Leila Celestin: A Portrait

Interviewed by: Andrei Wayne K. Defino

leila celestin

Photo by: Brian Tagalog

What did you study for your Undergraduate education?

A Bachelors of Fine Arts and French Studies.

What motivated you to study French and the Fine Arts?

Well, I’ve always wanted interested in art, but to be honest, I kind of did it to prove a point. I was interested in art since elementary school so my mother encouraged my creativity; I entered a lot of competitions and won a lot of competitions. However, coming from a family of physicians, studying art wasn’t always the ideal thing for me to do. But I really wanted to do it, so I kept on honing my craft and I decided to get a degree in it. French Studies was kind of cheating since I already speak French. I was however able to study in France for a year, CLEP a lot of classes and get my degree.

That sounds fun! Can you tell me more about your art?

I really like doing realistic paintings, but I’ve always been interested in doing portraitures. I did a lot of realistic portraitures early in my life, but I got to a point where there was one professor who encouraged me to do more of a free stylized art. It turned out that I was a very quick painter so what he would do was make me cut out these square pieces of woods and challenged me to make self-portraits on them in five minutes. I ended up getting really fast and I started utilizing light to make the images look like a person without really having specific features. Eventually I started getting interested in bold brush strokes. It came to the point where, for my senior thesis, I presented about 50 portraits that I painted in about 30 minutes each. It was due to three professors that I finally found my style and I continuously do portraits – for my friends and people who might be interested in getting portraits done – despite the busyness of grad school.

As a Master’s student, how do you find time to still do portraits?

Listen, if I’m being honest, I only do them when I have a sliver of free time or when I need extra money. If someone really wants me to do one of them or even a lot of them, I usually have to tell them that it might not be available until my next slot of free time; I hold quite a few jobs on campus, so it’s hard to always be available but doing portraits doesn’t always take long for me so I guess it works out.

So I’ve seen that you’ve held multiple art shows. How did that happen?

I had my first art show here at Andrews, but I also got to do a show in Albany, New York, in Oct. 2013, which was really cool. A lot of the people I that were in my portraits were able to come and see them. Later, they asked me to do show my pieces at the Town Hall. Basically, in Albany there is this big dome where they have meetings, town events, museum tours and art shows. For this one show, I was able to show my pieces at a refugee celebration—a real highlight of my career.

What is art to you?

Here’s the thing: for me, I realized that halfway through my degree that if I had to do this to eat, I would begin to hate it. After I finished my 50 pieces I was very burnt out; I didn’t paint for a year; I didn’t touch a paintbrush or a pencil to draw, sketch, or anything like that after I did that show. And even now, this past Winter break I did a whole bunch of pieces and I don’t think I’ll be painting again until May. I guess that’s always been my thing – innately I like a lot of variety in my life. I like to say that I can paint, I do some tutoring, I do some teaching. So for me, art is like a relaxing process. It’s stressful when I have deadlines, but it’s usually a fun thing. It’s not even that all my pieces have a deeper meaning or anything; I just really like to paint.

Do you have any advice for aspiring artistic minds?

Listen to Ira Glass’s “The Gap” because in every creative field there is a “gap.” You have your tastes and you get into a field where you hone those tastes; To you, however, when you start your skills are still at a low level and all your efforts will seem to suck…until you bridge that gap. When you’re a musician, it can take years of practice to finally mend that gap and finally think you’re good. Poetry, art, acting, in literally all these fields, you will have so many days when you think you aren’t good enough, but you have to persist. You have to be okay with crappy work until you get to that point. Surround yourself with other people who have the same interests as you because they’re going through the same thing. As artists, comedians, dancers, painters and whatever else we never want to admit that we have bad work and only show off our perfected pieces, but really by seeing each other struggle we can feel better about improving. Surround yourself with people who can go through those low points with you and spend time watching and listening to people’s coming up stories; you’ll be surprised how many great artistic figures have struggled in similar ways to you. No one becomes successful overnight. Kevin Hart, Christopher Nolan, Angelina Jolie, Misty Copeland, all started off with 500 or even a thousand bad tries before catching their break. Be encouraged that everyone who has inspired you and helped you had a long and reckless journey; any failure you have right now is just part of the game. Take heart that everyone in the creative field is going through the same thing.

