it my work or my stressor, I’m afraid that I wouldn’t enjoy it as much. I never want my love for it to disappear.”

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