By Ann Leach

Crowder College student Belen Mejia discovered her love of art in high school and knew she wanted to be an artist. “I have always found art fascinating at a young age, from drawing houses with stick people to now making defined images that draw people in,” she said. But after graduating high school, the thought of college made her nervous and uneasy, but “I realized that pursuing college in hopes that I would become an artist would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Life is about taking risks. I am proud to have pushed myself to my full potential.”

Mejia credits her can-do attitude to her parents, who moved to the United States from El Salvador when they were teens to start anew. “So, I want to carry their legacy of going for what you believe in,” she said. “My family is everything to me. My parents have watched me progress, and to have them tell me they are proud of me always brings the biggest smile to my face.”

Friends have also encouraged Mejia, as have her professors. “I can’t thank them enough for how much they have taught me about becoming a better artist,” she said. “There will always be ups and downs, but I always remember the people who believe in me when I sometimes barely believe in myself.”

Indeed, Belen Mejia’s biggest obstacle is what she deems her Inner Critic. And she has worked to silence it with a compassionate but clear conversation. “I usually tell it that everyone learns and grows differently and at their own pace,” she said. “It may be hard to ignore the Inner Critic, but it is not hard to remember that this is just the beginning for me and there is no way I am allowing that critic to stop me when I have come so far. Comparing my work to other student works defeats the purpose of learning new art skills. I will not be anyone if I cannot try to be myself or work like someone else. It would not have a purpose.”

Today, Mejia works toward her purpose with a daily creative practice that consists of finding the differences between light and dark, working from general to specific, line variety and contour. And when she sits down to begin a painting, she thinks first of nature. “Nature itself is beauty,” she said. “Issues in our world also inspire me to spread the message of love and hate, man versus man, with questions to ask like, ‘Will this make a difference?’”

Mejia’s art goal for right now is to have her work placed in student art shows at Crowder and at galleries as she progresses in her career. “I would like to inspire people with my art and tell stories throughout my life within my creations,” she said. “I know what I am capable of. This life dream is for everyone I love and hold close to my heart.”