Why this Massena 6th grader loves illustrating her best friend’s poems

Riot grrrl pioneer Kathleen Hanna knows best friends rule: “You’re the queen of my world. When [you] talk, I hear the revolution coming!”

Makena Odjick, a sixth grader from Massena, says that’s what her best friend, Vaishnavi, or V, is like.

“I love how powerful she is,” said Makena. “She has written a letter to the president, and that’s what I love. She’s so confident. She’s been there for me since fourth grade.”

She’s Makena’s “other half.” Vaishnavi’s vocabulary captivates her and the way she uses language in her writing.

“I would never think of the poems she’s written, just the way she hooks her reader,” said Makena. “She loves it when I take her words and I turn them into my drawings.”

Together, they’ve written and illustrated lots of poems. Makena caught up recently with Northern Light co-host, Monica Sandreczki, to talk about their creative process.

This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

MAKENA ODJICK: “I have only written a couple of poems. It’s not my area of expertise; that is her area of expertise. Her culture mixes with mine and we create amazing artwork (her fashion drawings are flawless. The way her drawings look are just so cool because it’s cool to see a different culture being represented from my story).

It’s just really fun how our ideas mix and I just really like it.

MONICA: What’s another poem that she’s written that you’ve drawn for, or something that you’ve written that she’s drawn for?

MAKENA: There’s so many examples. She had written a poem about a bunch of different kinds of cats. And, I took her words, her powerful vocabulary and I drew this midnight black cat with bright green eyes. Oh my god, it was so beautiful. I laminated it so I didn’t ruin it. It just matches her words so well. She loved it. I loved how I used different shades of blue and black to make the color, so it’s a unique color. It’s not just black or it’s not just Navy blue. It’s a mix. That’s our favorite story we worked on together.

MONICA: Do you remember some of the lines from her poem?

MAKENA: This was forever ago. It was in 5th grade. I’m in 6th grade now. It was like,

The way the coat sparkled

the way the green eyes glimmered

the way the coat made your eyes shimmer

the way it glowed in the dark

the way the green glowing eyes gave him his spark.

That’s what gave me the idea of that cat, and that’s what inspired the whole drawing. It was amazing. It’s probably my favorite one I’ve done so far with her.

MONICA: You’d said before sometimes, for your drawings, you might do 15 different sketches just to really nail it. Did you have to do that for the cat drawing?

MAKENA: Oh, that cat took more than 50, at least.

MONICA: Fifty? 5-0?

MAKENA: Yeah! Just for the outline. It took forever because I wanted to get his hair texture just right and I kept messing up! I went, “I need to take a break.” I took a break, played some Roblox, went back to it, and had this idea. I drew the eyes and the eyes took at least five tries. I took it back to [V]. She loved it. Then, I colored it in; the coloring took at least 30 tries, at least, just to get the mix right. Then I got it, and then I was done. So, altogether probably took 85 to draw the cat. It was really difficult.

MONICA: That’s commitment!

MAKENA: I like my art being decent. Not perfect, because nothing’s perfect, but good enough that it looks professional.

MONICA: I know there’s a certain technique you like to use.

MAKENA: No mechanical pencils. I hate them: too expensive, hate the lead.

I like using the basic No. 2 pencil, or any pencil I can find. Once it’s sharpened, I will write a bunch of stuff down just so I can get it used because a used tip gives you more control. It’s not so dark. You can turn the pencil and the grooved tip gives you that texture. I don’t sharpen my pencil until I’m done drawing. I press really light, so the pencil last me at least a couple of drawings.

MONICA: Do you have one with you?

MAKENA: No, actually. I left it in my jean jacket, which I love because it’s got six pockets. I usually have a pencil in there. I don’t have one with me now. If I did, I would definitely draw something.

MONICA: What do you love about working with [Vaishnavi] so much?

MAKENA: She has been there for me since 4th grade. We just really connect. And, I love her words. I would never think of the poems she’s written, just the way she pulls you in, the way she hooks her reader. How powerful she is, and how confident she is. She has written a letter to the president, and that’s what I love. She’s so confident about it. She’s a powerful young woman and she keeps me in line.

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