RISD, Fourth Grade Sketchbooks, and an Unparalleled Love for the Arts

Photo by: Calder Hollond


The hallway’s bleak, but Erin McGowan’s portfolio is anything but. From sitting with her for just 15 minutes, I can already tell that her love for the arts is unrivaled.

We’re sitting just outside Mrs. Loney’s classroom, and I begin the interview. “How long have you known that you wanted to be an artist?” It’s one of those questions with no specific answer, but she says that in fourth grade, she started keeping sketchbooks, and it’s been a bit of a whirlwind of creativity since.

Now, don’t get her wrong, it’s not always been easy. She has those periods that any creative has, where she feels like the world is just against her and she gives up and hates art of any kind, but in the end, she always comes back.

She’s not the most mainstream of artists, with her style covering illustration, portraits, and studies alike. Whatever the art form happens to be, however, she always seems to amaze with hidden visuals, stellar quality, and unprecedented talent.

She’s got quite a plan for her life after high school, with a mass of prospective colleges and applications just waiting to be unveiled. She’s already got a spring break trip to Ringling College planned out, and with her family’s support, the wind is in her sails.

Her ultimate goal is children’s book illustration, and she hopes to be one of the people whose books you read to your kids before bedtime to give them sweet dreams. The road to get there isn’t going to be easy, but Erin knows that. “It’s the challenge that makes it all worthwhile,” she says, with a hint of a smile.

She also enjoys humor in her works, which is exemplified in her political cartoons, shown here.

While she waffled at first with concepts of art, she is now “putting her heart and soul” into her portfolio and is taking time off of sports and other activities to be able to pursue her art with full strength.

She’s setting goals along the way, with her next conquest in mind being the Rhode Island School of Design. With RISD, she’s set her sights high: the college boasts notable alumni such as Dale Chihuly, Seth MacFarlane, and James Franco. Right now, she’s drawing every day and always hoping for the best in everything.

She’s had some trouble with art in the past, and the most notable instance happened in the summer of 8th grade. She went to an art camp for a portfolio prep class, and was put in a class with 15 to 17 year olds. During this course, she experienced some shock brought on by just how good the other kids were. She had a moment where she thought that she could never be as good as them, and she began to give up.

These troubles are in the past, though. Since then, she has pulled herself back together, and her love of art is stronger than ever. She’s been doing very well with her portfolio, and has never looked back.