Student Spotlight: Christine Troll

Christine Troll, River of Words Category IV Art WinnerChristine Troll speaks about her love for her local watersheds, and about how observing the natural world around her has inspired her and propelled her to make art. She also shared useful tips for young artists who want to do more for their environment.


Q. What is your current age?


I’m 17 years old.


Q. Tell me a little bit about how you got into art.


For as long as I can remember, I’ve adored getting messy and creating things. Nothing has changed over the years. My parents joke and tell me about how, when I was just a little kid, they would find me asleep with my paintbrush still in hand and paint everywhere. Over the years, I’ve used art in all aspects of my life. I’ll doodle diagrams of different things I’m learning to help me remember them; I draw to help myself and others cope, and to display the epiphanies of beauty in the stunning natural world around us.


Q. What’s your process like? How do you go about creating a piece of art?


The first thing I do when I start thinking about drawing a picture is I envision how I want it to make people feel when they look at it, and how I want that picture to affect them. And for me, there’s no better place to envision this than at our local state park. In Pennsylvania, no matter where you are, you are never more than an hour away from a state park. I am always at our local state parks, getting lost in my thoughts and ideas. Being surrounded by the sanctuary of calming water, the tall trees, in every season of the year, it gives me a sense of clarity in my head that I can then begin to piece together my artwork. The vast beauty of nature is so intense for me; it serves as the most poignant inspiration for my art. And then I go from there, developing how I achieve that response to my artwork. I sketch it out, and tweak the design, then I color it, trying to imitate the magnitude of the beauty that I found in nature. When I’m done, I usually just observe it for a really long time to see if it achieved the effect that I wanted. 


Q. What do you enjoy the most about writing/making art?


I think that I enjoy the process of just getting completely lost and immersed in the drawing or painting; the metamorphosis of bringing natural beauty to life; putting the color and shapes on the paper, to make a meaningful piece of art that, when I’m done with it, I can step back and look at it, and say that it means something and that it’s important to me and hopefully for others, too.


Q. You were the winner of the Category IV Art Prize for your piece, “At the Well.” Tell me a little bit about your inspiration for this piece.


The central idea of my piece revolves around how too many people around the world do not have a clean water supply like we do, and when they do get water, which isn’t much, they’re so incredibly happy to experience this joy of fresh water, and I think that it is something that we take for granted too often. Lots of people can’t enjoy clean, running water for even a shower, a privilege that we probably don’t give too much thought to in our daily lives. This is what I tried to capture in my piece. Even in my own town, we have begun to experience the loss of one of our lakes. For almost 14 years now, it has served as a place of solitude where I could go to reflect on the beauty of water. But recently, it has shrunk, and now the shores have receded so much that the whole lake seems to be bordered with a large perimeter of dried mud. We took the lake for granted a bit, and only when it was gone; we really realize how much it impacted us. However, our community came together to achieve local, state, and federal funding to repair the lake’s dam and save the lake from ceasing to exist.

"At the Well" by Christine Troll; 2019 River of Words Category IV Art Winner


Q. The piece plays a lot with light and color. Tell me a little bit about how you were able to accomplish capturing these complexities.


A lot of study and practice. I studied water droplets and lighting and experimented with several different mediums until I was really able to imitate water realistically. Most of it really just came from observation. So, when it would rain, I would just go to the window and watch the droplets trickle down the glass or when I was rinsing dishes, I would watch the water pour onto my hands and over the dishes. I would sit on my rocking chair on my porch and observe the morning dew drops on the tiger lily leaves with the sun shining on them. When we would swim in our local state parks, I would splash the water up into the air and over my arms and just watch it fall. It was actually a lot of fun!


Q. How did you find out about River of Words?


I found out about River of Words through my mom, who is also my art teacher, because I am homeschooled. She found out about it and decided that it was something important and that carried a good message and was really worth doing. She recognized the need to teach me this awareness for the world around us, even on our own street. There used to be many trees around the houses, but many of them have become diseased and been cut down. I didn’t even realize how much they meant to me until they were gone. The trees were what my eyes always went to. My grandfather used to say that all you had to do was look at a tree and its leaves and all of its complexities, and you would know that there is a good, true, and beautiful hope in the world.


Q. What role has River of Words played in your life?


River of Words has played a mammoth role in my life, not only as a bit of a wake-up call to our responsibility to our home, but also just as a window, showing me just how beautiful the natural world really is. River of Words has ignited in me a deep love for my environment that I will carry for the rest of my life. I’ve developed an awareness for environmental conditions. Our environment can help a tree grow to its beauty and perfection, but there’s so much more than what meets the eye: trees also give us oxygen, which is vital to our survival. But with so many chemicals and other irritants that can get in the water cycle and ecosystems, we destroy this beauty and can even cause disease and ultimately our own demise. I scroll through the finalists on the River of Worlds website and it just opens my eyes to what an incredible environment we have been given, filled with creatures great and small, and our responsibility to it.


Q. Here at River of Words, we talk a lot about Watersheds: about getting to know them, about observing them and conserving them. What does the word watershed mean to you?


It’s actually kind of funny, because I am a very visual person, so, when I think of the word watershed, I picture a sort-of shed or a little house, but the walls are actually made of flowing water. It just reminds me that these rivers, these lakes, oceans, woods, mountains, forests, this is our home; our responsibility, and we have to take care of it. So, to me, the word watershed actually makes me think of a home that needs my help. Not only just my home, our environment doesn’t just affect me or my family, my community, my nation, or my world, its affecting the generations of the world to come. Really it makes me think of everything. In our town we have a lot of State Parks and we our Summer Set Lake and Kimberly Run and that’s where I spend most of my time.


Q. We call someone who explores their watershed and the environment they live in a Watershed Explorer. Do you consider yourself a watershed explorer? Why?


I would consider myself a Watershed Explorer for a few reasons.

Number one, I absolutely love anywhere with water. I can constantly be found at our local lakes, rivers, and streams. I’ve been known to just disappear at the closest creek to our house, Kimberley Run, and I just explore around the water and the surrounding woods for hours. So, I have a great interest and curiosity for my environment.

And then second, thanks to ROW, I’ve developed an awareness for environmental problems and have adopted many little habits to help prevent them, such as always recycling, never littering, using water filters instead of bottled water, conserving electricity, and many others.


Q. What is some advice you’d give another young person about writing/creating art?


Even though it may sound like a bit of a cliché, I would say to never, ever give up. Art can be such a difficult thing because when you have an idea in your head, and you’re trying to transform that idea into something people can see and relate to, it very rarely turns out exactly the way you envisioned it, at least not on the first few tries. Also, art and writing are, in a sense, subjective, and when others can’t see that beauty inside or recognize it behind that piece of art or writing, it’s so easy to become discouraged, but I would just say to keep trying because all of those mistakes, attempts, and even failures will pay off in the end. 


Q. What is your advice for a young person who wants to be more involved in taking care of their environment or get to know their local watershed?


I would say to not be afraid to get a little dirty and adventurous! My siblings and I have volunteered before to pick up garbage off the roadsides, and it was shocking some of the things people just toss along. Just getting out to know some of their local watersheds and state parks, etc. is a great idea, too. There is no shortage of small ways that we can protect our environment. From little things like using reusable bags, carpooling to save exhaust pollution, and taking quicker showers to save water, to using reusable beverage containers instead of plastic water bottles and recycling, printing as little as possible, and so many other little things we can do here and there to become more active in protecting our environment.