Vanessa Walton “I never thought I’d be at a community college, but SMC is a perfect place to take care of your academics. The classes are great and… we’re close to the beach!”

In the ‘old days’—maybe all of 20 years ago—mention of the word ‘artist’ would conjure the smell of linseed oil and images of spattered smocks. The artist of today, however, is more likely to be engrossed with software programs than paints. The computer is the new artist’s palette. Still, there is no replacement for traditions, according to Vanessa Walton.

“My last teacher was Nathan Ota in Life Drawing, and he gave us all such individualized attention, which is great,” says Vanessa. “He came to everybody in the room and helped us all learn how to understand the body and how it all works. And I think this is incredibly important for anyone going into the arts,” she continues. “You have to have the experience of drawing from real life.” Vanessa grew up in the house of her artist father, and “as a kid, I was always drawing something. And I just never stopped! So I’m majoring in Fine Arts, but I’m leaning towards illustration. Children’s books, newspapers, magazine covers; all that stuff.” And to do that, Vanessa has enlisted the aid of the new ‘palette.’

“I use computers a lot to create my artwork with programs like Photoshop and Corel Painter,” she says. “And I’ve heard a lot of good things about SMC’s Academy of Entertainment & Technology (AET), where they teach Maya and 3-D character design. And that’s something that I’d really like to get into.” But while encountering the nexus where art meets virtual realities in the computer, Vanessa counsels that there’s nothing that will replace the human touch. “This is such a great school, and the people here are very nice. But if you really want to get the most out of it, find a counselor who can show you the ropes. There’s so much going on here, you might not even know about it. So find somebody who does.”

Read more stories from present and past years in the SMC Student Spotlight Archive.