Painting a path to success

Bradenton Herald – Brush stroke after brush stroke has paid off for Ellenton resident Tyrell Waiters.

This week, the aspiring 21-year-old artist will start his first year at the Ringling College of Art and Design — on a full scholarship. Days later, he’ll be featured as one of two artists in the latest ArtCenter Manatee exhibition. Waiters’ art show, which begins on Sept. 1, is called “Out of Bounds.” It will be his first professional show in Bradenton since last year’s successful exhibits at ComCenter in Lakewood Ranch and the John Carl Spa & Salon in Sarasota.

Though thrilled to be starting classes at one of the most prestigious art schools in the country, preparing for a show at the same time has been a bit nerve wracking, said the 2007 Bayshore High School graduate.

Waiters wants the art show to top his last two, which made him the talk of the town. He also hopes the show displays how much he’s grown as an artist.

“Out of Bounds” features Waiters’ trademark bold colors and intriguing faces, but this time the pieces are richer in depth.

“Everything is just different,” he said. “I didn’t want anything to be the same. To me when everything is the same it’s kind of like a competition between each piece.”

Waiters said he strives to be the kind of artist that always thinks and paints “out of the box.”

Behind each one of Waiters’ works lies a story. A tale of inspiration taken from society, relationships or art itself. Take “The Beauty from Within,” for instance. It features a woman that isn’t an ideal beauty to society. She has a melancholy look on her face. Her hair stretches out like branches with apples dangling around her. Waiters said the piece is a look at what makes a person truly beautiful.

“Basically, all the ugliest qualities of another person can actually be the prettiest qualities — period,” he said. “That person could be the nicest person inside.”

Then there’s “Secrets,” a bold black and red work featuring a person in Asian-inspired clothing. Waiters said the piece stirs up questions: Is it a woman or a man? What nationality is the person? Why is he or she dressed this way? What are they hiding?

Waiters wouldn’t give away the answers. He wants people to make their own assumptions about it.

The young artist spent his summer painting nearly 20 works for the show. He’ll work even harder when classes start. Waiters is very grateful for his full four-year art scholarship — totaling around $168,000 — from the private school. A lot of prospective students aren’t as lucky. He’ll be staying on campus as he earns his fine arts degree. He said his mom is proud, and also happy to see him make a name for himself.

Potential students get accepted to Ringling based on their art portfolio, high school transcripts and letters of recommendation.

Most students would have given up fighting for a scholarship, he said. It took him two years to get one, capturing the attention of Ringling’s president, Larry Thompson.

When word of mouth increased about Waiters last year, it reached Thompson’s ears. By the time Thompson met Waiters face-to-face, he already knew a lot about him thanks to Waiters’ high school art teacher Kathy Cocciolone and others.

Waiters’ brief encounter with the president was also nerve wracking, he said.

Thompson and Waiters crossed paths at a Realize Bradenton meeting at the art center last year. Thompson spotted him right away and introduced himself.

“I didn’t even know what to say to him,” Waiters said. “I was just sitting there. I just kept smiling. I couldn’t even open my mouth.”

After talking with Cocciolone earlier that day about the prospect of Waiters attending Ringling, Thompson asked the young artist if he’d be interested.

Waiters was speechless. All he could do was smile.

The thought of Ringling still makes Waiters glow. When Waiters finishes school, he has lots of ideas in mind for what he would like to do.

Basically anything art-related, he said. Whether it’s illustrating or graphic art or freelance or designing cakes.

A few years ago, Waiters didn’t have a clue what he wanted to do with his life. Painting, he said, kept him off the rough streets of his former neighborhood in Oneco. When he started high school and met Cocciolone, who saw his potential, his career goals turned toward art.

“Tyrell is successful because it’s his passion,” she said. “He works (at his art), which is why I am in his corner because he’s got that passion. He’s got the work ethic. He’s driven. And it’s a beautiful thing to see what comes out of his head and his heart through that paint brush. It’s really a joy to watch.”

published Aug. 23, 2009

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