From the time the Schuler kids were barely up off the floor, the rural North Manchester siblings were encouraged to create art.
First came Eli, now a high school senior. Then came triplets Attie, Ellie and Hallie, sophomores. Then came Will, an eighth grader. And finally, there’s Lily, a first grader.
While all are creative in their own right, said mom, Kelly Schuler, Attie showed special interest early. “I always had the washable paint from the time my kids were really little,” she said. “I had some paint out for Eli, and Attie would just zip across the wood floor and get to that paint just as fast as she could in those walkers.”
With the recent completion of the Indiana electric co-operatives’ annual calendar art contest, Lily, Attie, Ellie and Eli have now done something no other four siblings have done in the contest’s 19 years. They have each won either their grade division and/or an honorable mention.
Not only did Attie win her grade division with a detailed illustration of Indian corn for October in the upcoming 2017 Cooperative Calendar of Student Art, the work was judged “Best of Show.” The award earned Attie the “Artist of the Year” honor. Lily won an honorable mention this year, and her painting illustrating January will appear in the special honorable mention section of the 2017 calendar. (Click here for the story on the contest.)
This was not Attie’s first win. She won her grade division as a third grader in the 2010 calendar and an honorable mention as a first grader, way back in 2008’s calendar. In between, Ellie won her and Attie’s grade division as a second grader in 2009. Before them, Eli won his grade division as a first grader in 2006’s calendar. The next year, he won an honorable mention as a second grader.
Kelly, also an artist and an art teacher, said she was encouraged in art at an early age by the Wabash County teachers she had growing up and by her grandmother, also an artist. Kelly, along with co-art teacher Lynne Keffaber, passes that encouragement to the art students at Northfield Jr.-Sr. High. Over the years, a number of those students also have had their works selected for the art calendar. “It’s neat to have an Indiana-based art show,” Kelly said of the co-op contest. “It makes these kids really feel special when they know their picture was picked from all the entries that came in from across the state.”
This year, Attie’s art class at Northfield is broken in two parts by lunch, so it’s split between her mom, who teaches in the morning, and Lynne, who teaches in the afternoon.
While Attie and Ellie continued entering the contest each year after their early successes, neither became discouraged by not winning and having their works appear in the calendar. “It’s always so cool to flip through to see other people’s projects and what they chose to do,” Attie said.
Though they enter the same art contests, Attie and Ellie have avoided the proverbial sibling rivalry, said their mom. “We’ve tried to create an atmosphere with all of them since they were little not to feel like they’re competing with each other. But it’s interesting because they’ll be kind of back and forth. Attie will win an award for her artwork, and maybe the next year, Ellie will win.”
“It’s always neat because we help each other and critique each other’s work,” said Attie.
Added Ellie, “It’s a friendly rivalry. We don’t ever get upset. We’re always just hoping for the better for each other.”
Attie’s Best of Show work is a color pencil illustration of Indian corn. Kelly set up the still life with the multi-colored cobs brought in to school by a teacher and a student. Attie spent about a month and a half on the project, she said, but was still worried about getting it done. “So, I started coming in on the weekends and during all my free periods to work on it. Since it’s a still life, I couldn’t bring it home.”
Though many young artists groan when they are assigned a still life, Attie said she likes doing them. “I just find it peaceful,” she said. “I’m a perfectionist, so the process of doing each kernel, one by one, just really appealed to me.”
While another family of three siblings has won more awards in the contest, the Schulers are the first with four student winners. “We’ve just been blessed with artistic ability,” said Attie, “and grew up in a home that encourages art.”
Kelly noted the desire to create art is part of being human. Unless there is a physical component that keeps us from it, she said everyone of us from the youngest age wants to make a mark — if there’s a marker in our hands. “It’s just hard-wired into our brain: ‘I have something that I can make a line with, and I’m going to start making lines.’”
She tells parents to get washable paints that are easy to clean up, not worry about a mess, and encourage children early on. “Just get those supplies, and let them be creative.”
Richard G. Biever is senior editor of Electric Consumer.