Award-winning LHS grad trying to surround himself with art

Jim Kittel, a recently graduated Lawrence High School student who has won several awards for his artwork, will be attending the Pratt Institute’s School of Art and Design in Brooklyn, N.Y., this fall.

Eighteen-year-old Jim Kittel, like most high school graduates, is excited to head to college in the fall. Kittel, an award-winning artist, will study industrial design at Pratt Institute’s School of Art and Design in Brooklyn, N.Y., and is aching to meet others who are creative and energized by making art.

“I wanted to surround myself with people who have the same passion and drive as myself,” Kittel says.

He’ll have to navigate his way around a new city, do his own laundry and learn to manage living on his own for the first time, like a lot of incoming college students. Kittel isn’t looking forward to responsibilities like washing clothes or continuing to manage his money wisely, but his excitement to be on campus and taking classes with other students like himself is overwhelming.

Kittel decided to pursue drawing as a career after taking his first drawing class less than three years ago. Although he had been exposed to artwork before then, Kittel had never actually tried his hand at being the creator of the pieces.

“I wasn’t one of those kids who grew up drawing everything,” Kittel said.

He took Drawing I as a sophomore at Lawrence High School, and after enjoying it he continued to enroll in the art courses offered there. Kittel excelled at drawing despite his lack of experience and something that one would think would be a hindrance to an artist: Kittel is partially color-blind. He mixes up red with green and blue with purple and sometimes will complete a drawing using the wrong color.

Kittel says that even though he can’t always tell if he is using the correct color, it usually doesn’t affect his artwork. Normally a classmate or instructor will tell him when the color in a picture is wrong.

His interest in drawing grew quickly, and by his senior year, four of his seven classes were art courses. He also received instruction outside of regular classes with former LHS art teacher and current art consultant Pat Nemchock.

Kittel took two courses from Nemchock: plein air drawing and life, or figure, drawing. The classes are different from high school classes because students would draw for as long as four hours at a time compared with the 45 minutes allotted for classes in school. For Nemchock’s two-week-long plein air class, the students worked outside in the extreme heat for hours.

“If the kids decide to do this … you know they have focus,” Nemchock says. “It’s really intensive but students don’t have an opportunity in school to do those kinds of classes.”

Kittel’s focus in Nemchock’s classes were apparent in his school art courses, too. Lawrence High School art teacher Wendy Vertacnik says he is mature and insightful and he gives other students useful feedback on their work.

“Some students may like to draw but he just thinks about different details,” Vertacnik says. “He will try different things where some students don’t really do that.”

Vertacnik encouraged Kittel to enter his work in competitions and it paid off.

Kittel won in the pastel division of the “Kansans… As Talented As You Think!” art competition hosted by the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas. He also received a gold medal in drawing for the 2012 National Scholastic Art & Writing Award by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, and he got travel to New York City in June to attend a reception in honor of the competition winners.

Both award-winning drawings were of houses and many of his works are portraits and landscapes, but Kittel has a reason for getting into industrial design rather than studio art.

“I’m interested in the way people interact with objects — you can look at a piece of art and appreciate it but you’re not interacting with it like you would, say furniture,” Kittel says.

Kittel says the cool part about industrial design is that it encompasses so many parts of a person’s everyday life. It is used in the design of electronics, cars and furniture.

Industrial design being all around a person is reflective of the new lifestyle Kittel will encounter when he begins at Pratt in August.

“It’s going to be different being surrounded by art rather than it being only (a certain part) of my life,” Kittel says.