Past, Present, Passion: An Artist’s Path

By: Nicole Duplessis

To like and enjoy art is one thing. To be talented enough to create it, is something not seen on a daily basis. Renee Royal, a senior at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, has been pursuing her artistic passion since she was only in the second grade. Choosing it as her major in college however, didn’t come until later.

Royal grew up in Lisbon, Maine, and chose to follow her older sisters’ footsteps and further her education at UMPI. She wanted the chance to play college basketball with her sister. She was unsure of what path to take in college at the beginning, but by the end of her sophomore year was officially a Fine Art major.

“I found that I was using my art courses to deal with life and I fell in love with being able to express through art, that’s when I knew I should make it my major,” Royal said.

Her decision has served her well. UMPI is a smaller university, with an average class size of 20, offering students in any major closeness not only with their classmates, but with their instructors as well. Royal says this is one thing she has really enjoyed and truly benefitted from.

“Everything is so personal because you know all the other students and in most cases I went through all my art classes with roughly the same group,” Royal said. “Not only does this allow my peers and professors to get to know me and understand why I create the things I do, but I can also connect with the other students work because I have been there with them, too, on their journey in the art program.”

Stephanie Jellett, a former classmate and friend of Royal’s, and a 2014 graduate from UMPI’s Professional Communication program, has seen many of her pieces of artwork.

“Being able to see her grow and see where her art is taking her is amazing,” Jellett said. “She has so much talent and no matter what she does she always puts her whole heart into it.”

Royal has explored many different art mediums, such as mixed media, drawing and photography, but has found painting to be her most profound way of expression.

“I have always used painting as my go-to medium and it is my chosen emphasis,” Royal said. “I find a lot of pleasure in the process in which I paint and feel that I know how to best express myself through painting.”

No matter what medium Royal chooses to work with, she always ends up with a finished product that amazes those around her.

“Her art means so much to her, and being able to see her create what she loves is really incredible,” Jellett said. “She’s such a crazy talented person.”

Royal’s determination and drive to succeed with any piece of artwork is what makes her work, and her personality as an artist, a truly unique one.

“I would never limit myself to just one medium and I always want to try new things,” Royal said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the influence of all my classes I have taken throughout the years.”

All the classes she has taken, personal artwork she has created, and many late nights spent in the UMPI art studio has led her to the shining moment of her senior year; her senior show. All senior Fine Art majors work on a project known as their senior thesis work. They have the entirety of their senior year to complete a series of work that will be displayed in UMPI’s Pullen Gallery for a week.

“My thesis work is focused on my own daydreams and memories, so I am telling my own story,” Royal said. “I am constantly using my work to help me cope with things in life and for my senior thesis I am doing just that, using it to cope with the long distance relationship I am in.”

Expressing through art is what drew Royal into the Fine Arts program. But who knew her senior thesis work would be so emotionally drawn that nearly anyone could connect to it?

“Instead of expressing the sadness I feel from being away from my partner, I have created a body of work that focuses on the hopefulness of the future,” Royal said. “As I have worked on this through the year, I have realized that my story can be made to be universal. It is a story of a girl who disconnects herself from her current reality through daydreaming. Her dreams make her realize that she wants change and will do what it takes to get her where she wants to be and in this case, it is with her partner.”

Within her pieces of work, Royal uses the monarch butterfly, dreamscapes and the figure of the individual(s) to tell the story. She has broken the story down into three parts, which can be seen on display at UMPI’s Pullen Gallery from May 1 to 7. The opening reception will take place May 1 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

With her senior show bringing an end to her college career, it is only the beginning for what she hopes to accomplish. Royal will be moving across the country to be with her husband.

“My goals for the future are to build art programs for young children to help encourage creativity at a young age,” Royal said.

She plans to keep her passion for art a part of her daily life, and hopes to make a difference in the lives of others through her own work or by helping them realize their own artistic capabilities.

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