Decatur High School, GA

Art is more than a hobby

May 20, 2015

“I have been into art for as long as I can remember,” senior, Noah Grigni said. “I know everybody says that, but I’ve been drawing literally since kindergarten and I can’t remember anytime that I wasn’t.”

Despite his early beginning, Grigni didn’t get serious about his art until middle school, when he started posting his work on Deviantart. Deviantart is  an art sharing website “mostly populated by 13 year olds.”

Deviantart provided Grigni with an environment where he could post his work and receive feedback and support.

Around the time he began posting his artwork online, Grigni came out as transgender. He wasn’t out at school yet and felt socially isolated.

“On Deviantart, I was able to present myself as male and be perceived in the way that I saw myself,” he said. “It wasn’t just the first place that I started posting my art, it was also the first place where I could control other people’s perception of me.”

After gaining a couple thousand followers on Deviantart, Grigni gained the courage to come out at school.

“Art has kind of become a huge part of my identity just because of that,” he said.

In eighth grade, Grigni began selling his work at Homegrown, a local artist collaborative. He recently started to do commissions for the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern, a local Shakespearean theatre company.

“On Deviantart, I was able to present myself as male and be perceived in the way that I saw myself.”

— Noah Grigni

Grigni’s talent landed him in IB Art his junior year, not the typical MYP Art 1.

“That [class] definitely pushed me to look at art not just from a sort of spontaneous ‘let’s draw something’ perspective,” he said, “but also to analyze it and learn some art history [and] some theory.”

His junior year, Grigni was accepted to go to Governor’s Honors Program (GHP). He feels that GHP expanded his range of media and techniques.

“I met a lot of new people who introduced me to different ways of approaching art that I never would have considered before,” he said.

One girl he met introduced him to a new form of “public” art.

“She does this thing where she takes advertising signs that companies put in people’s yards illegally,” he said, “and paints on them and puts them  back. I thought that was really interesting.”

Last summer, Grigni also won the Atlantic Institute’s art and essay contest, the prize for which was a nine day trip to Turkey with the other winners.

“That was a lot of fun because I got to meet a lot of other talented student artists from Ga., and I also got to look at art in the context of Turkish culture and history,” he said.

The vast exposure to cross culture art and cross medium art that Grigni has experienced have encouraged him to rethink his genre of art.

“I would hope I don’t have a style,” he said. “I don’t know. I think it’s too soon to limit myself to one style. At this point I really think I need to expose myself to new ways of working and figure out what I could do.”

In experimenting with his techniques, Grigni chose a simple style for his Carpe Diem illustrations because “the aesthetic of the magazine is this handmade aesthetic.”

To accomplish a “handmade aesthetic,” Grigni traditionally sketches the lineart with pencil on paper, scans it onto his computer and then colors it digitally with photoshop.

“Mr. Reese used to be really ornery about getting the color pallet correct,” he said. “[That is] the reason I started coloring digitally.”

I think it’s too soon to limit myself to one style. At this point I really think I need to expose myself to new ways of working and figure out what I could do.”

— Noah Grigni

As a sophomore, Grigni took on his first illustration for Carpe Diem. He drew a soccer ball with a globe inside for a story about refugee soccer teams, but he was considering illustrating for Carpe Diem long before that.

“The first time I really thought about illustrating for the magazine was when Leela Goshorn, who was a senior when I was a freshman, did a story about my art and my transition,” he said. “It was ninth grade and I had just come out, and she was just extremely cool.”

At the time, Goshorn was illustrating for Carpe Diem. Grigni saw her as an “amazing artist” and found himself looking up to her, as he still does today.

“[After meeting Goshorn] I was kind of like, ‘why don’t I try illustrating for the magazine, that could be fun,’” he said.

As Grigni’s senior year comes to an end, he prepares for next year.

Grigni received a full tuition scholarship to the Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford in Connecticut.

“The school is a really good fit for me because I’m a very academic person, but what I really want to do is art,” he said. “I kind of get the best of both worlds.”

The scholarship was a sense of confirmation for Grigni and his art.

“The scholarship was based only on my art and not on my grades or anything else,” he said, “so that was a little affirmation that I can make it with my art alone.”

Grigni enjoyed illustrating for Carpe Diem. There are many things he’s learned that he wouldn’t have otherwise.

“It’s a lot of fun honestly,” he said. “It keeps me up to date on what’s happening in Decatur, and I don’t think I would have learned how to work digitally if it wasn’t for Carpe Diem, and that’s a valuable skill.”

He also mastered how to work with a client. Sometimes Grigni would send in illustrations and would be asked to change things that could seem tedious, but “it’s good to be able to receive criticism in stride.”

Additionally, Grigni values and recognizes the importance of working with writers.

“I feel like the role of an illustrator is to create an image that will draw people into actually read the writing that the writer has worked so hard on,” he said. “I think that’s an important role, not just as art, but also in relation with the writing.”

Thank you Noah, for all you’ve done for Carpe Diem.

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