Lindenhurst eighth-grader turning hobby into business
The pencil-on-paper sketch called "Questions" depicts a seemingly forlorn girl sitting alone on a railroad track, her head bowed slightly and face hidden by a wall of hair.
"That's probably my favorite," says the artist, Sydney Janda. "It was a project we did in art class."
The class was in eighth grade at Millburn Middle School in Lindenhurst. And there is something so alluring about the layers of detail in the piece -- from the wrinkles in the subject's socks to the hint of light around her head -- that her teacher wanted to buy the original but settled for a print.
"It certainly was a challenge I wanted to try," Janda said.
At 14, Janda already has an established eye for texture and color, and she is transforming a relaxing hobby into a business as the calls for commissioned work slowly grow.
After modest success last summer, she again will hand out "Sydney's Art Studio" cards at upcoming art festivals and has a contract and order form ready for customers.
And why not? Last summer, she made $863.
"I just think of it as a hobby. I have all this artwork; I might as well share with other people and earn a little money," reasons Janda, who has had about 10 commissioned works.
"By creating this business, I'm able to continue and get better," she said.
The original "Questions," which is prominently displayed in the family's Lindenhurst home, is not for sale. Besides aesthetic value, it represents a benchmark in the development of her craft.
"I liked this one for her because it would push her because of the very focused front and soft focused background. She nailed it," said Jane Reu, longtime middle school art teacher at Millburn. Reu helped Janda choose "Questions" as the image to be replicated for the project.
"She's among the best I've taught in all my 23 years," at Millburn, Reu said.
Janda specializes in gridding -- basically scanning a photo or image and using a computer program to establish a square grid on the image, which is printed and transferred to canvass. She then freehands an outline of the subject and sketches or paints the detail, which can be a laborious process.
"There is no tracing. The grid is only there to plot the lines," Reu said. "I don't know that a lot of kids her age have that focus and persistence to work on something like this."
Janda has the natural ability to pick up on the light, shadow, depth and richness necessary for grid drawing, Reu said.
The Janda family's Lindenhurst home is filled with works from Sydney and her sister, Jordan, 10, who also has the knack. Their mom, Stacy Janda, says the self-taught talent has been developing for years.
"If they wanted to watch a (television) show, they had to be doing something," Stacy Janda said. The activity evolved beyond the living room. "Whenever we'd go somewhere, we'd take our bag of art supplies. That was our thing."
Sydney moved from sketching to painting about two years ago and could replicate images "pretty spot on," according to her mom. She also had the patience and persistence to keep at a work until it was completed.
"Questions" recently took best in show, people's choice and first place at the Antioch's Woman's Club annual art festival for middle and high school students. But it is another of Janda's works -- a horse with a flowing mane -- that was chosen as the poster art for the upcoming Art in the Park festival in Lake Villa.
"It had a lot of depth to it. It had a lot of emotion to it. It had a lot of energy -- and there were some good ones," Lake Villa Mayor Frank Loffredo said.
He and village Treasurer Lori Heitman went to Julie's Coffee Shop, which sponsors the second annual show, at different times and independently made the same choice.
"They all could have worked, but there's just something about that one," Loffredo said.
For now, the Janda's kitchen table is a favored work space, but an actual "Sydney's Art Studio" is taking shape in the basement. The centerpiece will be Sydney's grandfather's draft table.
"I want her to have a space where she can come and go, play music. We're trying to foster the ability to have a creative spot," Stacy Janda said.
Sydney Janda said she is coming out of her comfort zone of painting animals and is starting to challenge herself, as evidenced by the grid art of Blackhawk Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp. She also plans this summer to try painting with oil.
For the time being, art remains a calming pastime.
"I want to be a veterinarian," she said. "I want to paint for a hobby."