Painting a Story: John Kulik

Cedar’s hallways are always bustling with talent whether it’s in academics, sports, or the arts. The walls next to the main staircase are one of the many places on campus that showcase the creativity of the fine art students. One current piece is by John Kulik, junior, who is new to the art community.

“I got into art by doing Art III at the school during 10th grade,” said Kulik. “I enjoy art because it relaxes me. Sometimes I flow through my art and somewhat attach to it on a very psychological level.”

Those close to him have taken notice of Kulik’s new attraction to and knack for the hobby.

 “He constantly draws when he is trying to escape something. When he is feeling down or wants to distract himself, he doodles. He draws for pleasure as well. He really enjoys it, and it helps him in times of need,” said Maddie Timmons, junior.

“John has a mark making style that reminds me of abstract expressionist artists like Elaine De Kooning. His work reveals an emotional energy that is tempered with thoughtful reflection no matter what he’s creating,” said Mrs. Laura Lee Johnson, art teacher.

After only one previous year of art, Kulik was placed into the Pre-AP Art class. The advanced course comes with new challenges.

“It is very fast paced,” said Kulik. “It’s hard to stay at the same pace as everyone else. This class has been pushing me to get out of my comfort zone and to work hard on my artwork every day. Sometimes I have to take my artwork home to finish which I have never done before in my previous art class.”

In addition to taking a faster pace class, he’s also had to learn how to incorporate new forms of media in his works.

“I had to learn quickly how to use paint in my self-portrait. I also had to use watercolor which I didn’t really know how to use,” said Kulik. “Now I can use a combination of media and styles to form a creative piece.”

While working on projects, artists risk making mistakes that could lead to an end product that is different from what they had intended.

“I get worried. It feels like I ran off course of my ideal path for my artwork and that it is heading down a path of something less than the original plan. It becomes something adventurous and risking taking, kind of like a gamble,” said Kulik.

In the first semester, Pre-AP class students made a total of three pieces of art, each focusing on different subjects intended to help students learn new skills necessary for bigger projects. When asked to pick his favorite piece, Kulik chose his self-portrait.

“It symbolizes something bigger than myself,” said Kulik.

What would seem like a typical self-portrait turns out to be something of much more importance upon listening to his explanation of the piece.

“We were doing this for Hispanic heritage month, and she [Mrs. Johnson] picked an artist who is Hispanic and is very successful with her artwork. She wanted us to pick something that ties in with Frida [Kahlo]. At first, I was going to do a jungle background because Frida likes to use nature in the background of her portraits. When Michael Horvat passed I realized I had a more impactful idea to use,” said Kulik.

“Self-portraits should always be honest and reveal the current state of the artist. It would have been hard for John not to put those feelings in his work as he was carrying them around and it was part of his awareness at the time. It was a natural evolution of his work, and I was happy to see he took it and ran with it,” said Johnson.

In the background of his self-portrait, Kulik replaced his original idea of a jungle with Michael’s obituary.

Kulike said, “It symbolizes all his hard work he had done. It showed that he was a great student, athlete, and person, and I wanted to highlight those three groups of his personality.”

Looking back on the artwork, he feels not only satisfied with the piece but also surprised at the way it turned out because it was his first time using paint in a realistic way.

“I was kind of scared and intimidated by it, but it turned out good. I was able to shape the values the way I wanted to,” said Kulik.

Kulik’s end goal, like many of his classmates, is to improve his skills as much as possible with the help of Mrs. Johnson and his peers, while also having fun in the process.

“It’s very intimidating to do art with other amazing artists that are better than me, but they show me what I did good and tell me where I can improve,” said Kulik.

“He knows when to push through and solve problems on his own, and yet he also knows when to ask for feedback and ideas,” said Johnson. “He is humble which allows him to learn more faster, and it is also that quality that enables him to create works that reveal his own humanity.”