Why Art? Let Emily Bonkowski Tell Why!


Sophie Hornberger, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

Emily Bonkowski  is a senior at NDA. She is a full IB diploma candidate, and as part of that is in IB HL art. She has gained quite a reputation for her artistic abilities. 

Question: What do you like to do in your free time? 

Bonkowski: I love just to do anything art-related or creative or anything crafty. I’m just a crafty person. 

Q: When did you start doing art? 

B: It’s always something I’ve done. Every kid starts off in kindergarten like “oh you can draw the best flower” or something. And now you’re the one in class who’s best at art. I guess it’s always kind of stuck with me. I kept trying to push myself. It’s something I really like doing and with a lot of practice, I’ve gotten better at doing it.

Q: In the future do you plan to do something art-related? 

B: Yeah, I don’t know specifically because it’s so far away. But I do know that for college I do want to go into either getting my fine arts degree or go into restoration work. 

Q: When did you decide that art is what you want to do? 

B: I think seriously within the past year and a half. There’s always that kind of “starving artist” trope where it’s like “I could get an arts degree,” but what are you going to do with it? That was something that always kind of scared me away from wanting to pursue this. I always thought “yeah that would be cool” but not that realistic. So I would always keep trying different options that I think I would like. I would be excited and interested in them for a while but then I’d start to realize “this would be a tremendous amount of work” or “oh, this career is not something that I could see myself enjoying or basing my lifestyle around.” 

I’ve always just come back to art and want to continue to do something creative in my life. I don’t know specifically what I want to do, but I feel like it would be good to just have knowledge in the arts because it could be applicable in so many different areas that I might want to go into. And if I can’t, well, I can always go back to school. It’ll be fine. Or I can work at McDonalds. Or, marry rich. That’s another big option. There are a lot of wealthy people going in the art scene, so it’s just like, find a rich old person and be like “this is the art you need.” 

Q: What is your favorite medium to work with? 

B: I’m kind of all over the place still. I’m still figuring out things and mediums I like. I figured out I like photography this past year, and I’m in metals right now and finding out I like metal. I like a little bit of everything. Specifically, drawing and charcoal— which is funny to say because I also kind of hate charcoal. I also like things I’m able to add a lot of texture with. So, beads and string and all that fun stuff. I just love a lot of contrast and color and texture. I like making my pieces very rich and full and interesting in many different ways. 

Right now for my exhibition, I’m focusing on my fear of bugs. So that is what I’m centering around. Because I’ve just been able to find a lot of ways to showcase that visually. But I like to do a lot of portraits. I just do whatever I’m feeling or whatever I find interesting. 

Q: Why do you create art?

B: I think it’s a great way to focus a lot of attention, and I like being able to take things that I see in my head and make them in a real come-to-life kind of way. I like seeing it in my head and having that ability to make it and have that control to make it how I see it. The why… that’s a really hard question. It’s fun. It’s something I can do when I’m bored. It’s something I can either put a lot of focus and effort and detail in or I can just sketch something quick and call it a day. It’s just a part of me. It’s who I am.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art you’ve created? 

B: It’s a tie. It was for my book piece for last year where it was two different pieces, but I just love all the texture in there. Let me find a picture. It took a lot of work, but it looks so cool, and I love it. It’s a visual representation of how I’m scared of bugs getting into my hair and never being able to get them out. 

Each string was individually placed. So those are all different threads and beads I glued. I wanted it to look like one of those really old kinds of tapestry. Very fairytale and whimsical. That’s a big part of my style. I like to be very whimsical and storybook-ish. I’m a very whimsical person if you can’t tell. And I just love using gold and like shiny things because of the contrast. So anyways that shows my fear of bugs. And I think it’s just really fun to look at. 

So the first one was on the cover, and this one was on the inside. This one I called “Family Tree,” because I associated a meaning with each of the different materials. I did the background black and white, because, again, contrast and detail. And each of these little leaves I cut out of different paint chips, and glued on there. Each bead and string or thread I placed individually. And those are my two favorites. I just think that they’re super high contrast, super fun to look at. I love the material I chose to use, and I just think it’s so fun. 

