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Tualatin High School student artists draw beyond the frame

Tualatin High School 'Artists of the Month' aspire toward professional art careers


TIMES PHOTO: JON HOUSE - Kyle Nelson and Heidi Husband are Artists of the Month at Tualatin High.

There's more to Kyle Nelson — and his characters — than meets the eye.

Growing up, Nelson created his own superhero comics and looked up to Dr. Seuss, Walt Disney and Tim Burton.

Today, the Tualatin High School senior is a budding entrepreneur who uses an online platform to print his illustrations onto T-shirts, phone cases and other products.

Nelson and fellow art student Heidi Husband were selected this month as Tualatin High School's Artists of the Month. Selected works from each student artist are being displayed in school hallways.

On Halloween, Nelson came to school dressed in the Joker's iconic teal-and-purple, while Husband donned a Batman onesie, but in truth, these two create vivid characters all year long.

Nelson creates playfully subversive illustrations featuring clean lines and bold, graphic imagery. Each of his characters provides a glimpse at a deeply imagined world that spills beyond the frame.

One digital illustration, titled "Lady Killer," features a multi-tonal shark wearing a top hat.

"This is Barnaby in two different color variations. When he's not busy socializing with the local seal population, he collects surfboards. He's a really dapper dude," said Nelson, who often writes witty captions for his characters before he draws them.

Husband's work, too, conjures a sophisticated feeling of make-believe. She dabbles skillfully in a range of styles and uses a variety of mediums — acrylic, pen-and-ink, and Prismacolor markers — to create her works.

From whimsical woodland creatures from another realm to pop-culture icons from The Avengers, Doctor Who and Pokemon, what she chooses to depict gestures toward lush escapism. TIMES PHOTO: JON HOUSE - Tualatin High School student Kyle Nelson displays his artistic prints 'Hairy Hermit' and 'Lady Killer.'

The two artists curate and post their art online on Instagram, where they share their creations with a global community.

This month, they both participated in the InkTober challenge, posting daily illustrations based on prompts.

One illustration, posted to Nelson's Instagram account, answers the prompt "one dozen" by presenting eleven gelatinous blobs with the caption: "I only drew eleven creatures. Fear not, the twelfth is behind you!"

"So people see that on their Instagram and they, like, turn around," said Nelson. "For a brief moment, it makes them feel like there's more."

Theresa McCaffrey, an art teacher at Tualatin who has taught both students since their freshman years, says their work is a window into the fluidity of the teenage experience.

"They have these images from childhood that they're really drawn to, that they cultivate, and then they start to take on more sophisticated themes in their work, and it’s really cool to see that evolution," said McCaffrey. "They take their love and they make it more universal."

Nelson and Husband, who take an advanced art seminar with McCaffrey, credit her for fostering an environment that's helped them thrive.TIMES PHOTO: JON HOUSE - Tualatin High School student Heidi Husband shows off her painting 'Lucy'.

"She's not just teaching you her style, she's helping you develop your style," said Husband, who also posts her art on an Instagram account.

"She makes us feel like people, not just students," added Nelson.

Both Nelson and Husband have had their work featured at Art in the Burbs, an annual festival hosted by the Foundation for Tigard Tualatin Schools which raises money to fund art programs across the district.

While they approach their work in different ways — Husband described herself as more freeform, while Nelson is more methodical — the two friends still draw inspiration from one another.

"My pen work and the idea of making characters is inspired by Kyle; I just have to say that," said Husband.

For his part, Nelson admires Husband's intuitive approach to art.

"She's a lot looser than I am, which I could be more of. She makes it look easy," he said.

Nelson aspires to work as a concept artist for film studios. Husband is still exploring her options, but is fascinated by the idea of working as a character sketch artist.

"Just to watch them each develop their own individual style has been amazing," said McCaffrey. "They're both really driven and talented and they're just magical. They have something really special about them."