Art on Top

Spotlight Date: 
April 29, 2016
Catherine Chen
Class of 2016 Valedictorian Catherine Chen has always been focused on drawing. “I was pretty serious about doodling. I still remember the images and drawing the images, because five-year-old-me was so distraught when things didn't work out. I started to have private art lessons when I was five or six.”
Pursuing visual art was never a decision for Catherine, it was a necessity. “Visual art is my identity. Growing up, I was referred to as ‘the girl who could draw.’ As I grew older, the visual arts gave me confidence in a variety of ways … Drawing was always there for me. It was what I did in the car, during recess, after school, and in all of my free time. I didn't think that going to school anywhere but Dreyfoos and Bak was a possibility, and losing visual arts would be the equivalent of losing an arm. I have never experienced a day where I didn't desire to make or draw something.”
To create her artwork, Catherine employs many different techniques to achieve her narrative-central pieces. “I like to explore all mediums … For my most recent portfolio, I experimented with different ways I could layer images on top of each other digitally. To compose one piece, I would likely use a combination of acrylic, digital drawings, and ink pen. The acrylic and ink portions of the painting would be scanned into the computer. The scans are pieced together, and the rest of the image is done with techniques on the computer. The final image in the computer is the same size as the original painting. Some of my artwork is difficult to place under a category. They usually lie somewhere between illustration, painting, and digital media.” 
With all this work being put into her creative process, it is impressive that Catherine has been able to apply the same dedication to her academics, earning her top of the class ranking. “I wouldn't say I am a natural at academics. While my peers took 4 hours to study for calculus, I spent 8 hours. It required using every bit of time possible, including lunch, in between classes, mornings, and on the bus.” 
In addition to her studies at Dreyfoos, Catherine has attended the California State Summer School of the Arts Animation program. An intensive program for creating animation, she learned about experimental, traditional, stop motion, and paper cut-out animation. 
Inspired by smaller animation studios and Japanese artists such as Hayao Miyazaki, Masaaki Yuasa, and Isao Takahata, Catherine hopes to start an independent studio where she find innovative ways to create art through animation, video games, illustration, and other forms of media. “My studio will preserve independent artist voices and styles. I will incorporate technology and social issues into my work.”
“The faculty and my peers at Dreyfoos push me to work harder, and there is a healthy competitive spirit that is necessary to drive people forward. I am grateful for attending Dreyfoos, and I absolutely cannot imagine where I would be if I attended anywhere else. Dreyfoos has a balance of arts, academics, and community, which is difficult to find, even when looking at colleges.”
Now that she is looking at colleges, Catherine is deciding between USC School of Cinematic Arts and Yale. “At USC, I would be majoring in Animation and Digital Arts and pick up Interactive Entertainment as a double major the second year. At Yale, I would take classes in their film and visual arts department with a more traditional approach to the visual arts.”