Young artist at home in the quot;Zonequot;

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 25, 2000

The &uot;Zone&uot; is a special place all creative people can identify with—that spot where you and your art or music or writing just seem to flow together so seamlessly that you lose track of yourself, of time.

Outside distractions disappear.

It’s a satisfying place to be.

Kristen Saunders, a senior at Fort Dale Academy, knows all about that zone.

She is a budding artist in her own right, currently taking a college art course through LBW’s Greenville campus while staying busy with tennis team practice, computer competition and homework.

Kristen’s looking forward to attending the school full-time in the fall and putting to good use the art scholarship deservedly earned by her impressive portfolio of work .

&uot;Gosh-I really can’t remember when I first started to draw or paint.

It seems like I’ve been doing it all my life,&uot; Kristen explains, her expressive dark eyes lighting up as she discusses one of her favorite subjects.

&uot;I had a few coloring books, but I preferred pads of plain white paper where I could draw my own houses and trees and flowers . . .When I was about 5, my parents got me a Little Tykes 2-sided easel. You painted on one side, and drew on the other.

I had the best time using that,&uot; she recalls with a big smile.

She has graduated

to an old easel of her dad’s, though painting is not, at least currently, her first choice of mediums.

&uot;It’s so hard to control at times . . .that’s frustrating.

I guess I’ll get better with practice, though.&uot;.

What is her preferred medium? &uot;Definitely colored pencils-better control, and I can do shading and good detail.&uot;

She enthusiastically nods, then laughs, adding

&uot;I love the effect you get using charcoal for shading -we use it a lot in class-but, man, is it ever messy.

You’re caught up in your drawing—next thing you know, you’ve got black fingertips, streaks up to your elbows-you can’t touch your clothes, your face-actually, I guess it looks pretty funny.&uot;

It appears that Kristen’s already learning about the &uot;sacrifices&uot; one must make for one’s art . . . staying clean and tidy

Not that Kristen is an absolute &uot;neat freak&uot; when it comes to creating her art.

She usually works on her drawings in her snug &uot;sitting room&uot; upstairs, comfortably sprawling in her &uot;papa-san&uot; chair, shoes off, her pencils, sharpeners, erasers, and other art &uot;stuff&uot; scattered all around her.

This is the spot where you’ll also find neon-colored posters, whimsical teddy bears in psychedelic hues of purple and blue, candles shaped like peace symbols and mushrooms, fanciful unicorn and dragon images and figurines . . . all reflections of the young tenant’s whimsical, unusual, imaginative tastes and interests.

It will probably come as no surprise that her car is a bright yellow vintage VW &uot;Bug&uot;; this child of the 80s finds enormous appeal and inspiration in the &uot;flower child&uot; era of the 60s and 70s.

&uot;Now that

I’ve studied more about art history and appreciation, I can go out and look at paintings and I can recognize

the school-impressionist, expressionist, realistic, abstract, surrealist-it all means something to me now.&uot; Kristen explains, adding that &uot;Splatters of paint on canvas–that’s a form of abstract expressionism, I know–but it’s just not my style. I want to make things look as real as possible, lots of details-but with a twist, you know, something unexpected.&uot;

Given that, it’s no surprise to learn that the master of surrealism, Salvador Dali, is one of her favorite artists.

He painted the people and objects in his paintings with great clarity and detail, only to &uot;twist&uot; the viewer’s response by doing something very out-of-the-ordinary (remember those &uot;cool&uot; melting watches?)

She

admires the work of French Impressionist Claude Monet, with his brilliant use of color and light.

Kristen also shares a favorite subject

with Monsieur Monet—flowers.

And there are still her beloved dragons . . .some quite humorous.

Another inspiration for Kristen’s artwork is her love of animals.

She is successful at capturing the feline grace and beauty of the big cats, but is frustrated with her efforts to draw canines.

&uot;Oh, I can get the ears and eyes and fur and stuff O.K.—but their long noses?

No way-not yet, anyway.&uot; Kristen flatly states, adding &uot;guess I just gotta practice.&uot;

Kristen praises her LBW art instructor, Lonnie Rich, for all his helpful instruction and insight.

The class meets twice weekly from 5:30- 6:45 p.m., but often Kristen goes earlier and if they really get in the zone, students may stay later and continue to work.

Kristen says that her schedule is almost too crowded at times; nevertheless she loves the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends, saying &uot;I used to just go to school, come home, do my work. . .that was about it.&uot;

What about her plans beyond her degree at LBW?

Not surprisingly, Kristen’s plans are unique.

&uot;Well, this may sound sort of strange—but my ultimate dream would be a special place for pets and their owners.

In the front part, there’d be a shop with T-shirts, bags, caps, and stuff with all sorts of animal designs on them-not just cats and dogs, but birds, rabbits, reptiles, you name it.&uot;

Kristen continues to describe her dream shop.

&uot;In the back part, we’d have a grooming room on one side, and on the other side, a place where people could board their pets for a short term–say, a couple of hours while they shopped–or for longer periods. It would be clean, safe, comfortable . . .a real home away from home for the animals where they’d get a lot of TLC.&uot;

Kristen adds that she would display some of her paintings and drawings in the front shop and possibly design a line of T-shirts.

If her dreams come together, it would certainly be a unique and rewarding way to share her love of animals and art.

Not that she isn’t already sharing her talents.

Stop by and take a look at the senior parking lot in front of FDA.

At least 6 of her classmates drafted Kristen to help them with their painted designs for homecoming, anything from drawing the basic outlines to adding little details and extra touches to complete them.

But she stopped short of actually doing the parking places for them, telling classmates &uot;Hey, it’s your spot—you need to put some piece of yourself into it.&uot;

And what was Kristen’s parking spot like?

A giant lime-green peace symbol, artfully shaded in dark green, set against a bubblegum-pink mass of what appears to be "LavaLamp" flow. . .Dali himself would approve.