From childhood, Toni Lee Aping has loved doodling and drawing. Now 18, the talented young artist is preparing to paint her way to an art career.
Lee Aping topped the region in CAPE Unit 1 last year and has CAPE Unit 2 exams coming up. She also plans to do a degree in art.
She chatted with Newsday about her passion for art during a recent interview. She explained whenever anyone asks when she first got involved in the visual arts she replies with "donkey years ago."
"As a child, I used to doodle my parents and animals."
What drew her to draw?
Lee Aping said she enjoyed making something come out good and it was a natural feeling.
"It felt good using my hands."
Her parents would stick all her drawings in her bedroom, the Cascade resident said. It was at age 12 she began to "take art seriously" after she watched the dark fantasy anime (Japanese animation) film Blue Exorcist.
"I sat down with a piece of paper and I wanted to draw the same characters. Ever since then I have just been drawing."
To pursue her art dream Lee Aping taught herself using YouTube tutorials that break down artists' work.
"I would compare my artwork to the people who are more skilled and try to replicate their artwork."
She began her art journey with pencil and pen but wanted to use all media.
"I couldn't choose which medium I wanted to master. One year I was into colour pencils, next was watercolours. Eventually, I started to incorporate them all and use them all."
In her traditional pieces, she uses a mixture of acrylic paint, colour pencil, markers and oil pastel. On her choice of subject, Lee Aping said she would "catch a vaps."
"I see this and I want to draw it. It interests me. Yeah, this (thing) is good. (I'll add it) to a piece."
In a statement, she said the majority of her work comes from moments of spontaneous creativity.
"Once I identify a concept that interests me, I do the additional research to ensure that I have a complete picture before proceeding to the artwork. Other pieces come from moments of emotional distress. I transfer these emotions into creative work." Asked about the therapeutic benefit of her art, Lee Aping explained when she is in a bad mood she would sit down and start to draw.
"I don't focus on anatomy but just the first thing that comes to mind. Just to get the emotions (and bad feelings) out of my system. I don't know why emotional pieces come out really good."
On her use of vibrant colours, Lee Aping said it is subconscious as she just leans towards lighter and bright colours.
She has about 30 pieces in her portfolio and said she cannot choose a favourite because they are like her children.
"They all have their own special meaning to me."
Lee Aping participated in her first exhibition last year, the annual Holy Name Convert exhibition featuring students from Form 5, Lower 6 and Upper 6. It was held online owing to the pandemic and she submitted six pieces.
"It was nice. But scary at the same time. I am used to hiding in a corner and doing art. I am not used to (getting) attention."
Asked to compare creating art for herself and doing it for school, she replied making art on her own is a bit more fun.
"And there is a less of a time restraint. But I kind of need the pressure in school to force me to improve and stand out from the rest. At the end of the day, it is still art so I'm happy doing it."
Her work in the school exhibition received a very positive reaction.
"People said, 'Wow. You did this?' Amazement."
Lee Aping said she was not surprised by the reaction.
"I know I did good. But I am just not used to the attention."
She said her friends and schoolmates have very high hopes for her.
"When someone in school mentions art, I am the first person they look at. Anything with art they call my name. That's 'the art child. Bring her.'"
Lee Aping is hoping to have her own exhibitions in future and last year she began getting into digital work with simple illustrations.
"I usually do portraits. I want to do more bodies in motion. I am considering getting into animation."
She said she wants to have a career in art in some form but she still has to figure it out.
"I can't see myself doing something else."
She said her parents do not believe art can be a viable career but she still wants to do it.
"They don't want me to be a starving artist. But I don't mind starving here and there sometimes. If I'm happy that's what important."
She also took the opportunity to send a "shout out" to God, her parents, her brother, and her friends.
"Without them I would not be here."