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Data science student creates intricate dry-erase art

William Minion, a data science major in the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineerin... William Minion, a data science major in the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering, created this jaguar using a black marker and a thin paintbrush on a dry-erase board. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana UniversityIn IUPUI’s Mathematics Assistance Center, dry-erase boards are everywhere for students to practice finite math and calculus. For sophomore William Minion, those boards are a blank canvas for a beautiful piece of art.

Using a black dry-erase marker, a brush and his hands, he started drawing on dry-erase boards while working part time on the custodial team at IU Health University Hospital Indianapolis. Minion brought smiles to hospital workers’ faces and wowed them with masterpieces featuring a rhinoceros, elephant and tiger.

“I just did it while I was on break; it was fun,” Minion said. “After I put something up, people were like, ‘We want more,’ so I would erase it and put something else up.

“I like animals on white boards just because they’re interesting and they’re big.”

As a data science student in the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering, and a certified EMT, Minion fits art in as a fun break in his busy schedule. Between classes, tests and work, he found time to go to the MAC in Taylor Hall and complete his latest work: a jaguar.

He started with a practice sketch in his notebook based on reference images. From there, he uses a homemade grid to transfer the sketch to the large size of a dry-erase board. Square by square, he detailed all the beautiful spots and texture of the jaguar. When it was all said and done, it took him 96 hours to complete.

Minion said he knew he loved art at an early age but never had formal training. He is completely self-taught.

“I’ve been doing it my whole life,” he said. “I got it from my grandmother; she was into arts and crafts and painting.

“She always lived out of state, so we only saw each other on occasion. She was always sending me art supplies in the mail. There was a time a couple years ago when she came up to us in Denver, and even when we moved to Indiana, and she would see some of my artwork, and that was nice. She has always been a huge inspiration.”

This pencil drawing by Minion is being displayed in a gallery at Newfields Museum of Art. Photo p... This pencil drawing by Minion is being displayed in a gallery at Newfields Museum of Art. Photo provided by William Minion

In addition to dry-erase art, Minion enjoys pencil drawing. On his Instagram, he shares his process and some of the intricately drawn pieces he’s done. Many of them are portraits of people, one of which is being displayed at Newfields in Indianapolis. His piece is part of a gallery featuring local Black artists celebrating Juneteenth titled “The Truth of Freedom and The Language of Race” — something he said his grandmother would be proud of.

“Newfields has better lighting, so the graphite wasn’t absorbed in the light in a way that was reflective, so it was cool to see it look that good in a gallery,” Minion said.

“A couple of the artists that were showing in the same gallery I’ve met previously, and some of them are artists I look up to, so it was cool to be in the same circle with them and see my artwork next to theirs.”

He said this piece started out as a sketch study and is not of any person in particular. The gallery is free to attend at Newfields. Minion’s piece will be on display there through July 16.

So what is he working on next?

“I’m taking a bit of a break for a second, but I do have a piece planned towards the end of the year that I want to start working on. It will be a pencil piece,” Minion said.

“It will be a person, but it will be kind of abstract and a mixture of some things.”

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