Artist Risa Cohen creates a world of vibrant creatures

Samira Glaeser-Khan, Managing Editor

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Abigaël Thinakaran

After spending hours immersed in her drawing of a cat, Risa Cohen holds her drawing at arm’s length. 

She is especially pleased with the vibrantly colored fur. From a distance, it looks like she has actually altered the texture of the paper.

For Risa, drawing fantastical creatures is a form of escapism and helps her build connections in the online art world, which allows her keep academic success in perspective.

Risa, a junior, said her goal is to create a world and tell a story with her drawings.

“My style is a mixture of cartoonish and vibrantly colored,” she said. “The world of my imagination and art have always been more fun than the real world. Whenever I read a book or play video games, I’m obsessed with the stories and pictures it puts in my mind.”

Senior Jasmine Wang, Risa’s friend and classmate in art class, said she is always impressed with Risa’s creativity.

“She’s just creating her own world and her own characters unprompted,” Jasmine said. “It’s really impressive because she comes up with creatures that you couldn’t imagine until she puts it on the paper.

Risa said a big part of her identity is seeing the world through a fantastical and imaginative lens. Her inclination for the whimsical manifests itself in her drawings of animals.

“I enjoy all the different ways that animals can look and appear,” she said. “There are only so many different shapes, sizes and colors that humans can come in. But drawing a peacock is so different than drawing a tiger. Each animal challenges you in a new way, and it can be fun to explore different textures and shapes with different animals.”

Risa explained that art has helped her withstand the narrow definition of success at Lab.

“At Lab, there’s a big emphasis on STEM and finding a lucrative career path, so it can be hard to face that when you’re more artistically oriented,” Risa said. “Whenever I do poorly on a math test, I can always turn to art. I can say: This is my thing and I don’t have to be good at every single thing if I can just create something beautiful.”

The online art community has been another source of support for Risa. Besides posting her art on social media, Risa also posts art in fanbases dedicated to books, movies and TV shows.

“Posting your art spawns messaging and connections that last,” Risa said. “I’ve been in touch with the same people for years. The shared love of art and a creative mindset makes for a pleasant sense of family.”

In addition to leading to strong friendships, Risa said the online art community has helped remind her that creative pursuits are worthwhile and possible. She says she is inspired by other creators who use their art to make others happy and help them escape to a different world.

Risa says her love of fantastical creatures was sparked by watching movies and playing video games. In the future, Risa says she would like to pursue a career in multimedia design or as an animator. Her dream is to work on movies with Disney or Pixar.

She said, “I want to create something with action, something that’s vibrant and something that affects people.”