Art is not a thing it is a way: Bella Wiehle


Photo by Bella Wiehle

Junior Bella Wiehle pictured with her best friend, junior Ema Tomasevic.

By Sasha Baumgartner, Editor-in-Chief

Creativity and passion surrounded junior Bella Wiehle her entire life, and continue to light a spark in her life as she wins awards and opportunities to showcase her beautiful masterpieces.

Bella grew up in an artistic household in Carol Stream: both her parents are immensely creative individuals and those traits definitely rubbed off on her. From a young age, she was exposed to oil paintings, done by her father, that covered every square inch of her household. Her mom was also involved in making a lot of Bella’s clothes, and enjoyed a side hobby of crafting. Bella recalls going “along with her to her ‘craft shows’, as I called them, and wandering[ing] around, looking at all the different handmade items.”

From such a young age Bella showed qualities of an artist her mother noticed this in every aspect of her life.

One year, she won a coloring contest at her school’s after-care program, and I remember her friend’s father commenting about her ability as the girls drew with chalk on the sidewalk. It seemed she was either reading or drawing, and became pretty good at both!” Lisa Wiehle said.

The core memories she formed when so very young centered around art, and now art is a key component in Bella’s life. 

With inspiration from her childhood, when Bella reached high school, she began to take all the art courses offered at West Chicago Community High School. But, she only spent a few months in the prerequisite class of drawing one before Dave Exner, one of the art teachers at West Chicago, recognized her incredible talent and moved her up.

“She came to WEGO with tons of experience and passion for art, so it was obvious that she already had a strong foundation with a solid grasp of the essential skills involved in drawing,” Exner said. 

After switching levels, Bella was able to really explore her passion in advanced drawing, and then, second semester, in studio art. She has taken studio art every semester since then. 

During freshman year, Bella began to create what would become her first Upstate Eight Conference piece, a drawing for which she won first place. The drawing consisted of a girl and her reflection in the mirror. The piece is open to anyone to add any meaning to it they desire. Bella originally didn’t have any specific inspiration; she simply had the idea and went for it. 

Bella’s first upstate eight drawing win freshman year. (Art by Bella Wiehle )

“Creating this piece as a freshman, I didn’t have a particular message or topic that fueled the inspiration. I simply liked the reference and focused on the dichotomy of focused and blurred details which created some cool perspective,” Bella said.

After the initial UEC win, a spark was lit within Bella, who continued to participate in the competition each year, taking home four more first place awards. 

“Sophomore year, I really went hard despite the pandemic and won first place in drawing, a portrait of my friend, Jenny Gomez’s, new baby sister and an honorable mention in painting. At the same conference, I won first in mix[ed] media with my self-portrait that later went on to win the Illinois State Board of Education Arts Week competition,” Bella said.

One of Bella’s most memorable and intriguing pieces is one she recently drew of her late grandfather, Thomas Doyle. This meaningful portrait was created for her grandmother, and features her grandfather, who always had a half-finished puzzle in the dining room. In the portrait, Doyle examines a puzzle of a radio operator he used in his childhood. This creative piece took first place at the Upstate Eight Conference Art Show in March, and has since been  displayed in multiple locations, including Scholastic Art and Writing  Naperville Arts league and, at present time, Gallery 200, located in West Chicago. 

Young Bella pictured with her grandfather. (Photo courtesy of Bella Wiehle)

Bella’s individuality reflects her artwork, as well as everything else within her life. When it comes to her environment, relationships and future, she definitely has a genius mindset. Often, in teenage years, friendship is considered less serious or substantial, and people are sometimes more focused on popularity, or quantity of friends over quality. Viewing high school life this way leaves individuals without deep connections: however, Bella has a completely different way of forming friendships, which is what makes her so mature and gives her a unique distinction, not only as an artist, but as an individual. With time and care, Bella was able to meet her best friend, junior Ema Tomesevic, and now this duo has a strong connection.

Bella explained that they love “going to concerts, getting lost while biking, and driving around with coffee just to see if we can stumble upon something interesting we can explore out in nature.” 

Before the two could drive, biking was really their only mode of transportation, so they would go biking around on a route on the local prairie paths. 

“Getting lost with Ema for hours is just as fun,” Bella said. 

The two have attended concerts for many of their favorite music artists. Their personal favorite was “the Tyler the Creator concert this February. He’s a really good performer and knows how to put on a great show, the set was amazing, the crowd was great, and we were in the pit so it was overall a really cool experience,” best friend Tomasevic said.

Bella’s talent and creativity is not just limited to her artwork. Bella strides for excellence in not just her activities, but also academics. Since beginning high school, she has opted for honors and AP classes because she truly does enjoy a challenge. The last thing she would want is to be bored in her academics. 

Bella is an unbelievably hard worker. Between the clubs she is involved in, her artwork, and academics, Bella is able to juggle many responsibilities while ensuring that she accomplishes her goals. The countless hours she pours into her artwork demonstrate her commitment to excellence,” AP U.S. History teacher John Chisholm said.

Although art and academics are pivotal in Bella’s life, individuals must be careful about mixing work with fun – when fun becomes work, then it really is no longer enjoyable. Being such an artistic person, Bella always wanted to pursue a career with art, and, from a very young age, would tell people with confidence that she wanted to be an artist when she grew up. However, recently, with all the new opportunities that have come Bella’s way, she has come to the realization that mixing art with her career may not be the best way to enjoy her life. Keeping elements of her life – like painting, drawing and designing – away from work allows her to really engage and enjoy her creativity immensely. 

Bella painting a mural in twenty degree windchill. (Photo courtesy of Bella Wiehle)

“What was once a pastime pleasure turned into a stress-inducing chore. I was doing the exact same thing as I would on my own time, but the feeling of prosperity fell off. I believe this phenomenon applies to many professions derived from a passion. Inspiration fuels creation, specifically art, which comes and goes with the times and cannot be forced or manufactured,” Bella said.

Lately, Bella has been thinking of a career that will allow her to be outside of the office as much as possible, ideally a job that will allow her to interact with the world and “involves traveling, as I sometimes ponder how one can leave this earth without experiencing everything it has to offer.” 

Another of Bella’s qualities is that she is always evolving and getting involved and interested in new things, so I’m not sure where art will be in her future. Whether or not it becomes part of her college work or career, I think Bella will always be creative, and use her abilities as a way to show love and kindness,” Lisa Wiehle said.

Bella wants to create art because that is what brings her – and others – joy, and that is exactly how she spends everyday. In fact, you can always catch Bella with a new drawing or idea. Her work has grown and developed over the past few years, as evidenced by her wins at the Upstate Eight Conference Art Show.

Bella understands the meaning and passion surrounding art, and makes sure to implement that into every masterpiece she forms. 

She creates everyday simply “because I love how it can make others feel. I am sorry to everyone who has cried because of my drawings, even though you cried out of joy.” 

Art will always follow Bella through her entire life, no matter where she goes, because at the end of the day. Art, in one sentence, can be summed up as “manifestations of everyday life through specific lenses of varied perspectives,” Bella said.