Artist Spotlight: Senior fine arts major guided by creativity

Category:  The Arts
Friday, September 13th, 2019 at 11:52 AM
Artist Spotlight: Senior fine arts major guided by creativity by Zeila Hobson
Levi Colton, this week's Artist Spotlight, posing next to some of his unfinished works. | Photo: Zeila Hobson

Levi Colton’s first memory of creating art is as a small child, copying the sketches and doodles of his older brother, Edinboro University Art Department alumnus Christian Colton. Levi, now a senior fine arts painting major, initially did not expect to follow in his brother’s footsteps to EU (more on that in a second). But now an experienced student, he sat, enjoying the new Boro Pit and the smell of smoking meat this past weekend during the Highland Games, speaking on his experiences in college as an artist.

Colton took a couple of gap years after high school, often visiting his brother here in Edinboro. Though he had tentative plans to attend art school in New Zealand, multiple visits to his brother gave him the opportunity to speak with Edinboro students, who convinced him attending EUP would be worthwhile.

Colton always knew he wanted to go to school for art. After being accepted at Edinboro, his career goals were a little fuzzy, though. "All my favorite illustrators had gone to school for animation," he said. "So it seemed like a good place to start. I kind of started here with the intention of switching my major from animation to illustration." Once classes started, however, he instead became drawn to fine arts.

"Professor Malcolm Christhilf really pushed me," Colton said, crediting Christhilf’s drawing class with teaching him the technicalities of observational drawing and essentially sparking a passion for fine arts within him.

Colton also took a painting class during his first year at Edinboro and "slowly realized" how much he enjoyed it. At first, Colton "wanted to learn fine arts painting for the sake of being a better illustrator." However, as his skills progressed, Colton realized he was doing himself a disservice.

"I was taking away from both," he said, "by not committing to one."

Colton's painting in progress.

Illustration was more practical, but Colton said he loved painting more and decided to pursue passion instead of paychecks. When asked how painting makes him feel, Colton said, "Like I don’t know how to paint." He continued: "It’s very frustrating, some days it comes easily, but it’s usually a slow build. It demands a lot from me, and I often feel like I’ve forgotten how to paint. I can never get too cocky, because when I do, that’s when it turns into a bad painting. I really have to know how to direct myself and be conscious of what I’m doing, but also be intuitive and let creativity guide me."

When a project doesn’t work out, Colton attributes his ability to overcome creative obstacles to his stubbornness and resilience, traits he says every artist should have. To his thinking, the gap years he took before starting college gave him an edge, as he had maturity other freshmen did not, which allowed him to maintain his work ethic.

"I try to work as hard as I can," he said. "But the real talent for any artist is the ability to learn and improve."

Currently, Colton is brainstorming a project that plays on human perceptions. His tentative goal is to create a series of self-portraits that present him objectively yet have elements of subjective aspects of his identity that are born from the perceptions of others. Colton said his concept is "not specific yet," but he hopes to apply for a show with this body of work next semester.

"I want to thank all the painting professors for the various perspectives they have given me," he said, explaining that their guidance provided him the tools to have healthy discourse with himself about his ideas and their outcomes.

When asked for advice he’d give to budding art students, he said: "Trust your professors and don’t go into classes feeling arrogant about your abilities. Keep an open mind and let your hands follow the direction of the professors. Also, try not to always make anime."

Colton plans to take a gap year and then attend grad school after receiving his undergraduate degree. To view his work or commission a painting from him, follow his Instagram page: @levi_francis_artwork.

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