Sophomore Aleena Barnett can still remember drawing with her sister, junior Miyako Barnett, when they were seven-year-olds: “We had a whole series of frogs that we drew together. I often pull out old drawings to make fun of with her.”
Miyako, a current member of the Art III class, says her first memory of creating art was of painting on rocks.
“It was a fun little activity we used to do when I was younger. Both of my parents are pretty artistic, and my grandpa was really into art, so they wanted us to know how to creatively express ourselves.”
Miyako’s parents also taught she and Aleena how to draw simple illustrations, such as people and flowers.
This practice of drawing people led to Miyako’s fascination with the human body.
“A lot of times, the people I paint are naked; I just feel like the human body is really beautiful. I paint androgynous people because I feel like it shouldn’t matter what someone’s gender is.”
Miyako’s art training in middle school came to a halt when her school ceased to provide an art class, yet the artist was determined to continue learning.
“There weren’t many art classes in middle school, so I mostly just watched YouTube videos, and [read] books [about art],” says Miyako. Outside of school, Miyako finds time to work on projects big and small, using her favorite media, acrylic paint and pencil.
Says Miyako, “[I work on art during] the weekend, and long breaks, like winter break or summer break, because during the school year I don’t have time outside of art class.”
Miyako has also been commissioned to do art projects for her community, from submitting her artwork to the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, where she won a “gold key” for her acrylic rendition of the rapper Nipsey Hussle, to painting portraits of family members for their birthdays.
Right now, Miyako is experimenting with clay in her Art III class, where teacher Sascha Manning shows her students how to sculpt, glaze, and fire.
“At first, I didn’t really have an idea of what I was going to do, so I just started building with clay randomly. I really didn’t like it because it was my first time [using] clay, but I like clay [now] because it’s so hands-on.”
Manning took notice of Miyako’s quiet but inspiring attitude.
“All art reflects the creator that made it. For Miyako, she’s a lovely person. She has the ability to show her strength and voice through her drawings and paintings. When I first met her, I saw a student whose art was needed by the world.”
Aleena, who is also an artist, describes her sister as inspiring, passionate, and confident.
“When I was younger I thought that [Miyako] was better than me, so I always tried to get to her level. She has always been a supportive sister, [telling] me that my art is just as good [as hers]. It’s comforting to know someone you look up to so much believes in your passion, too.”
Aleena says that although she and her sister do not draw together very much anymore, as Aleena puts it, “I like to go in her room and draw while she does whatever she wants to do.”
Does Miyako see a future in art?
“I might minor in it, but realistically, I don’t know if I could make money off of it. My style of art isn’t something people really buy.” says Miyako. “If I were to do a career in art, [I] would probably be [an art therapist].”
NIPSEY HUSSLE PORTRAIT