Basalt art student communicates actions to issues without words |

Basalt art student communicates actions to issues without words

Tamar Marks takes a break from explaining her art work in the Basalt Middle School library.
Cassandra Ballard/ Post Independent

Art gives people the ability to speak novels without using a word.

One eighth-grade student at Basalt Middle School, Tamar Marks, speaks volumes about what she cares about with just a paintbrush and watercolors. 

In class, she was recently presented an assignment to find a social issue, research it and then make art to bring awareness to it. 

Marks adding color to her current art project.
Cassandra Ballard/ Post Independent

Marks chose to represent animal abuse for her project, and the way she chose to symbolize it is so simple yet says so much. 

“I know a lot of animals are suffering and I just want to spread awareness,” Marks said. 

She sat at the table adding color to a half finished watercolor painting, with half a dozen dogs drawn out to help guide her paintbrush.

She painted softly, lining the outside shapes of the dogs, and adding detailed shading in all of the most accurate places. Below where she was painting, she had already filled in light red flowers framing the bottom of the page. 

She said that they were red spider lilies from the eastern part of the world.

“They represent death,” she said, explaining that she chose them to symbolize all of the dogs that die in shelters every year. 

For the longest time, she focused much of her attention on darkening a muzzle around one of the dog’s mouths. She said she would add a couple more muzzles to some of the other dogs to represent their suppression.

The dogs’ eyes weren’t painted yet, but there was a drawn outline on both her original concept drawings and on the watercolor sheet she was working on. The outline had the dogs’ eyes scratched out completely, like a static sound wave.

“They’re suffering and you can’t really see their true emotions,” Marks said. “Because dogs or any animals get aggressive when they’re abused. They’re hiding all the sweetness in them, and so they’re not showing their true personality.”

Marks adds to her current project in her art class.
Cassandra Ballard/ Post Independent

She continued to paint around the muzzle, making it darker and darker. The painting was only halfway done, but as she continued to work around the edges or fill in the muzzle, it was almost like she was softly petting the dogs herself, or like she wanted to break the muzzle off. 

So much detail has already gone into it, that when the piece is finished it will be a product of her hard work, empathy and zeal to help the situation. 

“I wanted to teach them more about the brainstorming process and thinking deeply about how art is more than just something pretty, it’s something that can send a message,” Carolyn Stuart, Marks’ art teacher, said.

Stuart said her student truly conveyed the issue through her artwork.

“I think Tamar’s was just such an amazing example of exactly that,” Stuart said. “A lot of symbolism, a lot of secret messages hidden within it that you only know if you talked to Tamar.”  

Various artworks of Marks.
Cassandra Ballard/ Post Independent

There are a few distinguishing aspects she has already honed in on at a young age: masterful shading, attention to detail and symbolism.

Each piece of work, whether it is a drawing or a painting, uses realistic shading. Watercolor can be fickle, especially when using minimal brush strokes, yet one of her paintings of a dog’s face looked like it was stenciled. 

Although she has no big dreams to go to art school, she still dreams big of traveling to places like Greenland, Finland and Tokyo. 

Wherever her future takes her, she will always have art to help share her dreams and passions.

Bristlecone Arts Collaborative is a non-profit dedicated to enriching art education. Help them continue their programming like this Student Spotlight by donating on their website at, linking your City Market card (link on their website), and liking them on Facebook at BristleconeArtsCollaborative.

If you know a young artist who deserves to be in the Spotlight, contact Lindsay Latva at

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