Desert Vista High School sophomore Allie Ophardt is an artist and entrepreneur who credits a fifth-grade art teacher and her current employer as inspiring her to pursue her craft.
The 16-year-old lacrosse player said her interest in painting was sparked by discovering the works of myriad artists while attending Kyrene del Milenio Elementary School.
Today, the Ahwatukee teen and her artworks have a fan following on social media, with new commissions resulting.
Her recent canvases have ranged from Jordan Air and other canvas shoes to skateboards, jean jackets, an electric guitar and even cornhole boards.
All are brilliantly colored, and geared to the interests of customers commissioning her to not only paint, but often create the design itself.
She said she prefers to interview the commissioning client before proceeding with any work.
“I’ll talk to them and sometimes they have something specific in mind but other times they’ll say ‘you’re really creative, you come up with something.’ I usually know what they like, so that makes it easier,” she said.
Many. but not all, her clients are school friends, and she said she adjusts her prices for them.
“I don’t try and high-price high school students cause none of us have money,” she laughed.
She started her business by painting band logos on her jean jackets, heading to the local Goodwill stores to find new “canvases.” Friends and family and even strangers took notice and started asking if she could do artwork for them.
Since last summer, her business – though still a hobby – has grown.
But her success has come through inspiration of others, she said.
“I started getting really interested in painting in fifth grade at Milineo,” she said. “I had Mrs. Yorio as my art teacher. I had a really good time in her class and she inspired me.”
Referencing Stephanie Yorio, who still teaches art at Milenio, the teen recalled how their elementary class learned about classic art and artists.
“We did a lot of different types of art inspired by different artists. I remember we tried to do our own Picasso artworks and a lot of impressionists like Manet. Even Van Gogh. We covered a whole range of styles.”
She admitted her years at Akimel a-Al Middle School weren’t a productive art period for her, but entering Desert Vista High, her interest was rekindled.
“My freshman year I started taking art classes and really getting into it again. I started with Art and Design with Ms. (Samar) Waterworth and we worked with a lot of different mediums, we used graphite and oil pastels and we actually did printmaking, too.”
Between her freshman and sophomore year in summer 2018, her personal art took flight.
“I started out painting for fun. Simple things to start out with. Then I started painting band logos on my jean jackets,” she said.
And that is where it all changed.
“I started showing them to my friends and some of them hadn’t seen my artwork and they were like, ‘Hey, we didn’t know you could paint like this.’ They asked me to do something for them.”
She said she began painting shoes. And not just any canvas shoes, but Air Jordans for her friend Callie Shoemaker, who raves about the results.
Callie’s white shoes now sport yellow and orange flames on the outside of the right shoe, and on the left a front-flowing blue and white wave similar to “The Great Wave” by Japanese artist Katsushika.
“Allie by far made me the coolest shoes I own, and trust me, I own a lot of shoes,” Callie said. “She far exceeded my expectations of what the final product would look like. I get so many compliments when I wear them out, or just to school.”
The Altadena Middle School eighth grader added, “Every time I wear them, I get another person telling me how cool they are. I love knowing the shoes are unique to me, and I remember one time I was at the mall, shoe shopping, and all the store employees were totally drooling over them!”
But Allie wasn’t to be limited to clothing or shoes. Her cousin Aubrey Fuller had a longboard skateboard she thought could use the artist’s touch.
“All I did was give her a preference of what I wanted on it and she did the rest, and it was way better than I could have ever anticipated,” said Aubrey, a Horizon Honors Middle School student, adding:
“I can’t go around my neighborhood without getting a compliment. Her variety is amazing and I can recommend her to any age of audience, and I guarantee they will love it.”
The longboard, titled “Space Unicorn,” combines Aubrey’s love of space and unicorns, and it’s done with great creativity and panache.
New additions to Allie’s portfolio include a cornhole board with a Led Zeppelin design similar to their “Mothership” album cover. This was done as a gift to a friend of her father.
One of Allie’s most labor-intensive works is an electric guitar painted for her boyfriend, Ty Parker.
“He helped by explaining what he wanted – a space theme, comic book art style and pop art,” she said. “It took me about three weeks.”
Besides playing for the Thunder lacrosse team – a sport she’s played since fifth grade – Allie also is an artist employee at Ahwatukee’s Be...an Artist Studio.
She credits owner Sandra Marshall as yet another of her inspirations.
‘She proves it’s possible to have a career in art,” she said
The admiration is returned.
“Allie has a great work ethic and is a very talented artist. We’re lucky to have her at our studio,” said Marshall, artist and owner of Be...an Artist, which recently marked its fourth anniversary.
“My parents always believed that you should do what you love and the money will come. If it is your passion, you’ll make a living out of it if you have a good work ethic. I know Allie will have a very successful career as an artist because its in her heart, and she has the drive,” Marshall said.
Allie’s fifth art grade teacher Stephanie Yorio ran into her former student at the studio.
“I have kids at Desert Vista so I’ve seen some of her breathtaking work, and I’m thrilled she continued her passion for art,” said Yorio. “She was always completely engrossed in anything I was teaching; she didn’t miss a word.”
“She has the intrinsic desire to grow artistically and her work really shows that,” Yorio added. “I’m most proud of Allie for consciously choosing to focus on what makes her happy, and block out potential obstacles. I can’t wait to see the amazing things she’ll do in the future. “
For now, the teen, who has been in numerous plays at her school and Mountain View Lutheran Church, continues painting at home but in a new space.
“Her work has always been done at our kitchen table that was usually always covered with whatever current project she was working on,” said her mother Holly Ophardt.
“I finally got tired of clearing off a tiny spot for all five of us to squeeze in to eat, so we purchased an artist work table for our front room,” she added. “She blows me away with her creativity.”
Allie has two siblings, Cal, 13, and Olivia, 11.
“My younger sister is an artist, too,” said Ophardt with a smile.