Nate’s Niche


Maria Thames

Originally taken as a photo by Maria Thames, Sweitzer was asked to design himself based off the photo; this was the result.

Matt Smith, Staff Writer

While you are running the lake for P.E. or a sport at LHS, you can see a map of all the fish that are swimming around in Butler Lake. When you are ordering a hot dog while watching little league baseball games at Butler Park, you can see a mosaic of a baseball player sliding into a base. You might not realize this, but this artwork is by junior Nate Sweitzer.

An Artist Since Childhood

Starting as a young boy, under the wing of his dad, Sweitzer showed the signs of artistic talent.

“Nate was making good drawings by the time he was 3 years old. He drew some terrific knights and gorillas,” explained Mr. Randy Sweitzer, Nate’s dad.


Sweitzer explained that, “From a very young age I was surrounded by art and I was interested in it, basically since I was 4.”


Sweitzer was 3 when his little brother, Ike, was born. While his mom was taking care of Ike, Sweitzer spent most of his time with his dad,  who was a freelance illustrator at the time, in his art studio.

“I would be working at my board and Nate would sit on my left knee, study[ing] everything I was doing, drawing his version of what I was drawing with his own pencil and paper,” expressed Mr. Sweitzer. “Instead of video games, he was playing on Photoshop at 4 years old.”


Sweitzer began to learn how to draw by watching his parents draw different things.

“He would ask us all the time to draw this and draw that. He would just absorb everything we did and soon he wanted to be drawing or painting his own images,” explained Mr. Sweitzer.


In elementary school, Sweitzer drew a painting that his dad explained was a walking gorilla. It remains Mr. Sweitzer’s favorite piece done by Sweitzer. “It was a spontaneous marker rendering and created totally out of his imagination,” said Mr. Sweitzer. “It came home crumpled up in a grocery bag, buried under a bunch of worksheets and whatnot. His teacher obviously didn’t have quite the same appreciation for it as we do.”


In fourth grade, Sweitzer entered one of his first art competitions, at Copeland Manor School, which involved designing a bookmark;  he received second place.


Words About His Works


One can see some of Sweitzer’s work all throughout Libertyville today. He designed and created a map of all the fish in Butler Lake for a friend’s Eagle Scout project. Copies of the map are placed outside of the woodchip trails around Butler Lake.


Also, at Butler Park, for his own Eagle Scout project, Sweitzer created two mosaics of baseball players. According to Sweitzer, he and some of his friends had to cut up pieces of tile to match the design of the players.


“Basically, the [materials] came in square tiles and I had to cut up the pieces in random shapes.  [Nate] already had the mosaic laid out on a piece of paper, and I just helped him slide in where the pieces go in. We didn’t do any of the art work, we did the brunt work,” explained junior Eddie Moy, a friend of Sweitzer’s who helped him with his mosaics last summer.


According to Sweitzer, he could have been paid a lot of money by the village to create those mosaics, but he did it for free.


People will also be seeing his work a lot next year during the high school’s centennial celebration because he won the design contest to create a logo for it. The centennial celebration, honoring LHS’s 100th year, will occur around homecoming of next school year.


Out of all of his accomplishments, Sweitzer said that his biggest is the Gold Key-American Visions Award as part of the 2017 Midwest Region at Large National Scholastic Art and Writing Competition. It was adjudicated in New York City and will be judged against the other four American Visions Nominees for a chance to win the National American Visions Medal for the Midwest Region At-Large. In addition, the work will be reviewed by a different panel which will determine if he receives the distinction of National Silver or Gold Medal. “It’s the most recognition I’ve ever gotten,” expressed Sweitzer.


For that contest, he designed a painting entitled “Musk Oxen at the Ready,” which he says be his favorite piece: “Usually when I work on art, I really like freak out on details and work on it for a long time, but [for] that, I was forced to do [this piece] in 45 minutes,” explained Sweitzer. “So it really allowed for more expression and less nitpicking, and I think that’s important for a good experience.”


According to Moy, all of Sweitzer’s friends and peers think his artwork is amazing and give him very strong feedback.


Sweitzer also enjoys taking art classes through the school, a lot of them with Mr. Ray Gossell, an art teacher at LHS; those classes have included drawing, painting and two-dimensional art.


“His ability is way above a typical high school student; he’s thoughtful, like I said, [and] he’s technically sound. He understands how to create art, he understands what he wants to say with his art, and he does the work necessary to make it happen,” stated Mr. Gossell


Like many others, Mr. Gossell has trouble deciding which of Sweitzer’s pieces is his favorite: “I’ll give you the politically correct answer, I like them all because each one is unique, each one has uniqueness,” said Mr. Gossell. “But I can tell you I like how he paints, I like the way he builds up his colors and services when he actually creates his artwork. He does that in everything he does; he has a specific style about how he works with the media.”

Finding Inspiration


With all of the art that Sweitzer does, it can sometimes be hard to find inspiration for a painting, but he said his biggest inspiration comes from his dad: “He’s the one I have the most interaction with… since he was an art teacher, he has a good perspective.”


Since Sweitzer is an advanced artist for his age, according to Mr.Gossell, it can be hard to help him in some ways. “I give him [ideas] and I let him go, that’s what I do, because he is a pretty talented young man,” said Mr. Gossell, laughing.


Sweitzer and his dad use art as a way to bond with each other. “We talk art, share cool things we see, and critique each other’s work,” explained Mr. Sweitzer. “It is so much fun to see Nate explore and enjoy different mediums: drawing, painting, mosaic, printmaking, digital.”

In addition, Mr. Sweitzer has his own art ability as well, and he claimed that Sweitzer has yet to surpass him as a better artist in some aspects. “He is [better] at certain things, that’s for sure. About all I have over him at this point is experience and having seen so much more than he has,” Mr. Sweitzer explained. “But he’s a sponge, and he’s quickly building his visual reference library. I learn a lot from him.”


Other than the accomplishments and the bonding with his dad, Sweitzer credits art as a big stress reliever throughout the day for him.  He balances academics, varsity track and cross country while still working on his art.


“It’s good to have a period during the day to let everything go and not worry about other classes and stuff,” said Sweitzer.


But what he enjoys most about art is his ability to express himself: “There’s not always a lot of outlets to be able to actually express yourself, so it’s a good outlet to let some of your feelings through,” explained Sweitzer.


“I encourage other people to take art as an elective or at least take an elective, instead of just core classes and a study hall,” expressed Sweitzer. “I think it’s important to be able to express something unique about you and bring something creative to the table.”