A few favorite things

Valedictory art is a tour de force

Posted on Oct 27 2021 in Profile
Danielle Sommerman
Danielle Sommerman, now a DePauw University freshman, won her second Best of Show award in the 2022 Cooperative Calendar of Student Art Contest.

Danielle Sommerman’s valedictory submission for the Indiana Electric Cooperative student art contest was a tour de force. Her senior work from the contest not only won her grade division — which was her seventh first place award — but also earned her a Best of Show for the second time.

The mixed media illustration of colored pencils and Copic Markers will illustrate December in the 2022 Cooperative Calendar of Student Art, joining winning works from all grades, from the contest judged last April.

Danielle’s illustration itself, red and green shiny Christmas ornaments resting on a bed of seashells, combines a few of her favorite things — favorite things to illustrate, favorite holiday memories, and favorite subject of study (see artwork below).

The first one is obvious: the Christmas ornaments.

“I absolutely love drawing reflective objects. I love tiny detail and not huge expanses of one color,” said Danielle, now a freshman at DePauw University in Greencastle. Reflecting on the work completed last March, she added, “I definitely wanted to use a Christmas ornament because I love staring at them when I pass them at different stores or on my own Christmas tree. I thought: ‘OK, how can I do just basic Christmas ornaments, but make them unique?’ 

“I thought: ‘Hmm, what if I do multiple small objects with them?’”

That leads to the second favorite thing: Christmas memories … in case you were wondering what seashells have to do with December’s calendar artwork.

“Oh, I go down to visit my grandparents every other year in Florida,” she noted, “a lot of shells down there.”

So, she illustrated ornaments on the beach.

But to the sharp-eyed observer, Danielle wasn’t done. She loves art. But science — especially geology, environmental geoscience, environmental biology, archaeology, and anthropology — are her pet subjects and where she sees her future. So hidden among the seashells, she noted, she tucked a Petoskey stone.

“I thought a Michigan rock amidst a sea of Florida shells was hilarious and sneaky.” It also has sentimental value; it came from Michigan’s Christmas Cove Beach where her family has vacationed in summer. (The pebble-sized stone is actually a combination of fossil, rock, and coral found along Lake Michigan). 

The Cooperative Calendar of Student Art, now in its 24th edition, will be available at participating electric cooperatives around Indiana and by mail through Indiana Connection (please see page 12 for details on where to get the 2022 edition). Some 1,300 pieces of art were entered in all grades, kindergarten through 12, for the 2022 calendar. 

In addition to the first-place winners selected for each grade, 13 honorable mentions were also selected and will appear in a special section of the calendar. Cash prizes are awarded for first-place and honorable-mention winners, and a bonus $100 prize is given to the artist who wins Best of Show. The contest to illustrate the Silver Anniversary 2023 calendar is now beginning and has a March 18, 2022, deadline. For details, please visit IndianaConnection.org.

Danielle completed her years of participation in the art contest as the most prolific winner. While the 2021 calendar’s winning senior, Evan Olinger, who served as a judge for the 2022 calendar contest, won three Best of Show honors on his way to amassing seven consecutive grade division awards (2015-2021), Danielle’s work appeared in nine calendars. Along with her Best of Show for the 2022 and 2020 calendars; and first place awards (fifth grade in the 2015 calendar and consecutive seventh-12th grade wins in the 2017-2022 calendars), she also earned an honorable mention in third grade and sixth grade for works appearing in the 2013 and 2016 calendars.

“It was the best way to finish out such a long time of doing this contest,” Danielle said, “and it made my two months of working through extreme migraines really pay off.”

The detail work on the some 120 shells was painstaking — with an emphasis on the “pain.” “I tend to hyperfocus on what I’m drawing,” she said. “So, I end up putting my face too close to the page, and then I get headaches. It’s worth it, though. It’s so worth it when you achieve the realism that you get.”

Looking to the future, Danielle, who was the Class of 2021 valedictorian at Crawford County High School last May, has not declared her major. “As of right now, it’s not set in stone fully what I want to do, but definitely something science related.” she noted. “I want to learn everything; I want to do everything; I want to be everything.

“It’s just a steady process of trial and error and figuring out what you want your life to be and what you want to do with it because success doesn’t necessarily mean money, doesn’t mean fame. It means being content with what you’re doing with your life.”

Below are some examples of the award-winning artwork that Danielle has created, including her Best of Show entry from this year.