Earth is “eh” without “art”: Artist advances in state competition


A girl is riding in a saddle and swinging her boots. Her face is not in the scope, but it is easy to tell she must be a cowgirl. Senior Mary Casillas put herself on canvas and swung into the final round of the Texas Art Education Association Youth Exhibit.

The competition takes place once a year and the pieces that are chosen will stay in the state capital for one year. Casillas chose a painting to sync with Texan spirit.

“I thought, ‘Texas state capital, let’s go with it,’” Casillas said. “It’s very Texan and I think the judges liked the theme.”

Casillas’ inspiration for the piece came from her childhood experiences. She started horseback riding when she was eight.

“I loved it and I used to do it every week,” Casillas said. “If I didn’t join cross country or track, I would have joined horseback riding. That’s what my inspiration was. I want to connect with people.”

Every art teacher in Plano was allowed to pick two students to enter their works into the competition. AP Drawing Teacher Allison Garrison picked two, and Casillas made it into this round.

“She’s consistently hard-working, and consistently meeting the deadlines,” Garrison said. “Her artwork is always outstanding.She is a leader in class. She’s just one of those great kids that you want to be able to honor and to recognize.”

Casillas is inspired by her grandmother. According to Casillas,they are the only ones who have artistic ability in their family. Both a stay-at-home mom and a watercolor painter, her grandmother became her role model.

“My grandpa has all her paintings hanging around the house,” Casillas said. “I love all of that and it really takes a lot ofwork to get to where she was.”

Casillas pulls her inspiration out of life experience and years of art education.

“We have a typical life,” Casillas said. “I have a younger brother, a younger sister; I have a good, stable family. I think it’s just my grandma. Because as a child, even when I took little art classes in first grade, I wasn’t really told ‘no,’ I was told ‘try this instead.’”

The horrible stereotype against artists, like “they are all dark and edgy; they drink and smoke pot,” is unacceptable for her.

“I don’t think one is a true artist if one relies on pot and alcohol to get inspired,” Casillas said.

In AP Art drawing classes, the students go through a long process to finalize their pieces. They must come up with an idea; make three or four sketches, and then receive fifty-percent evaluations from the teacher.

“People don’t realize all those pieces in the exhibit are from the AP students,” Casillas said. “It’s such a long journey and it’s very rewarding. I just enjoy being able to create my own pieces and I hope people enjoy looking at them as much as I do.”

Casillas said that her artistic ability is not widely known, except by some close friends and family members.

“My name randomly popped up in the Wildcat E-news,” Casillas said. “My parents are getting messages from all their friends and they’re like ‘We didn’t know Mary did this. She is so talented. Wow.’ I’m like ‘I’ve been doing this ever since I remember things.’ It’s like my secret power.”

However, there is another side of her, which she considers the complete opposite.

“This other side of me really wants to stay in a lab and do research,” Casillas said. “I love math and science a lot and I will be majoring in bio-chemistry at Texas A&M.”

As a senior, Casillas is looking for possible majors and careers. She is taking AP Biology, AP Calculus and AP Drawing. Initially worried that art would just end up being a lifetime hobby, Casillas did not decide on a career dealing specifically with art. Fortunately, she found out about medical illustration.

“Basically a bunch of scientists could come up to me and are like, ‘we solved this huge problem and we need you to illustrate this and make it presentable,’” Casillas said. “So I will be able to draw it realistically. I will need to major in a science but also need art experiences. A&M has a lot of art classes so that’s a perfect combination. My parents always say that you know you have the right career when it feels like playing.”

Casillas said that creativity is the key to art. Without ideas, the best techniques in the world are useless. Her passion for art can be expressed in every way possible.

“You say you can’t draw, but you are probably very good at oil painting,” Casillas said. “Everyone has his or her little niche. Life is too short to be stumped over something. If you don’t find art interesting, you are not doing it right.”