Norah Peterson ’22 was hooked on drawing after discovering anime and the Japanese comics manga.
Growing up in Williamsburg, Virginia, she got seriously interested in art during middle school and intends to major in studio art at William & Mary. Peterson received a fellowship from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond for her work, which she said seeks to find the middle ground between realistic and conceptual.
“I want to move in a way that I can have more of an impact on my viewers,” she said. “So it’s not only oh, this is a picture of an apple. But oh my goodness, this is a picture of an apple — this is new; I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
W&M has a faculty member and student on VMFA fellowships this year as part of the museum’s 2018-19 awards, which went to 12 professional artists and 11 college students, five of whom including Peterson were high school seniors when they received the honor in the spring. Mike Jabbur, associate professor of art and art history, was honored as a professional. Read more about his work here.
“It was very eye-opening, seeing him there as somebody I look up to and kind of see as this well-respected artist and this really, extremely talented artist — his work is beautiful — and then thinking we’re here for the same reason,” Peterson said.
Peterson has been making art since childhood, starting off with crafts and moving on to drawing and then painting.
“But when I first discovered Japanese anime, I did a lot of that, and that’s when I started wanting to learn to draw,” Peterson said. “I got books on how to draw manga. And so I kind of started from there.”
Throughout middle school at Williamsburg Montessori School and high school at Warhill, she received progressively more specific training on bridging the gap between manga-type drawing and a more realistic style. Technical training started to hone her raw skills into a more refined way of looking at shapes and details.
Her art foundations course in high school expanded to include improving how she saw the world, she said. Comparing self-portraits done at the beginning and end of the school year showed the strides made.
Continuing on to drawing and painting courses allowed her to experiment with different types of paint, which led her to settle on oils as her favorite, and to start to think conceptually about her art. She does a lot of portraits, but would like to paint more landscapes.
Her most recent works “Let them eat cake,” “Christmas morning,” “Unwrapped” and “The things we do for fun” were all part of a concentration she did for Advanced Placement testing that included classroom assignments and a concentration centered around an idea.
“And so for mine, I wanted to do toys and basically the juxtaposition of them and really intense issues like homelessness or alcoholism,” Peterson said. “And I wanted to depict how we treat some of these things very lightly, especially in media. And I wanted to use it as more of a shocking comparison to say hey, we see these too much as a likeness when they’re very different.”