 Leila Celestin is a Speech Pathology masters student and an employee at the James White Library
Article first published in Student Movement vol. 100, issue 16: Wednesday February 10, 2016

Inside James White Library 2015/16

The 2015/16 academic year began with 256 new students from diverse backgrounds attending library tours and orientation. When told that the library has over one million items, one student wondered in amazement how anyone could read it all. We are blessed to have such a large collection which we share with other libraries around the globe through interlibrary loan.

The Multimedia Center will soon house the long-awaited café. The room has been re-organized and the microform, formerly housed there, has been relocated. That this is exciting for students was evidenced by one who jumped high and exclaimed loudly. “Yes! I can now get my favorite drink and snack without going out in the snow.” The large format printer, also in the Center, has been invaluable to students and faculty needing to print posters. The price is very competitive.

A portrait of Ellen G. White, painted by Harry Ahn, has also been added to the library, and will eventually be hung in the lobby across from the portrait of James White. Participating in the unveiling was Justin Torossian, a seminarian and the great-great-great grandson of Ellen White. He shared amusing anecdotes about Ellen White. Did you know her favorite color was pink?Ellen G White

Digital Commons @ Andrews University, a repository for Andrews’s scholarly activities, first introduced in the summer of 2015, has gained momentum. This repository allows faculty, staff, and students to share their research with other scholars around the world. Authors are also able to see whether their research is being used. Items uploaded to the site include honors theses, dissertations, and projects. There have been more than 50,000 downloads in 8 months, averaging 400 downloads a day. Our Arts and Humanities research has the most downloads. Global outreach is over 200 countries. The Digital Commons @ Andrews University seeks to provide a place for Andrews faculty and students with other research communities around the world. We have a rich heritage of research here and we are starting to share that heritage around the world in a digital way,” says Terry Robertson, seminary librarian, “we are starting to see our work accessed in some cool places as a result.”

The Music Materials Center announced the debut of their monthly newsletter Eighth Notes in November 2015. Marianne Kordas, Director of the Music Library, writes, “Here you will find updates on new projects, tie-ins to the bulletin board, and collection highlights.” The inaugural issue also features the new acquisitions to the library. This includes new music records, books, and scores as well as new professional high quality headphones and turntables for patron use to enhance their experience. A new graduate assistant Lady Abigail Imperio has also been added to their team.

Patrons Give Thanks


Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that ushers in Christmas and those warm, fuzzy memories of past winters. It’s a milestone in which we perceive the year coming to a close and we reflect upon significant events that blessed us, challenged us, or rocked us. It’s almost like a birthday; once it arrives, we are thankful we have lived to see another one.

This type of personal reflection and gratitude was a response we sought to generate from Library patrons, mainly consisting of Andrews University students. Our interactive Thanksgiving board we posted in the Library lobby asked them, “What are you thankful for?” This short and sweet question that generated varied responses that we grouped into the themes Family and Friends, God, Food and Health, Education, Adventist Pioneers, Work, and Other.


In total we received over 94 responses. Some were single-word notes, others long. Some contained multiple exclamation marks, and some multiple smiley faces.

The biggest theme of gratitude was “friends and family.” This shouldn’t come as a surprise as these loved ones are the ones who are there for us in the good and the bad. “Thankful for life, family, friends, and Makarios =)”, wrote one individual. Another individual wrote, “God’s love, family & friends. Second chance & more….” And “The baby in my womb : ) ” was yet another reason to be thankful for.

Gratefulness to God was another theme that stood out. One personwrote, “Thankful for God’s love, grace & mercy. Oh how He loves you and me!”

