A black cat crossing the path might be considered bad luck. But for Evelyn Walker, a high school sophomore from Sunman, a black cat proved most fortunate. Her pen and ink illustration not only won the 10th grade division in the recently completed cooperative student calendar art contest, it also was picked “Best of Show.”
“When I think of Halloween, I think of a black cat,” Evelyn said. “I like dogs better, but cats make better pictures. They’re more interesting to look at. They have attitude.”
The four judges of the 10th annual student art contest concurred. In selecting her work Best of Show, they noted Evelyn’s striking choice of subject for her assigned month of October and almost flawless execution of the India ink. They gave her work the nod — just above the first place works by the contest’s senior, junior and sixth grade winners.
All 13 of the contest’s grade division winning works, kindergarten through 12, will illustrate the cover and the 12 months of the Cooperative Calendar of Student Art 2008.
For the contest each year, each grade is assigned the corresponding month of the year: first graders have January; second graders have February; and so on. Kindergartners illustrate the cover. Tenth graders have October.
The works of nine other students were selected as honorable mention winners and will appear in a special section in the back of the calendar.
Some 55,000 calendars will be distributed or available to consumers of participating electric co-ops in early fall. Electric Consumer will have copies available by mail.
Over 3,200 pieces of art were entered in the contest, sponsored by Electric Consumer and Indiana’s electric co-ops. The contest was open to all Indiana students. The original deadline was March 1. Inclement weather in February, though, brought a brief extension for teachers and artists. The contest was judged March 7.
With the Best of Show, Evelyn, 16, was also named “Artist of the Year.” Both awards earned the Oldenburg Academy student $300 in all.
Persistence pays off
Evelyn had entered the contest several times over the years, earning an “Award of Merit” certificate each time. Some 400 merit certificates are given each year to students whose works make the final round of judging in their respective grade divisions. Several other first-time winners this year had won merit awards previously, as well.
Evelyn said she always has enjoyed art and was encouraged by past grade school teachers and family. “I’ve been drawing ever since I can remember,” she said. Both her mom and paternal grandmother are artists, too. Her maternal grandfather was a painter, as well. Though he passed away before Evelyn was born, many of his paintings hang on the walls of the Walker family’s rural home. The home is served electrically by Southeastern Indiana REMC.
“It’s fun to watch her come up with ideas and flesh out ideas on the page,” said her mom, Faith Walker.
Evelyn attributes her developing talent and recent success to her more concentrated study of art in classes at Oldenburg Academy, a small private Catholic high school in nearby Franklin County. A painting she did her freshman year won a $500 Oldenburg Academy Scholarship that helped pay part of her tuition. Her sister Lilly, currently a freshman at Oldenburg, won the same art scholarship this year. “I’ve had support from my art teachers (in the past), but I’ve never taken lessons,” she said. “This year (and last) were the first serious art classes I’ve been in.”
She had completed just one pen and ink drawing for class, a still life, before tackling the piece for this year’s art contest. She said she just learned crosshatching, the technique of crisscrossing tiny strokes of the pen to create form and shadow. For her winning work of the cat, she kept adding layer on layer. “It took a lot of ink,” she said.
The winning work is a composite she created from an image of a cat she took from the Internet. It’s combined with a digital photo she made of a plastic pumpkin sitting on the floor of her home’s deck. She took pains to make sure the lighting and perspective of the two images appeared seamless in her illustration.
The image of the cat she said grabbed her attention. The contest judges mused, too, as to what this cat was doing licking its chops. Did it just eat a mouse? Was it about to eat a mouse?
“You wonder why he’s doing that,” Evelyn said. “He kind of looks like he’s more than a black cat,” hinting perhaps there was something more sinister to the cat than meets the eye. “It is Halloween,” she noted. But like all good artists, she left some interpretation up to the viewer.
She worked on the drawing at her home over several days. She said as she progressed, she’d take it in to her art teacher at Oldenburg for advice. In fact, her art instructor, Pamela Burroughs, allowed her to complete the illustration during regular classtime to meet the contest’s deadline. Evelyn said she was pleased with the result. “It looked really dramatic.”
“She kept it simple and did a great job,” noted her mom.
Evelyn has decided to make art her career as an adult. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with art, but it’s going to be art,” she said.
Keeping it simple
Evelyn’s work reveals the beauty, drama and depth simple black ink on paper can create. But she wasn’t alone. For the first time in the contest’s 10 years, four winning works were pen and ink.
For November, Scotty Tedrow, a junior from Paoli High School, used a stipple technique of dots to render a scarecrow being tattered and scattered by a cold autumn wind.
Two other pen and ink drawings won honorable mentions. They were: a grist mill by home-schooled sophomore Bethany Overdorf of Noblesville; and two birds at a bath by home-schooled seventh grader Olivia Atherton of St. Paul. Bethany is a past three-time winner of her grade division. Her sister, kindergartner Grace, won an honorable mention this year, too. In past contests, awards have also gone to her older sister, Sarah, and brother Caleb.
Three winners repeated from last year: Brooklyn Harney of Elwood; Amanda Whaling of Greenwood; and Rachel Crisp of Decatur. Rachel, last year’s Artist of the Year, won the 12th grade division with a beautifully-rendered acrylic painting of a child and a new puppy at Christmas. Eighth grader Stephanie Pitman of Frankfort won her grade division for the second time, too. She won first as a sixth grader two years ago and won an honorable mention last year.
Evelyn is the first sophomore to win Best of Show. For anyone keeping score, the nine other Artist of the Year honors have gone to three seniors, four juniors and two sixth graders.
In the contest’s 10 years, no student has ever repeated as Artist of the Year. Only Evelyn and the two sixth grade winners from years past have a chance to achieve that landmark next year. If it happens, talent and competition will decide that fate — unless, of course, a black cat somehow enters the picture. — Richard G. Biever, senior editor of Electric Consumer