This story was originally published in the spring 2012 issue of Harker Quarterly.
Among 200,000 paintings, short stories, writing portfolios, poems, digital art pieces and other works submitted to the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, only the top seven to 10 percent of submitted works make it to the national level, where the pieces are juried by luminaries in the visual and literary arts. Five Harker students were awarded Gold Keys, which will move them on to the national judging level, which takes place this month.
Cindy Tay, Grade 12
Cindy Tay, grade 12, won the Gold Key for her creative writing portfolio. After keeping most of her work to herself and close friends and teachers, Tay decided to submit her portfolio to the Scholastic Art and Writing contest. “It was time for me to put myself out there and get some new eyes on my work,” said Tay.
The pieces Tay chose were a reflection of her personality and experiences: “Meditations on Frozen Vegetables,” a story about Tay’s inability to remain calm under all circumstances; “Rice Paper and Red Eyes,” written about the struggles of a first-semester senior; “Needlework,” a piece about the afterlife; and her favorite, “Soliloquy to the Lost Hour,” a tale of teenage sleep deficiency.
To Tay, writing is how she best expresses herself. “I can be a little shy and sometimes lost for words. On writing assignments, however, my pen becomes the sassy, sharp tongue I wish I could deploy physically.” To future students, Tay says to actively pursue feedback, even from those who may not have a creative writing background. She also has a bit of college application advice: “Keep all your pieces for senior year …. Many of my college essays were derived from personal memoirs I had written previously.”
Meilan Steimle, Grade 7
Meilan Steimle, grade 7, submitted nine of her works to the competition. Three won Silver Keys, one an Honorable Mention, but it was her short story, “Yosemite Grasslands,” that won the Gold Key. The story is about a trip to Yosemite and “a girl who is as kooky as her parents, but fails to recognize it until she is forced to room with ‘normal’ people.” Originally an English assignment in grade 6, Steimle revised it heavily and submitted it to Enlight’ning, the middle school’s literary magazine. After revising the piece again this year, Steimle submitted the piece to Scholastic. “A lot of my other stories are pretty dark, and most of my family prefer ‘Yosemite Grasslands’ because it is lighter and funnier,” said Steimle. “It wasn’t my personal favorite, but I guess it’s all subjective.
Echoing the feelings of many writers before her, Steimle recognized the most challenging part of creating her piece was returning to it and revising it. “I just felt like I had already been there and done that.” After all revisions were complete, however, the story had been changed for the better. For aspiring writers, Steimle says not to worry if a favorite piece receives no recognition, as writing is subjective. Ultimately, says Steimle, “Write because you want to. If you read something you wrote and it makes you laugh or cry or even smile, you’ve won, even if you didn’t get recognition. In the end, your most important audience is yourself.
Carissa Chen, Grade 7
Carissa Chen, grade 7, won a Gold Key for her self- portrait, shown at left. She entered the competition to receive feedback and improve, as well as for the opportunity to share her art with others. “One of the necessities in drawing is to understand what you are drawing and what you are trying to ‘say,’” says Chen. She chose her self-portrait because it felt like a journey; exploring every crevice and detail of her face was meticulous, but rewarding. “It helped me understand my physical image as well as incorporate little hints of my own personality into a drawing.”
Drawing is Chen’s preferred form of expression. “I’m actually a shy person and I tend to plaster and veil my own thoughts. Drawing helps me show my own ideas.” Though she loves to draw, Chen was worried about facing the possibility of rejection when entering the contest. “Because I put hours of work and my own ideas into my drawing, the idea of it being rejected would not only hurt my pride as an artist, but also what I believe in.”
To future students, Chen advises hard work, dedication and rejecting limiting beliefs like “you have to be born with it.” To Chen, being a good artist is about much more than having technical ability: “Artistic talent isn’t the ability to draw a perfect circle naturally or place the colors in the right order or way. Rather, it’s the ability to become vulnerable in each drawing and the desire to work hard.”
Max Maynard, Grade 12
Max Maynard, grade 12, won the Gold Key for his digital art piece, “Depression,” first created in his AP Studio Art class. Maynard enjoys creating digital art because of its ease of manipulation and the endless creative possibilities engendered by working on a computer. He likes that he needs nothing more than his computer to do the work, as well as the creative options available to him through digital art. “It is possible to perhaps create something by the combination of elements that aren’t always able to combine in other media,” says Maynard.
The greatest challenge for Maynard while producing his piece was making sure he followed the proper creative commons licenses when using others’ photos, an important consideration for any digital artist. For those interested in creating digital art, Maynard counsels, “Technical skill in art comes with experience, so don’t worry too much about that. Focus more on your vision for the work as an artist.”
Cherry Xie, Grade 12
Xinyi “Cherry” Xie, grade 12, won the Gold Key for her painting, “Balcony,” which also received the first place painting award in the upper school’s juried art exhibit in May. Of everything she has done in the past few years, it’s the piece with which she is most satisfied. What she likes most about the piece are the colors. “I love the greens and contrasting red-orange, the shades of brown and blue and the caramel-like tone on the side.” The way in which the colors were mixed played into Xie’s technical skills as a painter. “I think I’ve always been super-sensitive to colors and somewhat obsessed with balancing palettes.”
To future AP Studio Art students, Xie has some sage advice: “Listen to [your teacher] and submit your pieces! It’s worth the extra effort!” Xie says as the creator of a piece of art, it is difficult to judge it objectively, and hard to realize that what was created was in fact very special. “No matter how you feel about your works,” says Xie, “that should not prevent you from just taking a leap of faith and showing it to others or submitting it in contests, because you never know how special it might be for someone (or everyone) else. Believe in yourself.” Sage advice, indeed!
For more information on the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, visit www.artandwriting.org.