Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Local News

May 25, 2010

Godley student McGill follows underground artists

GODLEY — Godley High School junior Caleb McGill considers himself a good student and solid citizen with both feet planted firmly on the side of respectability.

There is, on the other hand, a free spirit within him that dwells within most youngsters with creative ability.

He used some of that recently to create a pencil-sketch self-portrait for this year’s District 17 congressional art competition, “An Artistic Discovery.”

McGill was selected one of the top three exhibitors, and he will receive a certificate acknowledging his accomplishment.

He should probably qualify for a certificate for explaining what inspires him to create — his generation’s pronounced self-reliance.

“I think young people today are looking to break away,” he said. “We have the feeling of being bound or tied down by the rules. Let us figure it out. Let us take it apart and put it back together. We can make our mistakes and learn from them. We don’t want to hear it from ya’ll.”

McGill is smart enough to know he’s going to be on the receiving end of adult guidance, whether he always likes it or not. And he says he doesn’t mind that, by the way.

“I think adults have a lot to teach,” he said. “I think they offer a lot. But I don’t think it’s always the best thing to sit there and tell somebody something. You learn more from a hands-on perspective than from anyone telling you. It’s better to make the mistake. Then you won’t do it again.”

Since the District 17 congressional art competition was created in 1982, more than 650,000 high school students have participated. Last year’s winners currently hang in the Cannon Tunnel of the United States Capitol. That exhibit is viewed each day by members of Congress and visitors from around the world.  

All works from this year’s art students were displayed at a district-wide exhibition at McLennan Community College Performing Arts Center in Waco. 

There’s an underground, Darth Vader-style feel to McGill’s self-portrait. That may not be surprising, since two of his artistic inspirations, Banksy and Blu, are acclaimed underground artists with a gothic touch.

Banksy is the pseudonym of a British graffiti specialist. Though his (or her) identity is unknown, Bansky was believed born in 1974. Bansky’s pieces, highly collectible, are satirical takeoffs on politics, culture and ethics.

Blu, another graffiti artist, gained notice in Bologna, Italy, for his creative use of spray paint. He switched to house paint in 2001, applying latex with rollers mounted atop sticks to increase the surface area of the painting.

“Their artwork is out there, and people see it,” McGill said. “Their work sells for millions, but they don’t get a dime of it. Banksy just does his artwork and runs off. No one even knows who he is.”

McGill acknowledges he’d be tempted to bank a few of the millions of dollars, but “Banksy is doing it for a completely different reason,” he said. “His artwork is so much more than art. It has significance, like what’s going on in the world today.

“I’ve thought about sitting down and trying to draw something like he does, but I think that’s beyond the imagination I have.”

Not that McGill isn’t inventive.

“For me, it depends on mood,” he said. “For Banksy and Blu, it’s an everyday thing.”

McGill could do something in a Banksy style that has meaning, such as a depiction of the Louisiana oil spill.

“I don’t know, I’d probably go on the Internet looking for pictures to do something like that,” he said. “It would take a lot of thought, especially for the style I like. It’s not just a picture of something. It’s a picture of something with meaning.”

Perhaps like his T-shirt. On the front is printed “Love to Hate Me.” On the back is printed, “Hate to Love Me.”

That must get attention around Godley High School.

McGill laughed and said, “But it really doesn’t mean anything.”

He doesn’t take himself, or his art, too seriously. The self-portrait, he said, is just a drawing.

“It was fairly easy,” he said. “I happened to be in the mood to draw. When I started seeing it all come together, I was in the mood to draw more. I think I could have done a lot more.”

He said he doesn’t know how far he wants to take his art.

“I think it’s a big risk if you put that up there as your career,” McGill said. “Right now, it’s just a hobby, but if it could help put me through college, that’s fine with me.”

He’d rather not make more of it than there is, which is probably the same way Banksy or Blu would feel at his stage.

“I don’t think much about it,” McGill said. “I draw whatever comes into my mind.”

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