Art is Lejla Tukelija’s air


Her rainy and sunny days, her tsunami waves and skipping-stone splashes, her early mornings and late nights, her chaos and her calm. 

Art is senior Lejla Tukelija’s everything—every juxtaposition, every comparison, every fiber of her being. 

It started so simply: a late night, a small room, a lined piece of paper, and a pencil. 

“I was a very, very ADHD kid,” Lejla said. “In order to calm myself down, it’d be like 3 a.m., I’d sit in my closet with lined paper and just draw dumb flowers and weird people. That grew into drawing with my friends every day, and then it turned into, like, ‘what is contouring? What are the basic [elements] of art? How do I make it into a way that it’s expressing me and what I want?’”

Quickly becoming her oxygen, Lejla has dedicated the past seventeen years of her life to a true passion, one that has remained a constant. 

Art is her constant, yet jagged, line of freedom, discovery, passion, and expression. 

“Life is always pushing us in one direction, but with art, you can go so many different [ways],” Lejla said. “[Art] is never a straight line; it’s always bending and you can really do whatever you want with it. It just puts a lot of expression into everyday things.”

Turning to art whenever she feels, Lejla pieces—tangible forms of the jagged line of expression—have a home in every corner of her room, her house, and her heart. Lejla’s emotions are entangled with each brushstroke; every piece has life laced in the fibers of the canvas. 

Art itself is an emotion for Lejla. One of pride, of chaos and calm, of happiness, of joy, of patience, of self-awareness. 

“When things are falling apart, you can put them together through art,” Lejla said. “If you’re having a tough time, [you] can create something that expresses the hardships you’re going through. But it also gives me something to be proud of. I love art. It gives me a big reason to be happy.”

Lejla pours her heart and soul into each piece—some taking 24 hours or more—and feels such an immense amount of pride and joy when she sees the finished product. Particularly enjoying portraits and landscapes, she paints with the mindset that there can always be more; she thrives off of constantly creating and constantly improving. 

The cycle of creativity is a calming process for Lejla, one that has lead her down paths of self-discovery and major life decisions, like choosing her major. 

While life after college has been fuzzy at times, Lejla made the sound decision long, long ago—when she started doodling flowers as a three-year-old in her closet—that art was always going to be a part of her. 

Lejla can’t imagine it any other way. 

“I feel like my days wouldn’t be the same without art in my life,” Lejla said. “I hope that, in my future, I’ll have it every day, which is why I want to become an art teacher. It’d be very exciting to talk to kids about art and find people that are just like you. I don’t go a day without doing something with art; I’m just in love with it. And it’s been that way for literally 17 years.”

Striving to be someone who can guide and shape kids the same way that art has done for her, Lejla believes that “a good art teacher can really set you in the right place,” and she hopes that she can be that person for the kids she teaches. 

Discovering this through the tranquil process that is creating, Lejla owes everything to her everything: art. 

And she owes it all to the late-night doodles that started it all—the chaotically calm form of expression that has made Lejla’s life colorful.

“[Without art], my life would be dull,” Lejla said. “It’s definitely the calm, rainy days of life, but it’s also a lot of chaos where I need it to be.”