Hail To The Rad Kids

Meet Pia, portraitist and future novelist

Wed, 03/28/2018 - 12:00pm

BELFAST — How many people do you know who can draw skillful, detailed portraits in a sketchbook while in the backseat of a moving car or on the bench of a ferry as it rolls back and forth on the waves?

Pia Gibson, 14, can. I first saw one of her portraits at the Young Artists Gallery Takeover exhibition at Waterfall Arts. It was an incredibly detailed graphite pencil drawing of Shoma Uno, a Japanese Olympic figure skater, I later discovered.

“I was watching him skate one day and I just wanted to draw him,” she said.

She found a photo of Uno online and began one day, outlining the contours of his face, while on a car trip with her parents. No bumps in the road deterred her.

“I think once you’re on the highway, it gets easier,” she said.

Pia, who lives in Belfast, takes the ferry every day to go to a small school in Islesboro. Even though it adds an extra two hours to her daily commute, it suits her.

“I like the small school community better,” she said. “It’s only got 95 kids and I really like pairing the big kids with the little kids.”

And she often uses her ferry time to pull out that sketchbook and work on some drawings.

A freshman, she has been drawing since she was a child. Having attended the Cornerspring Montessori school, she increased her skills through the Waterfall Arts after-school programs for kids and teens through the years. 

“I did a lot of stuff growing up: drawing and jewelry making, mostly.”

She shows me her sketchbook of another portrait she did and loves how it came out.

“This is one of my favorite,” she said, and tells me that the girl with the big eyes and beautiful face is Kaya Scodelario, an actor in a movie she’d recently seen. “I guess I am interested in drawing people because of their eyes.” In another sketch, this is readily apparent as all of her portraits have oversized eyes, typical of anime characters.

Pia loves anime and based  her drawing on “Sereaph of the End,” a Japanese dark fantasy anime based on the manga with the same name.

She also loves to write fiction and hopes one day to be a novelist. 

“I like to write about social issues in fiction form.” She already has an idea for a book based on an article she’d read last summer about a boy forced into being a soldier for Boko Haram. It’s clear that Pia has a definitive idea about what she wants to do and be, goals supported by her parents.

This summer, she is going to New York City to participate in a two-week workshop with the New York Times.

“It’s like a summer camp and you get taught by New York Times journalists,” she said.

You can see her portrait at the Young Artists Gallery Takeover exhibition at Waterfall Arts, which is up until March 29. Pia, you can already tell, is going places. 

Related story: Young artists take over Waterfall Arts Gallery in Belfast

Hail To The Rad Kids is an ongoing feature that highlights Maine teens with artistic or musical talent.

Kay Stephens can be reached at news@penbaypilot.com