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February 8, 2019

Portrait of an Artist as an American Teen

By Joan Brunwasser

Jaxon: "My inspiration will usually come from random things that pop into my head or something I see that I think would be cool to base my art off of such as a certain style or something to draw. It's pretty hard to call up inspiration, I usually take a lot of time to fully think about what I want to do after an idea pops into my head because I like to visualize how I would want it to turn out in my head."

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My guest today is Jaxon Kawecki, a 15-year old high school sophomore in Madison, Wisconsin. Welcome to OpEdNews, Jaxon.

Joan Brunwasser: I was at the home of friends of mine and saw what I thought was a very cool photograph of you, their grand-nephew. But that wasn't it at all, was it? What was I really looking at?

self-portrait in pencil, December, 2018
self-portrait in pencil, December, 2018
(Image by Jaxon Kawecki)
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Jaxon Kawecki: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to speak to you.

No, it was not a photo you were looking at. It was a self portrait I drew with pencils for a project in my art class, based off of a black and white photo of myself taken by my art teacher.

JB: I was flabbergasted. I was positive it was a photograph, even after I was told that it wasn't. I couldn't stop looking at it.

If you don't mind, I'd like to spend some time looking at your self-portrait and have you discuss it with us. For instance, what were the art instructor's instructions?

JK: The project was to draw a self portrait, we had a lot of freedom in this project which taught me how to overcome certain things that were difficult. However, on this drawing we were instructed to draw it by isolating it into specific sections. It was done like this to learn to focus on small, intricate details by looking at the image in parts. For example, with the bricks in my drawing I had to pay close attention to the detail and the different textures throughout the drawing such as the hair, skin and jacket.

JB: When you say "looking at the image in parts", what do you mean exactly? How many parts? And how do you do it? It sounds conceptually very hard. Am I mistaken?

photograph that self-portrait is based on
photograph that self-portrait is based on
(Image by Jaxon Kawecki)
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JK: Well, the technique used for this drawing was the grid technique where a 140 box grid is drawn over the reference photo and the drawing. This ensures that the proportions of everything are accurate and it also helps you focus on a single section of the drawing which helps with detail. It is very time consuming since we were instructed to draw each individual box one at a time. Now the challenging part of it all is to make sure everything looks grouped together and not individually drawn which meant going back over the whole drawing several times to make everything look smoothly connected.

JB: That sounds much more complicated and compartmentalized than sitting down and waiting for inspiration. Yet, clearly it worked. Are you pleased with the end product?

JK: I am really satisfied with the end results of this piece and I believe it is probably the best of all my work so far. This drawing turned out much better than I'd expected and I'm proud of how it turned out and I think it shows my growth as an artist.

JB: Even though this piece lacks color (or maybe because of it), it has tremendous depth and texture. Have you worked a lot with pencils besides for this project? Is it a particularly satisfying or challenging medium to work with?

JK: Yes, pencils is my most used medium, the medium I'm best at using and also my favorite medium to work with. I've been working pencils for a long time and while they only draw in black and white, I think it's still really cool to see what can be drawn with just pencils. There is something satisfying about working with pencils and just all the things that can be done with just them. I also like them because of how accessible they are opposed to paints or other mediums, with pencils you can draw anywhere.

JB: Is it hard or weird to work on a picture of yourself? Did it make you self-conscious or wonder "Do I really look like this?" And does the grid technique minimize that since you were only working on a small portion at a time?

JK: Drawing yourself is pretty different from drawing others because while drawing yourself you really want to make everything look perfect or better than it is. So in a way, I do look at my drawing a little differently and there are some things I would want to change just to make myself look perfect in the drawing.

JB: Thank you for the copy of the photo your art teacher took of you that formed the basis for your self-portrait, complete with grid lines. When you look at them side by side, what do you see? How are they different? What pleases you, or doesn't?

JK: Well, there are always little things that I look back and think I could change; however, I am pretty pleased overall with everything on this piece. More specifically I am pleased by my work on the intricate parts of the drawing that required a lot of little details. Now I could go on critiquing myself on things I could change in this, but I like to focus on the things that I did very well on which makes me very pleased with this drawing.

