Painting Waaay Outside the Classroom....and Winning First Place

Painting Waaay Outside the Classroom....and Winning First Place
Carrie Becher, Communications Manager

Seven miles from school, on sidewalks near the Delmar Loop, De Smet Jesuit art students painted landscapes on easels for their class assignment this fall. 

For the second year in a row, Laurie Kohler enrolled her Studio Art IV class in the U City in Bloom Plein Air Art Festival on September 26, where painters capture the local scenery, then submit the artwork to be judged in competition.

Fast forward a few weeks and back on campus, Alex Lewis ’22 found out he won first place for the youth section! We congratulated Alex and asked him about the project. Enjoy his responses (and his new appreciation for St. Louis) below—along with thoughtful insights from Mrs. Kohler and why it’s important for Spartans to participate in art shows, especially those that take place outside.

Q&A With Alex, Art Student and First Place Winner

What did you think of painting outside?
I’ve never painted outside before, so when I found out that’s what we had to do, I was excited—and a little nervous my painting wouldn’t turn out because I also never paint or draw landscapes. 

Is art a hobby, passion, or career path for you?
Painting and art in general is something I’ve been interested in since I was a kid. I love every part of it, from the inspiration to the action. Even waiting for the paint to dry is a part of the fun for me. 

It’s a passion of mine, and it’s something I’m very confident in. 

What are your plans after high school graduation?

In college, I plan to major in 3D graphic design—which is the field I know the least about in art—so I can be as comfortable as possible in any creative occupation, and just life in general. 

How did you feel when you were painting…and when you heard you won?
It ended up being a really enjoyable and peaceful experience…listening to music and painting the world around me. I didn’t really expect to win, but I was really happy when I found out I did. 

It also allowed me to really see the beauty of St. Louis, which I don’t think I’ve appreciated before. Alex Lewis '22

Q&A With Mrs. Kohler, Art Teacher

Why do you have students paint outside? 

It is a challenge to match the colors that you see outside, especially all the shades and tints in nature that keep changing with the light, not to mention the wind and bugs. It takes practice, I know this firsthand.

The students always enjoy the chance to be outside. Throw in the landscape and being at the U-City loop, attention from curious observers, and a chance to test their observation and painting skills…this makes for a fun afternoon for everyone, myself included.

Why should students compete in art shows?

The exposure for the students’ work to be judged by an outside professional is so valuable in the real art world. Mrs. Kohler, Art Teacher

It is part of a balancing act of seeking out constructive criticism and realizing that one judge’s opinion is not definitive. 

I really want De Smet to stay current with the competitions offered to high school students. For these reasons, all students in Studio Art IV must compete in a minimum of three student art shows. Right now they are working on their Post-Dispatch 100 Neediest Cases compositions. 

Why do you have students participate in the U City Bloom Plein Air Art Festival?

This show is unique because it gives students and adult artists a chance to see each other’s work. I like the fact that it gives me a chance to network with other art teachers and Plein air artists, many of whom I have competed against in the past. I pick up tips about painting, and find out about upcoming art events. 

One of the students last year said it best when he said, “I now feel like a real artist.”

close up of student painting landscape outside with statue of lion in painting and background, blue skies, colorful paints

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