The Talent Around Us


When we think about artists, we often go through the lists of worldwide known artists. From Pablo Picasso, to Eduard Manet, to Yayoi Kusama, and Leonardo da Vinci. However, within our obsession with art, we overlook the talent in those around us. 

In the North Hollywood High School community lies the talent of students like Braylen Westfall, Valeria Sarti, and Joham Lemus, who revolve themselves around art. 

They say art is in the eyes of the beholder. Valeria Sarti(they/them) talks about their art being prompted by her daily surroundings proving this statement right. They said their art is usually inspired by things they can see, such as cool-looking people around them. They said, “It’s definitely visual first. So, I can take something visual and then like use emotions to kind of further it.”

Braylen Westfall (he/him) deepens this point by saying, “What makes me invest more time, out of my own volition, is any outside influences that I am paying attention to. If I enjoy a new book or watch a new show, or discover some new music, that sort of thing prompts me to get started.”

On a different note, Westfall says he usually gets inspired by other artists and their works. He stated, “The most influential to me would be the two artists from Japan— Range Murata and Hajime Ueda. The former designs clothing, and his artwork includes people wearing it. I collect his art books. I also think his advice to aspiring artists is compelling, so I would recommend looking into some of his interviews. The latter has probably one of the most unique art styles out of all of Japan.”

Westfall made a point to mention that the artists he looks up to aren’t limited to the standard drawing artists, but also others like musicians, writers, directors, etc.

These students also talk about their emerging as artists. Joham Lemus (he/him) said, “ It used to have a lot of emotional value to me because I’d do it as a way of coping and as a way of feeling better and I really felt relaxed and enjoyed it. It was something I was passionate about, but not as much anymore. Now, I just doddle when I want.”

Meanwhile, Westfall said, “I got involved with art around the same time that I was learning to read and write, so about kindergarten. Early on it was always just school assignments, but I did like those art projects the most.”

Sarti also mentioned getting started on their art from an early age. They said, “Like non-stop since I could hold a pencil, but I remember reading these fantasy dragon books like in 3rd grade, and that’s when I really got into it because I would draw stuff from there. So, that was when I really got into it but kinda my whole life.”

Something special about artists is their unique style and techniques. Sarti describes their art as “sketchy” and lacking clean lines. They said they usually draw portrait style, people, or animals, and enjoy experimenting with line weight and the contrast of light lines with darker ones. Lemus said his style was more like an anime style, he said it’s a lot like doodles because he likes drawing wherever he wants, and usually ends up being class doodles.

However, Westfall takes a brave stand as an artist in mentioning he does not have a solid style. “My art style constantly changes, because as new influences make me motivated to draw, they also affect what it is I want to include. So I just adapt it depending on that.” he said, “I try to make my art unique by incorporating details related to personal experiences or thoughts I have. Most of the time, it’ll go over everyone’s heads, but as long as the art is more interesting, that’s all that matters. People are supposed to interpret it differently, anyways.”

Despite the romanticized aesthetic of being an artist, artists are usually faced with different kinds of challenges. The most obvious struggle is skill issues, such as anatomy, amongst others. Lemus made humor in mentioning that he learned how to draw hands by first drawing little blobs, then giving them form. He said, “Body proportions. I either make the torso too small and the legs too big, or the legs too small and the torso too big.”

Sarti also mentioned that a difficult thing in art is creativity, creative expression, and identity as an artist. “….Pulling things straight from my head. Like as a child I used to be able to do that, but honestly, now I kinda need something in front of me.” 

Drawing by Valeria Sarti

They also said, “Kind of like, it’s like the one thing I’m good at, so it’s like all in; my whole life is that.” However, the life of an artist has struggles that are way past the actual skill. 

Westfall spoke about his view regarding his own development as an artist and he said, “I don’t even know if you could call it development. I feel like, after practicing for a while, and considering myself an artist for a time, I’ve come to enjoy it less. I like art, I like what I have created, and I like what I anticipate to create. But the actual process I despise. The time and effort required is exhausting. So despite my skills developing, in exchange, I feel like I’d rather be doing something else.”

 He also said, “When someone’s career path involves being an artist, it can get stressful. There are deadlines to meet, people to impress, and tons of work outside of the art itself (for example promotion, reaching an audience). When I did my solo exhibition, I got to experience a little bit of that. I realized that I heavily struggle with those responsibilities, and wished to never deal with them again. That wish probably won’t come true, however.” 

Surely art is not only a skill, but a linkage of emotions and messages. Sarti talks about two of her favorite pieces. The first one was a tiny, red canvas of a distorted and abstract eye. They said, “I just went crazy and started stapling rose petals to it. And they dried and fell off but everything else is still on. –I think it’s more of just a window to my head space when I’m doing art sometimes. Sometimes it’s really slow and intentional and other times it’s a little manic.”

Their second favorite art piece is a charcoal portrait of a girl in a fuzzy fur coat holding a gun, which she likes because of how they managed to capture movement in it. 

Westfall also spoke on his favorite piece which he said was created by him taking a homework assignment too seriously. The piece is called ‘SNS’. “Essentially, it’s an advertisement for BAND-AIDS based around the 1920s. I enjoy it a lot because it perfectly encapsulates my current art style, so I plan on making more stuff like this.”

Westfall shares that his current purpose with his art is to use it in books he writes. He states that he feels that the covers and illustrations of books are as important as the stories themselves, although many authors derelict this. 

He also says, “Art can be therapy, in whatever way possible, for people creating it or indulging in it. No matter what’s intended, there are always interpretations, and people resonate with art in ways you don’t expect.” 

Sarti adds to this sentiment of communication. She describes our present time as a modern era where people communicate less and are dependent on visual aids, like “fast communication.” 

On this same topic, Lemus commented, “This is a very big question in the sense that art is a lot of things. Music is art, traditional art like drawing and painting, film is art, poetry is art, literature is art, – I think without art the world would be such a dull place. Such a boring place. Because without art we don’t have entertainment, entertainment derives from art and everything else. And without that, it’s just boring.”

He said, “You know architecture is art, (without it)houses are just gonna be squares. Everywhere you look there is art. Cars are art because they are designed. I think it (art) just means more nice things to look at.” 

Lemus added, “It’s sad because art careers are so hard to get into and most artists are poor. You don’t really see an artist as the most successful person. I think it’s something that should be more rewarded. If you play sports and you’re an athlete, then you’re cool. But if you’re an artist you just draw, and it’s just a cool hobby. You know, it’s like, this is not my hobby this is more than a hobby.”

Art is not just a refined action, comprehensive only to those with fame. Art is fast communication, it is a worldwide language, and it is a social message. Art is intent. It hides within our society and inhabits the people around us. This is a call to open our eyes to students like Braylen Westfall, Valeria Sarti, and Joham Lemus, who speak with their works. 

You can find these students and their work on Instagram: