Editor's Note: In this article, Deven Sowell is identified as SSISD’s first art IV student. Sowell is actually the first art IV student since Dr. Philip Dick became the district’s art instructor 14 years ago.
He’s just a junior, so it’s OK that Deven Sowell doesn’t have a fixed focus on his future.
“I’m not for sure what I’m going to do,” the 18-year-old said Tuesday during an interview in the office of art instructor Philip Dick. “But, I’ve given it some thought.”
One thing is certain. Sowell will be busy next year. In addition to being a senior at Sulphur Springs High School, Sowell will be tackling projects as the only Art IV student.
“Deven’s my first Art IV student,” Dick said. “He’s been an art student since he was a freshman.”
The way SSISD is set up, students who do not want to be in band or drama can opt to take Art I to satisfy their fine arts requirement.
“I have six classes of Art I students,” Dick explained. “It’s hard to get in as a freshman, but Deven did.”
In Art I, students are exposed to print making, drawing, painting, ceramics and sculpture.
“Usually they find something they excel at,” Dick advised. “Deven really excelled at sculpture.”
Dick’s MFA is in sculpture, so he hopes to continue to guide and encourage his student.
“I wish we could have gotten him into some more shows this year,” Dick, who also hold a doctorate in education, noted. “He did well enough in jewelry that I let him do some sterling silver. All of his pieces are fabricated from scratch - sawed, polished, drilled and built.”
According to Dick, Art II is “all about design, the specific rules of how things go together, how to find a focal point, how to balance things and practical application on flat and three-dimensional projects.”
Sowell excelled in design.
In Art III, Dick sits down with each student and plan out projects for the year.
Sowell, the son of Robin and Chris Boggs, chose to build a chair out of corrugated cardboard for one of his projects this year.
“I decided to do a simple chair,” Sowell said. “Everyone [else] was going up and down, so I decided to go side to side.”
If you look closely at the top picture, you’ll see it required many, many layers of cardboard to span the legs, seat and back of Sowell’s creation.
“Cardboard furniture takes a lot of time,” Dick explained. “In years past, I’ve just had them design it and make a mockette (the model Dick is holding in the photo above). This year, we built a full-sized model.”
It took more than a month for Sowell to make a mockette, adjust his calculations and finish the chair. In the process, Sowell has learned the importance of hard work.
“It really makes the difference,” he said. “I did a lot of measuring and sizing of a regular chair. And I had to measure more than once. I had to find what worked best. It wasn’t easy.”
He also realized the finished product might not always look exactly like the original vision.
“I pictured it a bit differently,” Sowell noted, “but, I’m happy with what I got.”
Sowell has put his classroom experiences to use in the real world. He’s working 20-35 hours a week at Jack In the Box. His hard work has paid off. He is now the proud owner of a blue Ford ZX3.
The tall young man says he started drawing comic book characters as a child, but didn’t really have a favorite. He says his aunt is artistic, but he didn’t really have anyone at home to guide him.
“I just drew whatever came off the top of my head,” he said.
He came into Art I classes wanting to learn “as much as I could about art” and says he’s especially drawn to sculpture.
Dick says in order to excel at sculpture, an artist must have good spatial reasoning. He says mechanics, welders and sculptors usually have the ability to understand how things fit together in space, but that painters – save Picasso – don’t have it at the same level.
“One of Deven’s brain strengths is spatial reasoning,” Dick stated.
Director of Fine Arts Charles McCauley is happy to have Sowell in his department.
“Dr. Dick has been extremely complimentary of Deven's work. I think the sky is the limit for him,” McCauley observed.
Dick says Sowell’s artistic ability will take his student far.
“We don’t need people doing cookie cutter paintings,” he reasoned. “Between 80-90 percent of careers in art are in design. Deven has innate design ability.”
In turn, Sowell appreciates the gifts his teacher brings to the classroom.
‘He’s a really good teacher,” the lanky young man noted. “He has a different way of teaching. If you don’t understand something, he’ll help you. As soon as you understand it, he makes you feel like you did a good job. He makes me want to jump into it [art] more.”
Sowell admits his new job has cut into the time he can spend on projects.
“Before that, I felt like this was my world,” he said, gesturing to the art classroom. “I was always working on something I enjoyed.”
Sowell says he piddles with art at home, but doesn’t have any working projects. He’s looking forward to next year’s Art IV class. He hasn’t decided on a specific project, but knows he wants to do “something big, but it probably won’t be cardboard.”
At the moment, the young artist is not convinced that his artistic talents could earn him a living. As things stand, Sowell says he hopes to be involved in art, but hasn’t really thought about making it his life’s work.
Dick wants to get Sowell’s art more exposure next year, to prove to the youngster that he really does have talent to let.
“Hopefully, we’ll get him in a show and get him some recognition in a competitive event,” Dick said. “Then, maybe he’ll say, ‘OK. I get it.’”
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