Senior Claire Stoddard awarded scholarship for self-expressive artwork

Justine Liu, staff writer

“Art is about letting go of everything.”

This is how senior Claire Stoddard describes the role art plays in her life. After taking her Advanced Placement (AP) Art porfolio to the National Portfolio Day at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Stoddard was offered a Merit Scholarship on the spot. Merit Scholarships are financial awards given to art students whose work goes above and beyond in skill level, thoughtfulness, and concept, according to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s website.

Stoddard’s concentration for her portfolio is the telling of stories, specifically those of her peers. Using colored pencils, Stoddard captured the central idea of an interviewee’s life journey. Each piece consists of animated characters with emotive colors and shapes from her imagination, she explained.

“I can’t use a lot of reference photos [because] my style is very characterized, but a lot of my ideas come to me randomly,” Stoddard said.

After the drawing is completed, Stoddard creates a frame with layers of handpicked fabric. Each fabric is associated with a feeling present in a different stage of the interviewee’s life, she explained.

“I feel like a lot of art only focuses on sight, rather than sound or tactile things,” Stoddard said. “There’s so much power in fabrics and what they represent. If you look at fabrics from different ethnicities or cultures, they all represent something different and they’re all tied to strong memories.”

The concept for Stoddard’s portfolio roots from her personal experience with using art to express trauma and her mental health, she explained. This helped her better identify the emotions of another person’s story and encapsulate them into artistic elements. Stephanie Fuja, AP Art teacher, believes that this skill allows Stoddard to grow as an artist and step out of her comfort zone.

“What makes Claire stand out in her own way is how much story she has behind each piece,” Fuja said. “She’s taking her strengths and elevating it with all the fabrics and the layering. She’s [also] getting really deep with her ideas, as she always was a deep thinker.”

Stoddard hopes to use her passion for art to help others tell their stories by becoming an art therapist. Being able to free one’s emotions without struggling to find the right words is an experience that Stoddard hopes to share through her art.

“[Art is] about release and self-expression, without having any expectations of failure,” Stoddard said. “I’ve been an extreme perfectionist at times, and procrastinator due to it. With art, I’m able to let go of all those expectations.”