Meet the artists: Scholastic Art & Writing Awards winners Keiji Ishida and Benjamin Cruz

Meet the artists: Scholastic Art & Writing Awards winners Keiji Ishida and Benjamin Cruz

This year's 2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards recognized 16 high school seniors who received the program’s highest national honor, the Gold Medal Portfolio, which includes a $10,000 scholarship.

Throughout May, we will showcase two pieces of art from this year's art portfolio winners. This week, we are celebrating the work of Keiji Ishida, age 17 (Los Angeles, CA) and Benjamin Cruz, age 17 (Idyllwild, CA).

 

What inspires you to create art?

Keiji: I get inspired when I go to galleries or when I'm traveling to other states or out of the country, and I think encountering a new area has always given me a unique perspective which educated my understanding towards politics, culture, and last but not least myself.

Benjamin: Tragic events, both historic and personal, inspire me to create art. I feel that there is much to learn from struggle and art is what allows me to learn and also teach. Identifying and addressing struggle through art allows me to honor those who suffered and also create something prudent out of it. There is so much about my past that I have come to understand through my intensive artistic process.

 

What do you enjoy most about creating art?

Keiji: What I appreciate most about creating art is the fact that art is a visual language to me and ever since when I was little, the practice of doodling has expanded my communication towards other people but soon or later as time goes by, it expanded to the world. 

Benjamin: I enjoy learning through the process of creating art. I love how much art has taught me and how it continues to teach me. Every step of my process I learn one way or another. In the beginning when I’m conceptualizing a piece, I learn through research, when I’m creating I learn through practice, and when I’m finished I learn through dialogue. I love creating art because I know there are no limits. It’s not always easy, but I love the challenge of it. There’s nothing as stimulating and invigorating as art, and I believe that’s why I am able to learn so much.

 

Is there an artist or another creative individual whose work has inspired the way you think about art and writing?

Keiji: I am inspired by many artists all over the place, most of them are contemporary artists that I am looking at such as– Jay Stuckey, KAWs, Takashi Murakami, Yayoi Kusama, Pharrell Williams, Banksy, and so. I liked their concept but also their purpose behind their work, it is fascinating. 

Benjamin: Hung Liu is my first artistic love. Her work and story have really inspired me to dig into the past and breathe new life into it. I was able to see her show “Summoning Ghosts” and the haunting energy of her paintings have stuck with me ever since.

My friend Wade Winslow has also really inspired and informed me as an artist. His work is such a fearless combination of very serious and real ideas and absurd colloquial humor. Talking to him really inspires me to rethink about art really is, and what/if boundaries exist in art making. There’s something so useful and inspiring about being able to share ideas with a living artist that I respect and consider my contemporary.

 

What advice do you have for new artists or people who want to start trying different mediums of art?

Keiji: I personally learned this recently that it is always better to understand more about the artist or anyone you don't know in general before you create a snap judgment or hatred towards them. People are more interesting when you seek into their interior more than their exterior, and I think everyone not just artist should also understand this.

Benjamin:  Invest time. The only way to get better at art or an unfamiliar medium to practice. Don’t worry about what you’re making, whether it looks good or not. Art is a tool, and in order to work efficiently and effectively, you must understand the tool and how to use it. The more you create, the more you will learn about creating. And the final tool as a result of this is one of the most powerful forces in the world.

 

Why is it important to celebrate the arts?

Keiji: Art has been part of us since the dawn of civilization and many honor art through religion, science, culture, and our lifestyle. Art has also given us the possibly to think "out of the box" which created many memorable pieces; so in this respect, I believe art should be celebrated in many ways.

Benjamin: The arts not only enrich our lives, they are the basis of our lives. The arts provide so much, they give us comfort and escape, they challenge us to think and problemsolve, they create solutions to real-world problems. Art has created so many opportunities for me, and many others. Considering the current state of the U.S. and the entire world, it’s very important to not only celebrate the arts but actively support them.

Credit: Keiji Ishida

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Credit: Benjamin Cruz