Brentsville’s Very Own Van Gogh


Senior Abby Downes is posing proudly after she was accepted into Gov School.

Rachel Bush, Editor

Senior, Abby Downes, is considered BDHS’ resident Van Gogh, producing some of the most unique, creative artwork throughout her high school career.  Recently, Downes’ passion, has been people. 

Perfecting cartoonish faces, silhouettes, and emotions is an obsessive hobby of hers. Every stroke of the brush or pencil creates a certain result: what feelings of sympathy the artwork inspires.  

Downes has been drawing a long time, but her real beginning as an artist is traced back to her sixth-grade year. It started as a hobby; it was nothing more than fan-art for her favorite books and TV shows. She joined online communities to see what other artists were creating and got inspired by more realistic artwork.  

“I usually draw semi-realism,” Downes explained. “Not exactly hyperrealistic. I still draw people and such, but with slightly more cartoon-y features.”  

Downes has entered in many different art competitions to see how she measures up to other artists in the area. She entered the Water Art Invitational last February, the PTAC annual art show in the spring and auditioned for the Governor’s School over the summer. The school offers different disciplines such as art, dance, and singing, but even with all the competition, Downes made the cut.  

“I had to create a portfolio of about 10 pieces and go out to George Mason to have judges ask me about my art,” Downes disclosed. “They also tested my drawing by having me draw certain things in a limited amount of time. And then in April I received a letter saying I got in.”  

Because Downes was admitted to the Governors School, over the summer she got to take art lessons at Radford University. Her favorite part was meeting new people that were just as crazy about art as her.   

Last year, Downes entered in the Off the Wall art competition hosted by the Center of the Arts in Manassas, where she did not get in, but that didn’t deter her from competing in others. Not one to stay down, she intends to enter again this year. The deadline is in November, and she is working hard on her submission.   

Downes might have big plans for now, but her plans for the future are even more ambitious.   

“Long-term I’d like to make a graphic novel because that’s what inspired me the most,” Downes admitted. “The book Smile by Raina Telgemeier, when I was in sixth grade, really made me want to start drawing. I’d tried writing my own books, but then I realized I could do something better—I could draw my own story. That book helped me realize that.”  

Raina Telgemeier is not the only person Downes draws inspiration from. Recently, she has been getting ideas from an early 20th century illustrator.   

Downes said, “My inspirations change overtime, but lately I’ve been really inspired by J.C. Leyendecker… I love the shapes and colors of his illustrations that he did for magazines and such.”  

It is no surprise that creativity runs in her family. Although no one else in her family is a visual artist, they still influenced her exploration of art by being involved in art in other capacities.   

“My sister does acting with my dad, my other sister’s a writer, and then another one does dance, so I guess none of them directly told me I should start drawing, they’re all creative types, and they supported me,” She recalled.   

After high school, Downes wants to become an illustrator. She is applying to different art schools such as Rhode Island School of Design, Maryland Institute College of Art, and the Ringling College of Art and Design in Florida.   

Maybe one day, Brentsville will be able to say that one of the great artists of the 21st century walked through the halls, but until then, Downes has college applications to fill out.