Online News Day or Knight - Official news site of North Penn High School - 1340 Valley Forge Rd. Lansdale, PA

The Knight Crier

Online News Day or Knight - Official news site of North Penn High School - 1340 Valley Forge Rd. Lansdale, PA

The Knight Crier

Online News Day or Knight - Official news site of North Penn High School - 1340 Valley Forge Rd. Lansdale, PA

The Knight Crier

Call her Pikassa

Peyton Stagliano
What started out as just a hobby of doodling has now become a passion that Kassa hopes to turn into a career.

With a pencil in one hand and a piece of paper in the other, her mind runs rampant with endless possibilities. As the pencil strokes across the paper, each line forms part of what is not only in her head but also in her heart. Suddenly, she transports you to a new world. Her world-  the artistically beautiful world of Claire Kassa. 

For most people, art is just something you see or create. In today’s society, we tend to view art as something with very little meaning or value. But for North Penn High School senior, Claire Kassa, art means everything. 

“For me, art is very therapeutic. I don’t think there are any other ways I would be able to express myself,” Kassa explained. “It is a whole other level of expression when you can visually put your thoughts out there on something that is color, and life, and paint, and whatever material. I just always think it is amazing when you are able to turn raw material into thought”. 

Kassa always gravitated toward art as a way to express herself from a young age. Her love for art truly flourished however the moment she found control between the pencil and paper. 

“I started doodling in class in third grade and I immediately loved it. After that, I just kept going and I would doodle more and more. I eventually started to get into more art classes and I would sign up for community paint nights as well,” Kassa shared.   

Her entire life, Kassa has been surrounded by art. Born into an artistically fluent household, Kassa hasn’t known a life without it. 

“In my household, we love music and art, so it has always been a really big part of my environment,” Kassa revealed. “A lot of what inspired me is that my parents always took me to art museums when I was younger and we always had books around the house”. 

While most children who find a passion for art are exposed to art classes to improve their skills at a young age, Kassa decided to take a more untraditional approach. 

“I am almost completely self-taught. I really hadn’t taken any side classes to help me improve,” Kassa stated.

Although the ability to say she is self-taught is impressive, Kassa believes that being self-taught has been one of her biggest setbacks. 

“I probably struggled most transitioning from a self-taught artist to an academic artist because you have to relearn so many different things that you already taught yourself,” Kassa revealed. “You also have to learn things that other people have known this whole time and you missed. I think trying to transition while balancing my academics in high school was super challenging and still is”. 

While transitioning from self-taught to academic art was one of Kassa’s most difficult challenges, it wasn’t the only one she faced throughout her journey. 

“I have always struggled because I have ADHD so it is always difficult to maintain the things I have to do. I usually end up forgetting and then I have to balance school on top of everything,” Kassa shared. 

For Kassa, art has played a crucial role when it comes to managing her ADHD. Surprisingly, it has even helped her focus so she can better understand what is being taught in class. However, Kassa has unfortunately dealt with some teachers who don’t approve of this style of learning. 

“In elementary school, I had a really hard time because a lot of teachers would get annoyed that I was drawing and would try and take that away from me. I even had one teacher who would rip up my stuff,” Kassa shared. “In my IUP it says I am allowed to draw in class because it helps me learn since I am doing something with my hands and meanwhile my brain is occupied, but teachers never listened”. 

Although these circumstances proved difficult, Kassa never shied away from her love for art. Rather these instances lit a fire in her belly and pushed her to only get better. 

“Those situations are what really fuel me because I feel like I am showing those people that I am still doing this and nothing has stopped me from pursuing something I enjoy,” Kassa passionately stated. 

As she continues to grow as an artist, Kassa has found that one of the things she enjoys most about art is experimenting. 

“After going from doing art as a hobby to doing art in college-level classes I have found that experimenting with stuff like spray paint, oil paint, pastels, charcoal, all of those have been super fun to get to work with,” Kassa revealed. “Right now I am really trying to learn oil paint more and it is probably one of the most difficult mediums out there”. 

Kassa is currently in North Penn’s AP Two-dimensional Design class and has decided not to partake in any other art classes so she can narrow her focus on this specific class. As a junior, Kassa loaded her schedule with AP drawing, design and illustration, and AP ceramics. After experiencing artist’s block due to her heavily art-focused course load, Kassa learned that it is best to stick with just one art class. 

