Student Cover Art Contest Winners 2015
ARTISTIC OPPORTUNITIES — Young artists show that talent has no age boundaries.
The winner of this yar's 2015 student cover art contest is Sofia Ascencio of Oakland for an untitled work of graphite, watercolor, and ink reproduced here and on the cover of this September issue.
Sofia used subtle baby blue, soft mauve, and mellow green to bring contrast to a black-and-white sketch. The drawing is a profile of a young woman, her friend Margaux Faure, with up-swept hair. She smiles knowingly, her head filled with high-rise buildings while trees pour forth from her heart.
Sofia graduated from Holy Names High School in May and took a break from her second day at college to talk about her winning art. She is a freshman at Macalester College, a small liberal arts college in St. Paul, Minn.
For the art she submitted for The Monthly contest, Sofia said her assignment was to do a black-and-white portrait with color that embodied the subject's personality. The city in the hair signifies youthfulness, city life, and a new beginning, and the water and greenery hint at Oakland roots, she said. An Egon Schiele–inspired earlier piece Sofia had drawn led this work, she said.
"I have always been the creative type," Sofia said, adding, "Ink is my favorite medium. I am a sketcher, not a doodler. I love ink and how it looks and the different shapes ink makes."
Sofia credited an "amazing" high school art teacher, Elizabeth Sims, with encouraging her to fully explore her creativity. "She gave me the freedom to be the creative person that I am and really helped me develop as an artist," she said.
Besides being an artist, Sofia is student athlete who excelled at volleyball and captained her school and club teams and is playing volleyball at Macalester. Sofia, who has three sisters and grew up with economic hardship, participated in the Holy Names' Achieve program, which provides a four-year high school scholarship for underserved students from low-income families.
"A lot of people helped me along with my success, so giving back is really important to me," she said, praising her college for its commitment to international community service. "It is so important to understand other cultures to make your own society progress and move forward. At lot of what we can learn from other countries and cultures can help out our society."
She has not declared a major and isn't enrolled in art classes this semester, but Sofia is drawn toward art and art history, journalism, and possibly law. And she won't let her art fall off.
Collage is a major passion, Sofia admitted. At home, she used the walls of her room, her "safe place," to express herself with collage. "I got to the point I loved it so much, I wrote my personal statement for college about it."
There's collage in her college future, too. "I already started doing a collage in my room," she bubbled. "I had to make sure it was OK with my roommate. She was really open to it and thinks it will be so cool."
There's a lot going on in Mira Cheng's second-place cover contest winner, Between the Lines.
First, the medium she chose is a French book rather than canvas or paper. Two spread-out pages serve as the backdrop for a thought-provoking, fairylike collage that sprinkles Sharpie-drawn silhouettes across two pages loosely framed by photographs of her hands. Mira also employed Gouache and bits of embroidery, which add a bit of whimsy to the overall work. Other details, such a peeled back page corner with a figuring peering out and tattered text revealing a map, hint at what might be just below the surface.
"It was fun to do something with a book," she said, fresh home from a summer in Hungary, her mother's birthplace and home for the family, including Mira, for seven years. "It's a piece about when you read the story, how it comes alive and is more than just words."
When Mira does an art project, she said, she typically starts with an idea. But the opposite occurred with Between the Lines, with Mira choosing the material first and then working backward after finding inspirational images on Pinterest.
"It was different," she said.
A big Georgia O'Keeffe fan, Mira often uses pastels, acrylics, and strong, bright colors in her art, though she is still developing her personal style. Sadly, Mira's 11th-grade schedule at Piedmont High School is so full she can't accommodate another school-based art class like the one for which she created Between the Lines. It was only the second school art class she has taken. But Mira hasn't ruled out extracurricular art on her own this school year. Mira stays busy: She also is a swimmer for the school team and plays the viola—having switched last year from violin—in a youth orchestra.
"I'm interested in a lot of subjects," she said, singling out history and English. "I really like to read. I also like to write." The conversation ended there, with Mira excusing herself on the last day of summer vacation to complete summer reading. She is now an 11th-grader.
What does a skateboarder do when he breaks his ankle and can't carve, grind, or kickflip anymore? In the case of Austin Willis of Piedmont, he applies himself to art and perfects his cartooning.
Austin's pop-artish piece, Home Projects, won third place in the student cover art contest. Drawn with pen, scanned into Photoshop, and then colored in digitally with bright colors of medium values to pop, the work depicts a goggles-wearing knit-capped guy with an elbow coming unhinged creating an at-home art project. One, the artist pointed out, that is not particularly creative nor even good, since the cartoon guy with the goofy expression is about to pound a nail into a box with a clawhammer.
"He's working hard on something and not really getting much done," the Piedmont High School graduate said, admitting that was a feeling he could relate to as senior. "Look at it more like a political statement."
Austin said he loves color, color schemes, and graffiti-style art and culture, so squiggly characters, rich hues, humor, and motion permeate his work, usually cartoony in nature, like his third-place winner.
"That piece is sort of where I am at right now," he said, professing a penchant for the realistic but cartoony depiction with "wonky perspectives" based on things drawn from memory to suggestive how they feel rather than exact duplication.
Piedmont High students will see his work at school, where he recently completed a mural that includes unusual characters and school-themed objects like books and backpacks. Austin also has painted murals on huge walls at home, experimenting with spray paint and acrylic paint. Collectively viewed, his artwork genuinely reflects Austin's fondness for the iconography of artist and social activist Keith Haring, the saturated colors of English painter David Hockney, and the contemporary figures of Todd James, a former subway system tagger and contemporary artist in New York City.
Austin can't remember not drawing and said he was always the student who doodled the little pictures in the margins of his papers. He holds dual American and Canadian citizenship and plans to major in visual arts at the University of Victoria where, he said, he is looking forward to a battery of "101 courses of sorts in every media," including drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, and cinematography.