Naomi Schroeder paints with words. Though just a fourth grader, she loves combining her illustrations with her writing in picture books she’s been creating since she was a tot. And at the intersection of words and pictures, she’s discovered the fun within figures of speech.
She used one well-worn phrase to turn out a whimsical work of art that not only won her grade division in the latest Cooperative Calendar of Student Art contest, it also brought her the prestigious “Artist of the Year” designation by being named “Best of Show.”
“I was freaking out,” Naomi said after her mom told her she’d won both honors. “I didn’t even know what Best of Show actually meant. I didn’t know there was such a thing.”
After it sank in a bit, she said she smiled so much, “My cheeks really hurt after a while.”
It’s easy to see how that could happen. The precocious, affable 10-year-old has one of those big smiles that lifts her entire face — and makes it easy for others to laugh and smile back with her.
With the awards, Naomi, who won her grade division as a first grader in the 2015 calendar, becomes the youngest “Artist of the Year” in the calendar’s 20-year history.
The 2018 calendar will be published and distributed this fall by participating electric co-ops and Electric Consumer. For the contest, each grade is assigned to illustrate the corresponding numbered month of the year. As a fourth grader, Naomi had the fourth month, April, to depict.
“I knew I was going to do something with rain,” she said. “In school we had just been talking about figures of speech — ‘raining cats and dogs.’ So, just scrolling through different pages to get some ideas, I came across these pictures of dogs and cats just falling from the sky. I thought I HAVE to do this.”
Along with figures of speech, she likes cats and dogs. Her family, which lives on the western edge of Kendallville, has two dogs and two cats. Naomi’s winning work (at right) combines colorful cartoon cats and dogs dropping with the rain.
“The illustrations of the animals are absolutely her style,” said her mom, Peggy Schroeder. “She loves writing and drawing cartoony pictures.”
Naomi said she prefers cartoons. “I think they’re more fun to draw because drawing real life things just stresses me out. If they don’t look like what I want them to look like, then, I just throw them away because I’m a perfectionist.”
So while she is good humored and loves the cartoons, there is a serious side. She said she didn’t think the art would do well this year. “I thought it was a little too simple, to be honest,” she admitted.
And there was a little drama, too. Naomi was unhappy with her first attempt and started over. “There were tears through it,” said her mom.
Originally, there were going to be people holding the umbrellas. “I didn’t like my people,” Naomi said, “so I decided to do the silhouettes at the bottom. It was easier.
“I wanted the idea to be about the animals, not the people down below,” she added.
Naomi’s older sister Emma, a ninth grader, also has won two first place awards in the calendar contest and won an honorable mention last year. Meanwhile, her mom has taught private art lessons and is now a third grade teacher at Naomi’s school, St. John Lutheran. (One of Schroeder’s students, Lilly Moser, won the third grade division this year with a folk art landscape.)
While Naomi’s sister and mom offer tips and suggestions, her mom said Naomi wants to do things herself and her way.
“I have this thing about NOT doing whatever they did,” Naomi laughed, nodding toward Emma, sitting nearby, and brother Andrew, Emma’s twin. “It’s kind of my goal in life.”
So far, that independent spirit and outlook on life are serving the young artist well.
Richard G. Biever is senior editor of Electric Consumer.