JB: Makes sense to me. Let's go in another direction. You've gotten quite good at this by now. But what got you started in the first place and how young were you when you realized that you liked drawing?

JK: Well there's no specific age I can think of, I just know that I have really enjoyed drawing since I was pretty young. My dad introduced me to drawing and we would do that together. Also in school, art has always been one of my favorite classes dating back to kindergarten but even before that I remember always liking drawing.

JB: Here's another piece of your artwork, Jaxon. Tell us what we're looking at, when you did it and anything else you'd like to share.

Night Sky in chalk by Jaxon, January, 2017
Night Sky in chalk by Jaxon, January, 2017
(Image by Jaxon Kawecki)
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JK: This was a piece I did a couple of years ago which I really like not only because I think I did really well on for using a different medium other than pencil, but also because I am very satisfied with how this one turned out. This was done with different colors of chalks that I found very interesting when blending them to make the sky.

JB: It's a nice one. The sky is so luminous it looks like the Northern Lights. How is using chalk different? What are the challenges? Was this an assignment or did you just decide to do it on your own?

JK: This was also done for school; we were assigned to create whatever we wanted using chalk. Chalk is a pretty messy medium which makes it a little tricky when trying to blend since it can go all over. It is pretty different from pencils in terms of blending and the different things you can do with chalk in order to create your art. I personally like chalks because unlike graphite pencils, used in my self portrait, the many colors available for chalks allow for me to make pictures like this.

JB: How about one more, Jaxon? What else have you got for us?

Jaxon's Mandala, colored pencils and markers, February, 2016
Jaxon's Mandala, colored pencils and markers, February, 2016
(Image by Jaxon Kawecki)
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JK: This is a piece of mine done a few years ago using a mandala style. This is where everything drawn on one side of the circle is symmetrical to the other side. I really enjoyed creating this piece because I could really just freestyle on it and include a lot of colors and designs on it. On this, I used colored pencils, markers and sharpies which was cool because I could use multiple things to make this rather than simply pencils or chalks in my other two pieces shown. I started by drawing the different sections and then from there I just let my creativity run and drew and colored all sorts of designs and shapes.

JB: I like it! It's really vibrant and strong! Many questions. Did it take a long time to do? It's very meticulously done. Did you have an idea of where you were going with it before you got started and was it what you expected when you were done? Also, give our readers a sense of the size of it. It's hard to tell when just looking at the image.

JK: This one did not take a very long time, probably about a week or so which is a pretty good time frame given the size of it. It is pretty large it's about a foot and a half vertically and horizontally. Beginning this, I did have a general idea of what I was going to do on it such as where I would draw certain things and section it off. Other than that, I just drew whatever came to mind and kept adding more and more shapes and colors to it which was really fun to do. It was what I expected when I finished and I expected very bright, intricate and creative results from it and I believe I did that.

JB: I concur! I'm wondering what you do with all your artwork once you're finished. Do you hang it all up? Or do you put it away and never think about it again? You must have quite a collection by now.

JK: Well I personally have not hung anything of my own up in a while, however, my mom and dad like to hang up the pieces that they really like. Other than that, most of my art, which is quite a lot, is somewhere sitting in my room.

with brother and cousin at Six Flags, summer 2018
with brother and cousin at Six Flags, summer 2018
(Image by courtesy of Jaxon Kawecki)
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JB: I'm sure it's getting crowded in there. What do you like to do when you're not drawing? What else floats your boat?

JK: Well, like a lot of people I'm always on my technology either listening to music or video games. I also like sports, I play baseball which is something I enjoy as much as making art.

JB: I understand you're a pitcher on your school team. That seems like a very different skill set than your drawing. Or am I completely off-base there? Tell me more about baseball and what you like about it.

JK: Well, unfortunately I no longer pitch due to a shoulder injury, although I'm recovered and playing new positions. Baseball is pretty different from art of course because of the athleticism involved but also because you have to always be thinking while playing baseball, in art, you can just let your mind be free. Much like art, I have been playing baseball since I was pretty young and it's continued to be one of my favorite things to do because of how much fun I have while playing it.

