LAURINBURG — At the age of just 6 years old, a quiet boy began drawing and developed a skill that has painted at bright picture of what his future may hold.
Years later, that talent was given a boost when D’Avonte Burt was visited by a Pratt Institute representative, who showed up at his doorstep with a recommendation.
“My mother had me draw a car for my uncle, who then sent someone to the house for me to draw for,” said Burt. “He was impressed and said I should really consider applying to the college.”
The 17 year-old is an A-plus student in his art classes and a senior at Scotland High School, where a mural he designed resides on a wall in the media center.
“The school staff wanted something painted on the wall, so he came up with the design and drew it small — and he scaled it out,” said Scotland High art teacher Dayona Johnson.
But the start was a rocky one.
Burt was in a different art class when he started in September 2017 and the small team of students who were helping him slowly fell off. After a while, so did he. A summer passed and, when school resumed again, Burt went back to Johnson’s art course. She convinced him to put a paint brush to the wall again.
“When he switched to one of my classes, I told him he had to finish it, so he did with the help of myself and a few more students,” said Johnson.
A mural was finally completed this September. ‘The Fighting Scot’ is an acrylic painting of a Scot charging forward and breaking through the wall it was painted on. The background of red with touches of blue, white, and gray added school spirit to the media center.
“It is my favorite art piece so far,” said Burt.
He remembers being inspired by cartoons like “SpongeBob Squarepants” and “Ed, Edd and Eddy” as a kid. His interest in graffiti artwork progressed as he got older.
“I was just toying around, but got more serious when I saw they taught art classes in the seventh grade,” said Burt.
Burt is reserved, but he found a way to use his voice through art.
“Through art I can say a lot of words,” he said. “That is why I got into it.”
The teen says his work is now inspired by his family, music, and his faith — but his various skills are what push him to pursue the world of art and music.
“My brother and I make hip-hop music at home and I get my inspiration from growing up in church,” said Burt.
Burt has honed his talent under the teachings of Johnson, who saw that Burt had more drive and heart for the skill than the average student.
“He is one of the ones I know will profit from any type of knowledge I give him,” said Johnson. “He is advanced because he listens and he asks questions that other students will not; he asks for critiques.”
“I want her to tell the truth to me, if she likes it or not and what needs to be fixed,” said Burt.
He is building his art portfolio for college and has already applied to Pratt Institute and Full Sail University to study art and music, and hopes to hear back soon. For now, Johnson has him under her wing, teaching him better techniques to apply to his artwork. In class, the students are working on optical illusion art, working in black and white first before testing with color.
“I am learning blending and smoothing — Ms. Johnson even taught me how to correctly draw a face,” said Burt.
When he asked her personally to show him how she gets proper proportions of a face, she drew a sketch of him in three minutes.
“I told him do not be discouraged, I just have years under my belt,” laughed Johnson.
And she does. Johnson is on the Scotland County Art Council board, has a personal website and Facebook page, DSJ Photography, where she has her own business.
“I do sip and paint parties, photography sessions, and a lot of commission pieces,” said Johnson.
She wants to instill that there is money to be made in art for students who are serious like Burt.
“You can make money in art, the work just has to be quality because it has your name on it,” said Johnson.
Burt plans to keep getting better and learning all he can from Johnson.
“I’m still a work in progress but I want to take it (his art skills) to the highest standards,” said Burt.
Jael Pembrick can be reached at 910-506-3169 or [email protected]rgexchange.com.