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For the love of art
Student creates for himself, not for the sale
Jonathan Bell points out some of the shapes in an oil painting that hangs in his living room in the CSU Stanislaus Village dorms on Tuesday. The work, which Bell painted, dominates most of one wall of the room. - photo by ANDREA GOODWIN / The Journal
Jonathan Bell’s dorm at CSU Stanislaus is surprisingly well decorated for an apartment full of college guys. Oil paintings dominate the living room, small acrylics of landscapes adorn the bathroom walls, and a long conte crayon drawing wraps around the wall above his bed.
Bell painted, drew, and otherwise created most of the decorations in his apartment. He even changed the hanging light above his kitchen counter to resemble stained glass. Bell is an art student at CSU Stanislaus, and has plenty of class projects to show for it. A lot of the pieces in his pad, however, he created just for fun.
“I felt like the moment you paint for someone else it cheapens it,” Bell said.
Bell said he likes to do oil paintings from the imagination, a technique he learned in David Alvin’s art class.
“You basically just throw your paint down, and spin it, smear it, bump your canvas against someone else’s. Then you find anything you can in the painting,” Bell said.
Looking for the image in the painting is a lot like looking for shapes in the clouds. Once Bell has found a shape, he outlines it in black and touches it up to make it a little more recognizable.
“I don’t like to tell people what’s in the painting. I like for them to tell me what they see,” Bell said. “I love it when people use their imagination. Especially kids, they see great things.”
Over the summer, Bell showed some of his art at Chartreuse Muse in Modesto. His paintings were for sale, but he said he priced them a little high because he didn’t really want to see them go.
“I really hate pricing works. I really don’t know how to price my stuff,” Bell said.
Bell also has a senior show coming up during spring semester, but it isn’t at the top of his priority list.
“Exhibiting is like showboating. That I could care less about,” Bell said.
Bell hopes to go to graduate school and get a master’s degree in architecture. UC Berkeley is his first choice, but he said there are a few good architecture programs in California that he is considering.
“There are two paths you can take into architecture, math and art. I chose art because it comes more naturally to me,” Bell said.
Art has been a part of Bell’s life for as long as he can remember. His grandfather was a painter, and he also graphed maps for the military. Bell’s brother is currently illustrating a comic book. He said he has been drawing since pre-school.
“Other kids used to ask me to draw Sonic the Hedgehog,” Bell said with a smile.
Although he would like to have his own art studio some day, Bell’s main career goal is architecture. He said he would like to get an endorsement from a home renovation television show and fix up entire neighborhoods in American slums. He said the idea has been in his head ever since he worked with homeless children at the Tri-City Homeless Coalition in his home town of Fremont.  
“I’d like to make the structures more livable for the people in those neighborhoods,” Bell said.
For now, Bell paints for fun and draws sketches and tattoo designs. He said he hasn’t charged friends for tattoo designs, because he enjoys drawing them.
“I might charge a stranger though. Maybe five bucks or something,” Bell joked.
To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.