El Camino College Union

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A sculptor for all seasons

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Ask a historian to name a Renaissance man, and they’ll likely go back 600 years to choose, among other great minds, a sculptor like da Vinci, Michelangelo, or Alberti.

Now ask someone in EC’s life sculpture class the same question, and while they only have to look as far as their classmates, Wesley Obatake, 19, undecided, is also purportedly a great a sculptor.

“When he started in my bronze class, we spent a day getting introduced to wax,” Russell McMillin, art professor, said. “He molded this perfect miniature apple that he shined up, and it’s actually very difficult to get wax smooth. Everyone else was stuck over how sticky or gooey the wax was.”

Dig a little into Obatake’s background and it becomes apparent that sculpting, while one of his talents, is hardly his first.

“My father’s a jeweler and I started working for him since I was 10 or 11 years old,” Obatake said. “Since then he’s taught me a lot about jewelry, sculpture, and graphic design. A lot of things in design, like the lines of the body, all tie in with what my dad has helped me with.”

McMillin agrees that Obatake’s background is a significant contributor to his success.

“He comes from a skills-based family, which I think is an advantage,” he said. “He has the hand-eye coordination and experience using machinery. He knows that measuring is important, he knows that cutting something right the first time is the only way to do it. He brings all the basic physical skils and it’s just a matter of showing him how to do the same thing on a different scale.”

While his classmates have noticed his meticulous nature, they’ve also recognized an artistic clarity behind the basic skills.

“You can always tell [Obatake] has an idea in his head that he’s working on. Putting it into his work,” Carol Erilane, 60, who takes classes working with clay, said. “He has a good thought process behind it. It’s not random. When he gets an
idea about how he’s going to morph a sculpture he’s not casual about what he
does.”

However, descriptions of Obatake rarely stop there. As willing as those around him are to praise his artistic technique, many are equally impressed with his character.

“He stands out because he’s very diligent and very helpful,” Erilane said. “He kind of keeps his head low, but he’s always
working on something and always ready to help other people out.”

That sort of diligent, focused work has led McMillin to nominate Obatake for an internship at Honda.

“I think he would be a great fit because he has
a broad set of technical skills but he also has those soft skills which make
him really easy to work with,” McMillin said. “You need to be like a sponge and just open to
learning. They’re really about people who get along and play well in the work
place.”

So where would Obatake like to go from here? Honestly, he says, he’s very conflicted about deciding a future career.

“I’m interested in so many different things. I
really don’t know what I’ll end up in,” Obatake said. “I’ve always been interested in English and
Chemistry. I have a lot of things I
want to do.

Whatever he ends up pursuing, however, his instructors and peers already know what is in store for him.

“People like Wesley are going to succeed no matter
what school they’re at, no matter what teacher they have, no matter what life
throws at them,” McMillin said. “Because of their attitude, because of their skills, because of
the way their brain works. They’ll always be able ot figure things out and
solve problems.”

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A sculptor for all seasons