By Josh Rivera, Lifestyles Editor
Sofia Belle Ceciliana LeJeune is a precocious 10-year-old girl. She believes insects are the true rulers of world because there are 10 quintillion of them compared to humanity’s population of 7.7 billion. She is in love with iced cookies. She is also a high-functioning autistic child with vision impairment. But perhaps most importantly, she has been drawing since she was 18-months-old and even found time to produce more artwork while attending her very first exhibition at the Baugh Center for the Visual Arts. “Drawings,” LeJeune’s exhibit of ink and pencil illustrations, opened on Monday, Jan. 14. LeJeune, a Dallas area native and her family were in attendance.
“She always wanted to have her artwork on a wall,” LeJeune’s mother, Dr. Rebeca Gracia said. “We would go to restaurants or hotels and she would see artwork, and she always tells me, ‘Mama, one day I’m gonna have my pictures on there.’”
There are several qualities of LeJeune’s technique worth mentioning. When she draws, she does not lift her pen from the page often. She will begin with a curved line, and seemingly with the flick of a wrist, she will have completed a whole figure in very few strokes. She will capture the balanced silhouette and the gesture of a subject very quickly. Her linework has a level of confidence that is actually very difficult for many artists to achieve.
“Sofie has low vision which has changed over the years,” Gracia said. “So, as her vision changes, the world that she sees changes and she’s able to incorporate that into her drawings as well. Whenever we learned about the opportunity, we were so excited. It’s like a dream come true for Sofie!”
“I think I like to draw animals, imaginary creatures that I like to look up,” LeJeune said. “Sometimes dinosaurs. Fish, birds. Not so much people because I’m not good at them.”
LeJeune’s early oeuvre is overwhelmingly comprised of animals from all kingdoms of life. Sometimes her gestures depict accurate forms of animals, most often the farm animals she would have grown up with. Other times, her animal figures resemble the exaggerated proportions of the designs in Hanna-Barbera cartoons. These subjects are especially expressive. LeJeune did have some drawings of people present at her exhibit, however. Her depiction of Noah’s Ark has the titular Noah’s family, and one of her pieces was a nativity scene.
“I like to work on paint sometimes,” LeJeune said. “Other times I like to color.”
“Adding color was a recent addition to her artwork as well,” Gracia said. “She started off with just black and white. It was easier for her to see the bold contrast. As her vision changes, she’s able to add in more detail, more shading. She’s more comfortable adding the color in. But in the very, very beginning, she liked to use the darker, broader strokes with just the black and white.”
As she grew older, LeJeune’s curiosity in other mediums did as well.
“I made a book,” LeJeune said. “I made five books. I also think I want to make clay. I made a bowl, and I tried my best to make a picture of a wolf. And I also made a dog. I put my initials on the bottom. I really liked clay, even though my hands got messy! It was hard to make and it also felt kind of weird.”
As she continues to explore more creative outlets, LeJeune did have some words of advice for other aspiring artists (including the writer of this very story).
“Draw anything that comes to your mind,” LeJeune said. “Draw anything that you want to make in your dreams.”
Sofia LeJeune’s exhibition, “Drawings,” is on display at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor’s Baugh Center for the Visual Arts. The gallery hours are 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, and is open to the public.