Royal Oak Review: Art teacher inspires students to excel in their mediums

Shrine students have won numerous awards

Shrine Catholic High School senior Joanna Marie Seng poses with a paper headpiece she designed, “Rose Globe.” Seng recently was named a Gold Key award winner in the 2016 Southeastern Michigan Region of the Scholastic Art Awards.

Posted February 24, 2016

Shrine Catholic High School and Academy art teacher Jamie Laidlaw inspires her students to create artwork in the mediums they feel most connected with, which has resulted in an award-winning program.
Shrine Catholic High School senior Jillian Berry created a dress and accessories made entirely out of Jell-O lids in Jamie Laidlaw’s art class.

ROYAL OAK — For art teacher Jamie Laidlaw, allowing students their own personal space to amplify their talents has resulted in success.

For 22 years, Laidlaw’s Shrine Catholic High School and Academy art room has allowed students the freedom to explore the mediums where they feel their talents lie while taking the time to individually foster their talents.

“I just think that she knows … the potential all her students have, so that’s why she wants us all to be doing more and doing as much as we can and get as much as we can out of the four years she has us as a student,” said senior Jillian Berry.

Berry’s use of unconventional materials has earned her recognition in the Southeastern Michigan Region of the Scholastic Art Awards.

Berry made an entire outfit out of Jell-O lids, and she recently constructed a dress out of wallpaper.

The student said the ideas for the Jell-O lid dress came to her because the lids were red and they were very foldable. It took her about three months to make the dress and matching boots and accessories.

“I was inspired by the ’60s, and it started out with just doing the dress, and then Mrs. Laidlaw gave me the motivation I needed to just keep making more and keep adding on to it to make it better,” Berry said.

Other mediums seen throughout Laidlaw’s classroom include scratch board drawings of Detroit architecture, paintings, sculptures, photography, fashion design and an eye-catching headpiece display constructed from paper.

“I really like working with paper and origami,” said senior Joanna Marie Seng. “Working with paper is the easiest medium for me, and once I had the idea, it just all kind of came together for me.”

Seng received a Gold Key in the Scholastic Art Awards for her portfolio, including her paper headpieces. Seng said she is influenced by artist Philip Treacy’s work.

“She is really gifted with the headware,” Laidlaw said. “She had won an award a couple of years ago in the Scholastic art and writing competition, and she wanted to do a portfolio, and she had made dresses, and she watercolors beautifully, and she draws beautifully.”

Senior Theodore Sase’s work, “Spider’s Web Lobby,” was recognized with a Gold Key award in the digital art category in the Scholastic Art Awards. His digital work has also been acknowledged in prior years. “Spider’s Web Lobby” took Sase a couple of months, starting with a primitive drawing before adding detail.

“It’s very dynamic,” he said. “If I make a mistake, I can always undo and change things.”

Laidlaw said Gold Key award winners will advance to New York City for national judging.

Other accolades earned by Laidlaw’s students include placement and honorable mentions through the 2016 Southeastern Michigan Region of the Scholastic Art Awards; Michigan Student Film & Video; Young at Art; Crayola; Congressional Art and Cornell University competitions.

Her students have gone on to attend the College for Creative Studies; Parsons School of Design; ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California; Pratt Institute; Fashion Institute of Technology; Savannah Arts Academy; and Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles.

She also has former students at Cornell University, the University of Michigan and the University of London.

Laidlaw teaches an introductory and advanced art course, and as the students become more interested, she puts in the time to help them excel.

“We just start gearing projects to what they have interest in, because what happens when they are really interested in what they are working on is, they come to class and then they work on it,” Laidlaw said. “I want them to be doing something they want to be doing.”

Laidlaw said it would be a lot easier to have one class project at a time, but she puts in the time to make sure her students take away meaning from her class. She also helps them experience other mediums that she believes they might be interested in.

“I want them to have their experience and have it be meaningful so when they look back at high school, this is the class they will remember the most or fondly,” she said.

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