JB: Sorry to hear about your shoulder. Does your involvement in baseball enhance your performance in art or vice versa? And, is it fun to juggle your two favorite pastimes or does it get a bit much at times?

JK: Baseball has, at times, inspired my art since some of my art I have drawn has been baseball related. I think there's a good balance between the two without it being overwhelming to do both and I enjoy alternating between the two to switch it up every now and then.

With his mom, sporting the MPV medal he won, July, 2018
With his mom, sporting the MPV medal he won, July, 2018
(Image by courtesy of Jaxon Kawecki)
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JB: Sounds good to me! Where does your inspiration come from? Can you just call it up at will or do you follow some routine or ritual to get the creative juices going?

JK: My inspiration will usually come from random things that pop into my head or something I see that I think would be cool to base my art off of such as a certain style or something to draw. It's pretty hard to call up inspiration, I usually take a lot of time to fully think about what I want to do after an idea pops into my head because I like to visualize how I would want it to turn out in my head.

JB: It's an interesting combo of fast and slow. Whatever it is, it works. You've been creating art for a long time now and have received prizes and accolades on many occasions. How do you handle that?

JK: Well, each time I've received these awards, it's been the same amount of excitement, if not more. It's always awesome to have my art be awarded or chosen to be shown on display and I like to know that others enjoy my work as well.

JB: That we do! What's ahead for you, Jaxon? Do you think about the future? How do you envision it for yourself? Will art still be a big part of you?

JK: I do think about what I will do with art later in life and I do believe it will still play a big part; I've been thinking that I will want to continue doing art in college and from there see where that goes. Being able to have a job that includes some form of art in it would be an awesome way of making a living while still doing something I enjoy a lot.

JB: Awesome, indeed! What would you like to do art-wise that you haven't done yet? What challenges intrigue you?

JK: I would like to expand my skills further with other mediums because I think it would be nice to be as skilled in things other than drawing with pencils. To add on to new mediums, I think 3D art, things such as sculpting using clay, etc" would be cool to do. So just opening up to more things in the art world is something I hope to do and look forward to doing sometime.

JB: I look forward to watching you grow and expand your talent. Anything you'd like to add before we wrap this up?

JK: I also look forward to continuing this passion of mine and once again thank you for giving me the chance to talk about my work, this was a really fun experience.

JB: I'm so glad you enjoyed yourself. Thanks so much for talking with me. !t was lovely getting to know you and seeing some of the beautiful art you bring to life.

with dad, brother, aunt, cousins, mom and grandma last Thanksgiving; note Jaxon's Mandala on wall behind group
with dad, brother, aunt, cousins, mom and grandma last Thanksgiving; note Jaxon's Mandala on wall behind group
(Image by courtesy of Jaxon Kawecki)
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Submitters Website: http://www.opednews.com/author/author79.html

Submitters Bio:

Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of transparency and the ability to accurately check and authenticate the vote cast, these systems can alter election results and therefore are simply antithetical to democratic principles and functioning.


Since the pivotal 2004 Presidential election, Joan has come to see the connection between a broken election system, a dysfunctional, corporate media and a total lack of campaign finance reform. This has led her to enlarge the parameters of her writing to include interviews with whistle-blowers and articulate others who give a view quite different from that presented by the mainstream media. She also turns the spotlight on activists and ordinary folks who are striving to make a difference, to clean up and improve their corner of the world. By focusing on these intrepid individuals, she gives hope and inspiration to those who might otherwise be turned off and alienated. She also interviews people in the arts in all their variations - authors, journalists, filmmakers, actors, playwrights, and artists. Why? The bottom line: without art and inspiration, we lose one of the best parts of ourselves. And we're all in this together. If Joan can keep even one of her fellow citizens going another day, she considers her job well done.

When Joan hit one million page views, OEN Managing Editor, Meryl Ann Butler interviewed her, turning interviewer briefly into interviewee. Read the interview here.


While the news is often quite depressing, Joan nevertheless strives to maintain her mantra: "Grab life now in an exuberant embrace!"

Joan has been Election Integrity Editor for OpEdNews since December, 2005. Her articles also appear at Huffington Post, RepublicMedia.TV and Scoop.co.nz.

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