“I really thought taking all of those classes was going to be easy and fun but I think it was a little too much on my plate,” Kassa explained. “After using last year as a learning year, this year I am trying to have as much open time on my schedule as possible so that I can try and get a five on my portfolio this year. I got a four on my portfolio last year which is pretty good, it is just not where I want it to be”. 

For people unfamiliar with the North Penn art curriculum, students are given the entire year to work on creating a portfolio which will count as their final exam for the end of the year. For the portfolio students are asked to come up with a topic known as a sustained investigation statement. This statement is what the student’s portfolio will be focused on the entire year. The portfolio will be graded on technical skills and synthesis. While Kassa has yet to decide on a topic for her portfolio this year, her portfolio last year centered around a major political issue that is very near to her heart. 

“My family is Ukrainian, so last year I did my entire portfolio based on their culture and the current climate,” Kassa shared.  

One thing that Kassa wasn’t expecting was the impact her art would have on local Ukrainian immigrants. 

Last year with everything happening there was an increase in Ukranian immigrants and so a lot of them were coming to schools in our area. Last year they came to the art show and were taking photos with my artwork,” Kassa stated. “Initially I was kind of embarrassed but then I heard them start talking and realized they weren’t speaking English. Once I realized they were Ukranian and they were seeing my work it just hit me and I thought ‘Wow’

— Claire Kassa

“Last year with everything happening there was an increase in Ukranian immigrants and so a lot of them were coming to schools in our area. Last year they came to the art show and were taking photos with my artwork,” Kassa stated. “Initially I was kind of embarrassed but then I heard them start talking and realized they weren’t speaking English. Once I realized they were Ukranian and they were seeing my work it just hit me and I thought ‘Wow’”.

For Kassa, it was incredible to see that something so important and meaningful to her, was just as important to other people. 

“That moment made me feel great because it made me feel like I was actually doing something. I have always felt the need to make something meaningful out of what I am doing and it definitely made me feel proud of myself to see I am actually impacting someone,” Kassa shared. 

The inspiration behind Kassa’s more politically based portfolio is due to her strong political upbringing. With her dad on the school board, politics has always played a huge role in her and her family’s life. Although politics inspires a wide range of her artwork, Kassa often builds a lot of her inspiration around other things she consumes in her day-to-day life. 

“I grew up in a very politically active household so I have always had a strong awareness of social issues and stuff like that. That has always really inspired my art considering I don’t really look up to any specific artist,” Kassa shared. “Music and film have always been a big inspiration as well. I mean truly any media I am consuming really impacts where I get my inspiration from”. 

Although media has shaped the way she creates her art, her art has also shaped the way she views media. 

“I think art has shaped the way that I think every day and the way that I consume media. My brain is just always on, trying to think of different ways to make my pieces better and what new pieces to create. I think that has helped me academically and just artistically,” Kassa explained.  

As she plans for the future, Kassa is excited about all the possibilities there are in the art field. While she isn’t fully sure what career she would like to pursue, she is trying to improve her skills in certain areas to open up a variety of career options. 

“When it comes to art I feel like there are so many options yet so little options that I could pursue in the future,” Kassa shared. “In theory, I would love to be an animator but unfortunately I work in more traditional art. I am trying to get a little more into animation but it is difficult if you barely know digital. I would also love to work by myself and just do my own thing”. 

As for college, Kassa is making sure that the colleges she applies to each offer a highly acclaimed art program. It is crucial for artists when choosing a college to select one that will make them more valuable to employers. 

“Unfortunately with art school, it is really important what college you go to because most employers take that into major consideration when hiring. With that said, I am looking mainly at SCAT (Savannah College of Art and Design) for college because they have a lot of options and I just love the vibes that the school provides,” Kassa explained. “I also enjoy that it is a very free choice compared to the other schools. I am also looking at Carnegie Mellon and Ringling, which is where Pixar gets a lot of their employees from”. 

As Kassa enters the real world of art, she knows how vital it is to be headstrong to have a successful career. 

“Art is a very ruff field but I am pretty thick-skinned and prepared to go into that,” Kassa affirmed. 

Fortunately and unfortunately, Kassa is her biggest self-critic. 

