Student uses artistic vision to create pieces for dying man

May 5, 2014

April Wefler
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For some art is a way to see the world; for others the world is art.

“(Art) asks you to be constantly open and look at things in different ways,” said JD Sell, junior Visual and Performing Arts major with an emphasis in drawing. “It broadens my whole approach.”

Art has influenced specific facets of Sell’s life. “I wouldn’t have ended up at UCCS if it weren’t for (art) or had the experience I had at Western State for a year without it,” he said. “I just like the environment in which it encompasses because it’s a certain lifestyle.”

Although Sell said he always liked to draw, he didn’t plan on making art his career.

When he was in high school, a close friend and mentor was diagnosed with leukemia.

“It was before I started to take my artwork seriously,” Sell said. “When he was diagnosed, I felt like I needed to do something for his family. I didn’t know what so I ended up drawing.”

Sell drew a series of studies on the man’s family and presented it to him two weeks before he died.
“Seeing the response from him and his wife – she still has it up in their bedroom – seeing the impact of something as simple as a symbol or a gesture can affect them so much.”

Some of Sell current projects include charcoal drawings on metal and on wood. Sell also creates drawings using graphite powder, gum arabic and water on paper – allowing the material to decay from a crisp image.

“The whole concept that I’m working with right now is memory. Through memory, I’ve been trying to express different emotions that you can encapsulate – different processes of decay and different processes of deterioration,” Sell said.

“Some of my favorite ones are the ones that wash out a bit,” he said of a technique he uses.
He is also attempting to finish a piece he started working on last semester.

“It destroyed me quite a bit when I was working on it. I bit off way more than I could chew for an actual class,” he said.

Sell describes the piece, a “mural-esque” work with multiple panels, as his reflection of the Cold War era.
“I really enjoyed working on it because it was a drawing technique that I always enjoyed but didn’t do much – painting, crosshatching, drawing with crosshatching, with ink. It was fun to see that come together.”

“The actual process of it was really great for me. It’s been a year since I started and it’s at least 95 percent done,” he said.

Sell indicated he has a center piece to do for the artwork, as well as minor details. He hopes to finish the piece this summer.

One medium he would like to try is sculpture. “I am petrified of it,” he said. “I did it a little bit in high school and I was the kid that would throw the clay at the pottery wheel to see if it would spin up and shoot around the room.”

“I don’t see myself as a 3-D type person when it comes to my artwork, but I would like to expand it. (Sculpture) scares the hell out of me,” he added.

Sell would like to get his Master of Fine Arts and become a college or university professor. “I can’t ever see myself being out of this environment,” he said. “I feel so much more engaged and comfortable in a school environment and just to be around what it encompasses and what it allows you to explore.”

“To be a teacher, to have the slim chance to have the effect that some teachers have had on me, just once, if I was a teacher, that would be enough,” he added.

Sell said he hopes to have a solo show sometime this summer.

For more information, visit his blog at