Initially, Oakley resident Charitie Tosuner registered her daughter, Layla Tosuner, for Oakley’s recent annual Rock the Chalk competition for her daughter to enjoy an art activity.
The two had no idea it was a contest, but Layla won.
An 11th-grade student home-schooled by her parents, Layla took first place in her age category against several contestants, drawing a colorful eye with palm trees in the iris. She put a lot of thought into her original design, which took her a bit less than an hour to draw under the morning sun April 23 at Civic Center Plaza. The contest was part of the city’s annual Art in the Park event.
“I, like everyone, encounter the human eye on a daily basis. Sight is one of the most important senses we as people possess,” she said. “The eye is how people connect. Eyes are the mirrors to the soul; its how you get to know someone. They are symbols of trust and seeing someone in their true colors. I feel that sight is one of the most important senses that anyone can have — to feel what they think.”
She explained why she added palm trees.
“They represent paradise — freedom that everyone desires,” she said. “The image I portrayed meant … to follow your heart no matter what; find yourself.”
At age 16, Layla already knows what career path she wants to take, although she first had sights set on an entirely different path.
“Initially, I wanted to work in law enforcement and even for the FBI, but I came to the realization that I had chosen this path out of obligation and not from passion,” she said. “I now want to be a writer and illustrator because art is who I am. Art is what allows me to be me, it’s my passion.”
Her mom said this was Layla’s first chalk art contest but that she’s no stranger to many art media forms.
“Layla is an artist and has always had an admiration for art and culture,” said Tosuner’s mother. “She is currently writing her own manga (a Japanese comic genre). After graduation, she plans on traveling to Japan and publishing her first manga comic.”
Layla’s artistic abilities don’t stop there.
“She’s a writer, poet, cosplayer (one who wears costumes of characters), so she works a lot with fashion design, special effects makeup, prop-building from recyclable materials and papier-mâché,” added Tosuner.
Tosuner said her daughter uses her newly created YouTube channel and Instagram page to share tutorials with a humorous touch, while cosplaying and teaching special effects makeup, prosthetic-making, prop building and cosplay. Her father, Mustafa Tosuner, who has a degree in accounting, works full-time in San Francisco and is training to become an independent loan broker, could not be more proud of Layla.
“She’s a very talented young lady, and she’s always surprising us,” he said.
Art runs in the family, especially the kids, since all three of the Tosuners’ kids are artistic. Two younger daughters, Nouhaila, age 7, and Dalilah, age 5, both love to create and are also home-schooled. Their son, Simeon, is 15 months old.
“They all enjoy art,” said Tosuner. “Whether it’s drawing on the walls or baking with me in the kitchen. We eventually painted the kids’ rooms with chalk paint, so they could draw on the walls without restriction! Everyday, everywhere they’re drawing something new, painting or sculpting with clay. They love all things artistic.”
Layla’s top three personal influencers in the art world start with her mother.
“First and foremost, I am inspired by my mother,” she said. “Although she passed her gifts onto me through her DNA, her love and motivation has helped me shape my gifts.”
She talked about the other two people who inspire her artwork.
“Because I am passionate about anime art and cosplay, I am inspired by Instagram artist @villain_lady,” Layla added. “She shows that women can go beyond their limits through cosplay. Manga writer Hajime Isayama also inspires me. He portrays that anyone is capable of accomplishing anything, to take a stand to believe in yourself and fight for your freedom through both the art of drawing and writing.”
For Layla, art has a message to those who see it.
“It’s deeper than sharing a talent with the world. I want to be able to interpret feelings and emotion through expressive art and for others to know that they are not alone in what they go through, what they feel and experience,” she said. “I want to be able to give hope to those who have lost hope, through the expression of art.”
Charleen Earley is a freelance writer and journalism professor at Foothill and Diablo Valley colleges. Reach her at [email protected] or 925-383-3072.