Q: How do you develop your art skills? 

B: Through a lot of trial and error. If it’s something that I don’t know what I’m doing, I’ll typically have a sketch that I’ll try to work with. But half the time, I make things that are really, really bad and they just don’t work out. It’s a lot of experimentation. Seeing what works, what doesn’t and pretty much just… if one thing does work, I might not like how it looks. So it’s a lot of back and forth and trying to think of creative ways of how to take what I’m seeing in my head or from my sketch and bring it to life either in a 3D way or on paper. 

Q: What’s the importance of art to you? 

B: It’s a way that I can fully express myself. I know that sounds somewhat cheesy. But, I really do think it is. Not even in just creating art alone, but also in learning about it, looking at it. It’s something I feel like I’m fairly good at. It’s a skill that I’m able to do with confidence which is very important to me in high school. Building up the confidence, you know, from being a scared little freshman to being someone who’s a little more comfortable in their own skin. 

That was a big part of helping me build up… just helping me show… I’m not the most well-spoken person, if you’ve noticed, but it helps me show things in a more visual way. Especially because I’m not great at spelling or writing either. Just having something where I don’t have to use words or I don’t have to talk, but show is really fun, and I like that a lot. It’s been something that’s always been there, and been fun, and I’m able to do it in a lot of different things and apply it to different things I’m interested in at the time. Like helping with musical headshots. I was able to take something I was interested in and help it out from there and lend my skills. I really like that I can lend my resources to them. 

Q: Is there anything you wanted to tell people about art at Notre Dame? 

B. I’m plugging Cabaret Night. It’s going to be the first weekend in April. You’ll see the IB senior art students doing our final exhibitions. Everyone has such cool things planned, and everyone has such different and unique styles where you won’t get bored.  So it’ll be really interesting to look at. There will be some cool musical entertainment thingies, maybe some spoken word poetry. There will also be some Art I and Art II classes showing things. It’s just cool to see the full range of art, so please go to Cabaret Night. It’s going to be so fun. Everyone is working their tails off.

Everyone should take an art class. Or other art classes like photography or metals. They’re so fun. You don’t have to be good at it; you just have to show you are trying. It’s a new skill you get to learn, and maybe you might like it. Otherwise, there is also IB Art if you’re a real go-getter. That’s also really cool and fun. Next year they’re going to do 3D potter’s wheel more. Which, I mean, I wish I was good at the pottery wheel. I am not. It’s so frustrating. 

Q: What would you say to other students interested in pursuing art for a career who are not quite sure? 

B: Just think about it. What took me a bit was kind of thinking about, not necessarily specifically about what I wanted to do, but kind of how I would want my life to look, and what I would be happy with. For a while I had the idea of “I’m going to be a lawyer.” But then I started to realize, that’s a lot of work, that’s a lot of schooling, that’s a lot of stress. I don’t think I would enjoy that. In the future I don’t see myself being happy with being in a job like that. 

If you want to continue art, but you don’t know how, start small. Go to a college that offers some art classes. You don’t have to go full in and go to a specific art college; you can try taking a couple courses, going in slowly, and there’s always time to change your mind too. Even then, you don’t have to go to school to become an artist. It helps in some ways like materials, connections, but realistically, you don’t have to do that . That’s not the main part of that. It’s just finding what you like to do and what you think would help you to do what you think would make you happiest in the future. And I think going to school just to learn different ways to harness my creativity or develop it or use it more and figuring out how to apply that to different jobs, I feel like that would make me the most happy in the future, and is what would help me get the lifestyle I want, which is not something super extravagant but is something that I would see myself being happy in. 

For anyone who is wanting to continue art, just continue to explore. Don’t count anything out. Always be willing to try new things and experiment. You don’t have to make any super life-important decisions on it. It doesn’t matter. And you don’t have to be great at anything either. It’s just about what you think helps.