“I know from a technical standpoint I am not at the level I want to be at yet. I watch and see amazing artists every day so I am just able to see that,” Kassa stated. “I am good, but I am not great. I know I am skilled technically well compared to most, but comparatively to these other artists, I know I could be doing much better”. 

In the North Penn art community, sometimes being your own worst critic is needed. North Penn fosters many artistically talented students, with Kassa being one of them. Being surrounded by greatness, however, has led Kassa to harsh feelings toward herself and her work. 

“At North Penn, if you are in with the art crowd it is basically like being at an art school. It is extremely competitive. I love everyone in my classes and some of my best friends are in my classes but it is a very competitive environment. I am also a very competitive person so I feel like everyone is competing against me and sometimes they are even if they don’t mean it,” Kassa explained. “It was even worse last year because I was working with seniors who were making these amazing drop-dead gorgeous pieces and I had never faced a challenge with other artists before. It was really a change of pace but I am happy that I got a challenge”. 

As Kassa continues to learn and grow as an artist, she has found that it is important to reflect on her previous pieces. 

“I actually enjoy looking back at the mistakes that I made in previous work and knowing now that I can correct them and do better,” Kassa revealed. 

Recently, Kassa was allowed to have her work sold in an auction. It even turned into a bidding war, which was a shock for the young and upcoming artist. 

“Seeing people buying my art was just so surreal in an exciting way. I doubt myself because I look at my work too long. I will spend 20 hours on a piece and by the time I am done I just feel like it does not look the same,” Kassa shared. “I think it is just really validating to see other people appreciate something that I have spent so much time and effort on. I put so much physical and emotional labor into it so it just really means a lot”.

Claire Kassa wears a big smile as she proudly stands with her art portfolio from her junior year.
(Claire Kassa)
One of Kassa’s favorite projects to work on was this bold piece showing Vladimir Putin as the Devil. (Claire Kassa) 

With this being her first auction, Kassa is very excited about where this road could lead her. She certainly plans on entering more auctions in the future, but there is one important step she must complete first. 

“It is very important to find your audience when selling art, and I don’t think I have necessarily found my audience yet. But once you find that audience it can really make a difference on how much work you sell,” Kassa explained. 

As she creates these pieces to be sold, one thing that Kassa has found to be emotionally draining is the process of creating them. Especially when trying to bring new ideas to life.

“My process when coming up with new ideas stresses a lot of people out. I have either a really relaxed or super stressful process and it really depends,” Kassa said with a laugh. “A lot of the process of making art is just trying it and seeing if it works. And if it doesn’t work then you have to think how you can fix it. You have to just mess around with stuff and throw stuff at it and see if it sticks, and if it does then you did it”. 

Over the years, Kassa has developed a simple mindset that helps her through the stress of this process. 

“My thought process is always just ‘what if’ like you never know. What if it works? And if it doesn’t I’ll just remake it,” Kassa stated. 

Kassa hopes she can inspire people who wish to pursue art to take a chance. She wants them to know it requires hard work but is something they could become good at over time. 

“Art is not talent, its skill. Anybody could do this, and I don’t mean that in a dismissive way. If you took the time every single day to put in effort and practice, you could do the exact same thing,” Kassa explained. “You just need to be consistent and practice and learn your basics and eventually you will get to that level. You never really get to that level though because no one is ever satisfied with their work. There is always room for improvement”. 

As for people who don’t see themselves pursuing art anytime soon, Kassa hopes she can also inspire them to keep pushing for their goals and dreams despite any setbacks. 

“I have had a lot of health issues, especially last year. Last year I missed 35 days of school, so that made it more difficult to catch up and stay relevant with everybody else. It truly felt like I was being set back while everyone else was able to go forward,” Kassa revealed. “I really hope that this inspires people though because despite my health and academic problems, I still manage to create my artwork. You don’t need to have this amazing push-back story, you can just keep going. Take the rest and time that you need and just get back to it”. 

With another difficult and busy year of art ahead of her, Kassa is thrilled to see what she can create. While continuing to be her own worst critic, she also hopes that she can give herself a little more grace when it comes to her work. 

“It is extremely difficult to be kind to yourself and tell yourself that you can do what you need to do. But don’t pay attention to anyone else because ultimately this is for you,” Kassa said with a smile. 

If you would like to buy any of Claire Kassa’s pieces or contact her for more information you can email her at [email protected]. You can also follow her on Instagram to view her artwork @Punk_Artify

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