Dawa Journeys into Art for Inspiration

By Blaine Schumacher

Senior Journey Dawa poses with his art teacher Ely Sotillo

It was missing something. The proportions, structure, and detail was all there, but something was still off about it. No one in the room could quite get what it needed but after some thought the creator did. He grabbed a few oil colors and started mixing. After 10 minutes the solution was found. A brilliant blue blended with hints of black and green. Journey Dawa had never picked up oil paints before, but he was able to find the perfect color to shade the body of his masterpiece.

Dawa, a senior, was gifted with the eyes of an artist. He sees where each mark needs to be, and what color it should be.  Even at a young age he knew he was gifted. “I was always better than the other kids at art, but I wasn’t really good until 10th grade when I took the drawing class and started learning the actual technical side of art.”

While a lot of his ability is natural talent, Dawa knows that talent alone didn’t bring him to where he is today. “The reason why I have been successful is because I put in six to seven hours a day into art,” said Dawa. “You have to so you can be good not just art but everything. Sports you have to put in the time. Some of it is a natural gift but a lot of it is time and practice.”

Talent wasn’t what pushed Dawa though, his art teachers did.  Before his passion for art had blossomed, they understood what he was capable of and wanted Dawa to see art as more than just colors and lines. It wasn’t until high school when he started to truly appreciated art.  “I really enjoyed class with Mr. Sotillo because he taught me so many different techniques on how to draw,” Dawa said. “I thought it was very interesting to kind of get a look at things like perspective and how the types of drawing utensils affect drawing and paintings.”  Dawa credits Ely Sotillo with inspiring him seek more from art. “Mr. Sotillo pushing me to be better in art while pushing to be a better person; it all just seemed to go hand in hand.” Art to him is a way to push himself to new heights while also allowing him to express himself.  

Dawa’s “Old Man” drawing

“My best drawing I did was an old man drawing two years ago. That was really realistic. I’ve always been good with the technical side of art.” Dawa loves being able to have the physical ability to make what he wants. Dawa’s “old man” drawing was featured in the high school for several months and grabbed the attention of nearly everyone who walked by. However, some of his more recent paints have been the hardest for him, but he found inspiration in it. “I always have struggled with being creative, which is why lately I’ve been trying to be more creative. One of the pictures I did this year was a self portrait with a shattered light bulb over my head. I was just trying to put some more emotion in the painting and trying be more creative. You need the inspiration to be creative with art and actually make good art. That’s probably why this is my favorite piece.” Dawa took the piece he is referring to the Wamac Art competition and won third place in his category.

Self portrait

Recently, the school’s whiteboards have been filled in with images of iconic individuals who have changed the world into what it is today. “Lately I’ve been feeling like I need something more. Part of why I do them is because I like to draw, partially for the practice but also I love the feeling when you do an awesome piece of art and then you wipe it away and it’s gone. Buddhists have a ritual every morning where they make this amazing colored sand mandala. It symbolizes a new start or no connection to what you’ve done in the past. I really like this Idea and I wanted to include this in my art.”

Dawa has a creative gift, but he is planning to study physics in college while taking additional art classes on the side, continuing to strengthen his talent. However, just recently a new opportunity revealed itself to him. Dawa said, “A coordinator from the Dubuque Museum of Art came up to me and asked me if I wanted to include a little bit of my work in an upcoming exhibition and that was really exciting. I never thought about being an artist before. I feel that this could open up some new doors and I definitely am going to do it.” Dawa is extremely excited to possible take the opportunity.

“Journey is a very helpful and knowledgeable student,” said Steve Anderson, Dawa’s spring semester art teacher. “He’s a student who wants to learn more no matter what the subject is really. He’s also really good and helpful when sharing that information with others. He’s one to really step up and help other students who are struggling as well.” He said that it is a regular occurrence to see  Dawa interacting with one of the other students in the art room. He may be socializing with someone, or he may be helping them create the perfect masterpiece. “He benefits the class because in some ways he acts like a second teacher in the room,” Andresen said. “If I’m busy doing something else he is also a great source of help. He’s also really great for the classroom environment. He really helps students want to learn.”