Designing woman: Free State graduate sees graphics programs as stepping stones to future career

May Art Star Drue Davis works not only in painting and drawing, but with design and imaging programs to compose her art in a new fashion.

Examples of Drue Davis' art and design work on the Free State High School yearbook.

Usually, artists start their creative career by picking up a pencil, charcoal, pastels or a paintbrush. After they’ve mastered the basics, it’s on to new technologies and the digital arts. They have to keep up with the ever-changing world of art and creation.

However, Drue Davis’ art history is the exact opposite.

“My mom is a graphic designer,” says Davis, who graduated from Free State High on Sunday. “She had Photoshop, (Adobe) Illustrator, InDesign and just let me play around on them and do school projects with it.”

That started an award-wining career in the digital arts and earned Davis the ArtStar Award for May. The award is sponsored by Jayhawk Dental and The World Company.

Even though she started her art adventure in front of a computer, she had to pick up a pencil at some point and go old-school.

“My ninth-grade year we did a drawing project, and I was so scared of drawing,” Davis says. “Since then, I’ve been in figure-drawing classes and doing landscape painting, and I love it now.”

While she may excel in all aspects of art, Free State art teacher Carolyn Berry picked Davis out of the crowd because of her eye for design and layout.

“She has a very natural sense of design, that ability to put things on a page,” Berry said.

Davis’ ability to combine text and images is another ability that most high school students can’t grasp.

“It’s a skill that a lot of students that I have don’t do real well at, but Drue does,” Berry says. “She’s always done it that well.”

That combination of photos and writing is shown in the past two editions of the Free State High yearbook. Davis has been the editor for two years, and it’s a project that she’s very proud of.

“I spent a whole year on it, and I’m doing it again this year. It’s so much work,” Davis says. “I love making books … because it’s just a whole other hands-on thing with digital (art).”

You can flip through this year’s edition of the yearbook and find a photo of Davis with the state champion gymnastics team. She also took first place at state on the pole vault and ran for the track and field team during her time as a Firebird.

“That takes an enormous amount of outside time,” Berry says. “I think she’s just an outstanding candidate as far as being a well-balanced student and also a great artist.”

Davis was also Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins’ choice last year for the Congressional Art Award. Her work has been hanging in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., ever since.

The piece of work that stands out in both the minds of Davis and Berry is the 12-piece design series done for her Advanced Placement course.

“It focuses on a young woman and different emotions that she has,” Davis says. “I express those through silhouettes and lines and color. I didn’t want them titled because I thought each viewer could have their own idea of what emotion was being expressed.”

Berry was blown away by her work.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever had anybody do that,” Berry says. “It was amazing how much diversity she got using one subject matter, one person and using her and showing different personas of that person.”

While she might excel at athletics, arts and academics at Free State, the one thing she knows will stick with her for life is design.

She’s heading to Kansas University to major in graphic design, but she doesn’t want to be limited.

“My hope is to get something whether it’s journalism or business or marketing, something that gives me another side besides the artistic side,” Davis says. “That’s kind of my plan. We’ll see how it goes.”

Berry says Davis looked at art school but wanted an academic setting for college.

“She looked at lots of schools and had several offers with good scholarship money,” Berry says. “KU just seemed to fit the bill for her, and I think she’s made a good choice.”

She’s been thinking about potential careers that range from editing magazines to heading art direction for companies. While she’s not exactly sure what she wants to do, there is one thing she’s certain about.

“No matter what I do, I want to work in digital arts,” Davis says. “I just love the different aspects of the digital side of the world.”