This time of the year, it’s not hard to be thankful for comfort food and to get finals out of the way. “Doughnuts & completion of my first final,” wrote a patron. People were so thankful, they even were grateful for James White, Ellen G. White, and J.N. Andrews.

Our fellow JWL employee Ashley also made it on the board, along with scarves, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and answered prayers. Overall it was a solid amount of responses, and a blessing to see so much gratefulness. We too at James White Library are very thankful this time of the year, especially for you, our dear patrons.

-James White Library


Aileen Mongkau – 1st Place Essay Winner (Elementary School Category)

Wow! Aileen, you have won 1st place in our Elementary category! Congratulations and keep it up!

Library Makes You Read!

By Aileen Mongkau (2nd grade)

               The library makes me read because in the library there are so many interesting books! In my house the books are boring because I read them before and when I read it again, I know what the story’s about and what’s going to happen!  Some libraries do not just make you read, but they make you watch! Because some libraries have DVD’s or CD’s I like watching movies but not a scary one.

In my country, I never went to a library before.  But now I have gone to the library a lot!  Sometimes I am mad at the library because I borrow a DVD from the library and then when I watch it too much I get in trouble and it’s all because of the DVD and by the way, the DVD is from the library. Well, it is not the library’s fault that I watched for too long, it’s my fault because I am the one who wastes the time.

Well, another reason why the library makes us read is because some people need books for homework or even resources. Sometimes the only thing you are there for is to just check out a book or check out a DVD or CD!  See if you check out books, what you do with it? You read it, of course! So library makes you read! (Also, I already know how to read and I already read a lot).

You know, some countries do not actually have any libraries but America has. If your country does not have any libraries, then you should just move to America and you do not have to buy any books and waste money! Because there are a lot of libraries here and you do not have to waste money for books, just only for toys.

Hey, you know if you do not know about something then go to a library. If you need something funny go to the library. If you need to know how to feed, take care of an animal or plant then go to the library. Go to the library if you need to know about something or about a country go to the library! If you need a quiet place to do work or homework, I told you already go to the library!

Aldrich Mongkau – 2nd Place Essay Winner (Elementary Category)

Aldrich, you have won 2nd Place in the Elementary category of our 2015 Essay Contest!

Libraries are awesome!

By Aldrich Mongkau (5th grade)

            Library changes our life because it is not a waste of money. In stores they sell books that the library has. Wasting money! If there are books in the library, why not borrow books from the library, it will not waste people’s money!

In some countries, there are no libraries. But when you come over here, check it out, there are a lot of libraries that you cannot even imagine! Also in the library, if people do not like books, they can check out the DVD! The DVD has many different shows, including drama, adventure, mysteries, fictions, romance, fantasy, historical, non-fiction, comedy, action, horror, science, and many more.

People can learn in the library using the computer or what I called it the internet access, books or audio books, or by just sitting there and simply do your homework. When people are bored, they can grab a book, sit down, and relax while reading. The library also has fun activities or contests, which includes this awesome essay!

When you walk into a library, you can quickly notice that it is filled with books, and you automatically would think, oh this is so boring, but actually it is not, well maybe not that boring. The library is like a giant time machine, cannot really explain how it is like that, but one thing I know for sure is that when you are reading a book, you cannot really get your mind out of the book you are reading. You can just read a book, any book and you actually does learn something and your brain is also working, and you are getting smarter. You can learn by reading books (books that are based on true facts), also if you watch one of the video that is about animals (or any other science movie), they can have lots of information! So long my favorite thing I watch (of course the one I already borrowed) is in one of the Blue Planet series, The deep. That movie was a blast! The animals in that movie were impressive! Some of the animals in the twilight zone have their own personal light stuck to their bodies. Some of that could even change their light color! One fish, the hatchet fish can math his body color to the water he is in.

Libraries are awesome. You can study in the library because it is a quiet and such a peaceful place where you can release your stress. You can read a lot of books due to the fact that the library exists, and that is what the library is made for! The library is fun, you can could learn, study and most of all have fun!