West Salem senior Lexi Cottrel isn’t sure what the future holds for her just yet. What she does know is art is going be a part of it.

The shy and collected teen is West Salem’s Art Student of the Month for November. A small collection of her work adorns the walls of the Marie W. Heider Center lobby.

Art teacher Quenten Brown said it was time to recognize Cottrel for her hard work.

“She is a quiet artist who would rather be off away from the group while she makes work,” he said. “She has always flown under the radar; I thought it was time for her to be recognized for the work she is doing.”

While the majority of Cottrel’s work on display has been done in acrylic paint, her true artistic passion is for a much less permanent medium.

Cottrel prefers drawing and sketching, especially elephants, mountains, flowers and little green men.

“Behind my art, I like to have some kind of message,” she said.

Sometimes that message is the pursuit of inner peace or a commentary on the world as she sees it, other times it’s a reflection of her emotional state.

“Her work has developed a sense of detail over the last couple of years, not only in the subject matter, but detail within the subject matter,” Brown said. “She is really thinking about how she is presenting these complex emotions in a physical form.”

A life-long resident of West Salem, Cottrel began drawing long before she was in school. It wasn’t until she was in high school that she started to discover her passion for it.

She said there was always something about drawing and sketching that called to her and in high school she was given the freedom to explore it on her own terms. With this freedom, she dove head first into every art class she could get into.

Cottrel credited Brown for much of her success as an artist up to this point.

“He is really good at pushing artists to do their best,” she said. “I remember my art teacher in elementary and middle school didn’t connect with people.”

After four years immersing herself in art, pen and pencil remain her favorite, but it isn’t the only medium she has explored.

When she began to paint, she said it was hard for her to balance the size and scope of the project with the fine details she felt compelled to embed in every square inch of it.

“It’s hard for me. I’m really a really detailed drawer,” she said. “My biggest problem with painting was time.”

Cottrel said her classmates would often finish their work and move onto the next project before she was close to done. It was rare when she would finish a painting.

“Last year when she was working with paintings that were 18 inches by 24 inches there was always some tiny details that she put in every piece,” Brown said.

With her high school career coming to a swift end, Cottrel is conflicted about what path she will take next.

“I want to get out of here,” she said.

Whether she will head off to college or strike out on her own, she hasn’t decided. For now, Corttel dreams of opening a business in Colorado and creating a haven for creatives like herself to share their talents and get a bite to eat.

“Colorado is so pretty,” she said.

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Tobias Mann is a reporter with the River Valley Media Group. He can be reached at tobias.mann@lee.net or at 608-791-8216.

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