Drawing a portrait: West Forsyth’s Randell has painted the perfect picture as a volleyball player and artist

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 19, 2023

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By Jay Spivey

For the Clemmons Courier

Athletics can sometimes be referred to as something artistic.

For junior Chloe Randell of West Forsyth, she has been able to combine her love of volleyball with her true passion — art.

Randell, a 5-foot-9 stalwart on a top-notch volleyball team in the Central Piedmont 4-A conference, just started playing in middle school, but art has always been her true love.
“I feel like academics are very important to me, but I find a lot more weight in my art,” Randell said. “It’s a harder balance to balance art and volleyball sometimes. And I think they are two very different mindsets, and adjusting to them and making time for both of them is very important to me.”

Her artwork is so good that she just had two pieces awarded first place two weeks ago at the Carolina Classic Fair in Winston-Salem.

“And there’s just some nights where I’m just like, ‘Ah, I really don’t want to draw.’ Or sometimes I’d think, ‘I really don’t feel like playing today,'” Randell said. “But I really enjoy both of them and seeing what comes out of putting that dedication and time into them. It really pays off.”

Nathan Newsome, the cross-country and indoor and outdoor track-and-field coach at West Forsyth, is an art teacher at the school and had Randell last year as a sophomore.
“She was in one of those classes last year where just everybody was insanely talented,” Newsome said. “We’ve had the equivalent of several state-championship team art classes come through. They’re just phenomenal.”

Randell’s talent stood out for Newsome.

“And she was just a real sponge for anything that I would suggest she would try,” Newsome said. “And she was real receptive to any suggestions or ideas, and she would kind of add to it and do her own twist. And she ended up just being really, really, fun, exciting to have in class.”

The same thing can be said about Randell’s volleyball coach for the Titans, Lauren Gillon. Randell played JV her freshman year but was elevated to varsity last season.

“She’s just continued to grow,” Gillon said. “Some of these players have been playing volleyball since they were like five years old, six years old in little rec leagues and stuff. She didn’t pick up the sport until later on. And so, her growth was tremendous from freshman year to sophomore year.

“I felt like we threw her in the fire last year as a sophomore on varsity. We gave her some cues and just some directives to focus on in that season. And then she really put in the work on her own in the offseason. And I think it has paid off drastically.”

Most children will doodle or play with coloring books. Yes, Randell did that, but she was doing more.

“I don’t think I was really recognized as being talented until middle school,” she said. “But before that, I always, I think having my step-siblings and my older brother, elder step-sibling, he inspired me a lot, too.”

Like many families, Randell’s is complex, but the family has more than made it work. Randell is an only child through her biological parents, but she has three step-siblings and four half-siblings.

“My sibling situation is a little complicated,” she said. “So, I have two older step-siblings, one moved out, and I have one step-sibling that’s my age. And all of my half-siblings are a lot younger than me. The smallest age gap between me and my half-siblings is around six or seven years.”

Her mother, Jessica Angle, getting remarried to her now stepfather, Darryl Angle, was a major life change. However, she’s still very close with her biological father, Ryan Randell.
“When my mother remarried, she actually met my current stepdad through one of my best friends,” she said. “I think it was around second grade. I was really close friends with my friend Ava (Angle).

We started hanging out, and then our parents started hanging out. So, we basically went from friends to stepsisters.

“She’s still one of my closest friends to this day.”

According to Randell, her mother remarried when Randell was in the third grade.

“I think the biggest change it brought for me was there were new people in my life,” Randell said. “And Ava and I definitely had our ups and downs since they first got married. I say, ‘You shouldn’t ever become roommates with your best friend.’

“But we worked through it, and she and I super-close.”
Going from best friend to stepsister was also a major transition.

“It was just constant sleepovers,” Randell said. “It didn’t feel like a really big difference other than like we were just sleeping in the same house now, but eventually, like, I don’t know, I think we’ve just still been friends.”

Gillon could see Randell’s talent for art very quickly.

“I’m not an artist, so I can’t quite speak to that aspect, but what I see from her art, she’s very intentional and very specific with her artwork and with how she completes certain projects and certain pieces of art,” Gillon said. “And I think that aspect of it translates to the volleyball court in her intensity and like her focus and her intention with which she plays. She’s also very detailed in that regard.”

Her intelligence, her thought process, and her quick thinking have translated to the court and the classroom.

“I guess we’re kind of a little bit similar in that regard,” Newsome said of athletics crossing over with athletics. “I ran into the same thing last year with Tenley Douglass, before with my daughter, Blair. When they’re athletes and artists, it’s a bit more of a rare club, but I feel like when I get one of those athletes/artists, it maybe gives me a little extra connection.

“And I probably teach them like I would coach them. And so, I think the way that I am suggesting things, assessing things, or giving advice might be the same way they’re accustomed to getting that through sports. Who knows if I’m right? But I feel like that has been pretty successful.”

The balancing act between playing for a volleyball team that, as of Tuesday afternoon, was 16-7 overall and was scheduled to play Davie County Tuesday night in the conference-tournament semifinals and Randell’s artwork hasn’t affected her at all.

She said she mostly does acrylic paint portraits at school to help build a portfolio for college. At home, she does her true passion with the art of drawing digitally.

“I like to design characters of draw characters,” Randell said. “I have a sketchbook, but I find that there’s a lot more, I don’t know, I think there’s a lot more freedom digitally.”

According to Gillon, Randell was named All-Conference and Gillon was named Coach of the Year. Gillon compared Randell to a former player at West Forsyth, Samantha Graham.

“I think it just allows for somebody to have a mental release,” Gillon said of Randell’s artwork. “And I think that allows and probably allows Sam to be well-rounded in both of those aspects because it’s not just volleyball, volleyball, volleyball all the time or art, art. It allows their mind to go in different directions.”

Don’t get it wrong. Randell is still hyper-focused on the Titans’ volleyball team and what she can do to make them better.

“(Gillon) is an amazing person,” Randell said. “And she’s the type of person you want to strive to do your best for. Like you want to impress them, but she’s not a scary person at all. She’s a very sweet person. I just want to do my best for her.”

No matter how the conference tournament turns out this week, the NCHSAA Class 4-A state tournament starts on Saturday. So, the season is quickly coming to an end. However, Randell still has next year.

Despite being a good volleyball player, she is pretty intent on giving up volleyball after her senior year to focus on art in college. Randell wants to go to The Savannah College of Art and Design.
“I think after next year, I might be done with (volleyball),” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed it, and it was a lot of fun while I was playing it, but I think after that, I really want to focus on my art and really hone in on that skill.”

However, if she ever changed her mind, some college would likely come calling to play volleyball.

“I think she physically is capable of playing probably at a smaller school,” Gillon said. “But I think her focus and her dreams and her passion — her main passion is her art.”

Her former art teacher does not doubt that she’ll flourish at SCAD, assuming she is admitted.

“I think that’s kind of the mark of a good artist is they’re never really satisfied,” Newsome said. “They’re ready to move on to the next thing.”

After graduating from college, Randell would like to get into digital art, possibly for Disney.

“I’d like to work for an art studio and get involved in character design, maybe for animation or games,” she said.