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Art Student Cole Shapiro Takes His Passion to the Next Level

By Landon Rogers-Neubarth

   Ponte Vedra High School junior Cole Shapiro, is one of the most prominent artists at the school.  Cole has had numerous pieces displayed and has amassed a following of 1,500 people on his art Instagram account. “I had three pieces in the Northeast Florida Scholastic Art and Writing Awards last year and will have five out of my seven winning pieces there this year,” said Cole. He has also been featured in other local art exhibitions such as the MLK poster contest and the St. John’s All-County art show. 

   Cole’s artwork focuses on abstract pieces that express a greater meaning of more complex topics. “If people are confused, I see it as a job well done.” Cole stated. Coles style visually looks like a hallucination and often combines several things into a single piece. His greatest inspiration to develop his unique style is Andy Warhol. Every piece he creates has a goal in mind of communicating an idea and often is not literal creating a confusing undertone. The topics of Coles pieces are always changing to maintain being intriguing with his fixations often changing. 

   Coles first post to his Art Instagram was in May of 2021 and depicted Musician Billie Eilish. He enjoys addressing popular culture topics and sees it as a way of preserving the “history” of current pop culture. Cole said, “Whether my work is about community within art class, or the effects of war on children, my pieces are visually striking, and I try to fill them with as much meaning as possible.” To convey those messages, he combines realistic human forms, abstract colors and concepts. Cole then shares his pieces on social media receiving hundreds of likes. Social media has served not only as a platform for him to promote his artwork but also has served as inspiration for himself. Cole references social media and historic art pieces to build from those concepts to create his own original works and can help him illustrate pop culture topics.

   His passion for art really developed during middle school and only festered during the 2020 quarantine. He had taken an art class prior to the 2020 lockdown and that really started his journey, and the free time only helped his passion increase. “During this time, I drew 24/7 and haven’t stopped since.” Cole draws, sculpts, does installations, and other forms to express his creativity, but no matter what every piece starts as a rough idea and a sketch. Cole admitted “99 percent of the time it doesn’t look like how I wanted it to or how I imagined it would. But there is always a sense of pride and satisfaction seeing it complete.” After Cole finishes his pieces, he enjoys talking them out and explaining the ideas behind the work. Due to the confusing nature of his art, the conversations often create shock amongst his peers. 

   One of Cole’s favorite pieces is titled “Haven” and was a collaborative effort to create a large-scale project. The importance of this piece came from the process of its creation as well as the scale and effort put into it. “I painted six of my closest friends in my art classes as well as Mr. C (Consuji) and Ms. Reyes,” (two of the PVHS art teachers) said Cole. The piece consists of flowers that symbolize handwritten memories from throughout the school year. The community around the art class has made it a special experience for Cole and added sentimental value to the artwork.

   Cole can sometimes fall into the trap of protectionism when working on his art. The start of the piece and planning period can become a set back and can be the hardest part. Each piece has large amount of dedication put into the artwork to make sure it’s up to the high standard he holds his work to. “I’ll spend the entire day repainting 1 inch of a portrait because I can’t get it right. I’ll spend hours working just to realize my proportions were off.” Despite this, its apart of the process of translating an idea into a physical work. This can lead to a loss of motivation for the work, but Cole perseveres and will take time to relax when this occurs. 

   Cole has found his passion in his artwork and hopes to go into a creative field when he’s older even if he does not work on art as a profession. “I want to continue to make art that is relevant to the culture and have a career that is enjoyable and lucrative, while still being as creative as I am now. I’d love to work on important projects like movies and fashion and be a well-known visual artist,” said Cole. His creative side will lead Cole’s future in whatever endeavor he pursues.

About featured image above:

“This piece investigates how humans artistically develop with age. I created 16 squares with self-portraits to represent ages 1-16 both visually and artistically. Most of them are based off of or direct representations of real pieces from my youth. I added the red yarn to make the collage look like a crime/mystery board and overall give off chaos for the viewer as they try and track the works from start to finish.”
-Cole Shapiro

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