There’s a common theme among Oak Harbor High School art students who recently took gold in a state competition when talking about their prize-winning pieces: “My teacher made me submit it.”
“That’s my roll,” said art teacher Kit Christopherson, “encouraging students and convincing them that they’re better than they think they are.”
This year, he seemed to be justified in his confidence in the quality of the students’ work. Fifteen pieces placed and 10 received honorable mention in the state Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.
Five students received the gold key award, which automatically qualifies their work for the national competition, a record number for the high school.
Junior Cherie Miller started sketching for fun during class one day and decided to use oil on watercolor paper.
“It wasn’t meant to turn into an actual piece,” Miller said.
Christopherson saw the work and encouraged her to finish and submit it. Her painting of a woman, which includes a pattern etched into the background, and spare paint from her swatch that she didn’t want to waste was dubbed “Happy Accidents” and became one of the gold-key winners of the competition.
Pottery teacher Kayla Sexton credited the art students’ success to time spent exploring materials and techniques.
Senior Emma Hanson said she arrived at school early and decided to start throwing on the pottery wheel.
“I’m not sure how I made it, I was just messing around,” Hanson said.
Within about 10 minutes, she’d created a jagged-edged bowl with a swirling circular design in the middle. Later in class, she decided to make a plate to match. Like Miller, she was strongly encouraged to submit pictures of her work to the competition.
Christopherson, who teaches two-dimensional art, said his classes nearly doubled the amount of submissions from previous years. The process to send high-quality images can be time-consuming, so schools are only sending their best, he said.
“When a school gets one gold key, they celebrate,” Christopherson said. “To get five is a huge deal to us.”
He especially tried to encourage his students to submit more ambitious or unique works, even if their primary focus was in more traditional forms of art.
Olivia Waite is a talented portrait artist and is able to do hyper-real paintings, he said. However, Christopherson persuaded her to also submit experimental drawings done with a bright colored Sharpie pens, which became a gold-key winner.
Senior Allison Jungmann’s gold-key winning piece kept to more traditional portraiture, except she decided to go big.
The re-creation of a photo of her grandfather spans 12 square panels and together stands over four-feet tall. It took her three months to do the piece, which she finished on the due date for submissions.
“That’s hard to get students to do,” Christopherson said of the scale of her project.
Both he and Sexton said the students’ ability to practice multiple forms of art makes them better and more well-rounded artists.
Christopherson said he thought the students had “a more eager spirit” this year when it came time to send in work.
“The attitude and quality of the students’ work are exceptional,” he said.