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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Her Dreams Take Shape From Doodles

By Phil Walzer

When Calah Jones was in kindergarten in Northern Virginia, "I was always doodling on my homework and I'd get in trouble for that."

Her mother told the teacher: "Let her doodle. It keeps her brain stay active."

Good call.

Jones, a recent Old Dominion University graduate, branched out to painting full-scale facial portraits of African-American women with lush colors and striking expressions, as well as curating art exhibits. She even started a glossy quarterly magazine, Illesthetic, spotlighting the work of artists in the mid-Atlantic, last year.

How does she do it all? "I'm a stickler for planning," said Jones, 21, who received a bachelor's degree in painting. "I plan from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep every day."

Before Jones (her first name is pronounced KAY-la) got to ODU, "I liked art, but I didn't have the style; I wasn't comfortable in the craftsmanship." Now she approaches faces as a collection of shapes. She knows which brushes and paints to use, and she's been exposed to media from photography to digital art.

Although she has focused on portraying women, she recently started painting men, albeit in unexpected backgrounds - with butterflies and flowers.

Elliott Jones, an associate professor of art, calls Jones "a very talented student" who has grown "in both technical skill and conceptual thinking."

She regrets not having joined student groups before her junior year. Jones belonged to Chase Dreams Not Boys, which encourages women to focus on their education and career goals, and Beautifully Natural, "which made me comfortable wearing my hair out. Before, I'd always wear weaves and wigs."

She has organized three art shows, displaying her and others' work. She plans to continue painting and one day open a gallery. "I always thought I'd be an artist," Jones said. "I still will be." But this way, she can also elevate other artists.

To read about more talented 2018 graduates, go to the spring issue of Monarch magazine at www.odu.edu/monarchmag

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