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Art is Calling for Me

By Kristin Lee Hamerski
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #52, 2003.

Advice on how to win art and photography contests from Miss Teen Alaska.

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Kristin Lee Hamerski

Kristin’s first-place “icescapes” photo

Kristin’s award-winning birdbath
After weeks of waiting I had finally arrived at the Alaska State Fair. I ran straight to the art exhibit, rushing from one category to another pointing out where my art had won a prize. Then, suddenly I was stopped dead in my tracks. I saw my birdbath with a huge purple Grand Champion rosette ribbon pinned to it! This was the highest honor for me. It meant I had won over all the kids and all the adults in the division! As I stood there in awe I thought about what had gotten me to that point. I had worked intensely all year with one of the most creative people in the world, and one of my best friends, Carmen Johnson. With her help I was able to enter 25 different categories of arts and crafts.

Art, the universal language, is a way to express your philosophy, and everything you are to the rest of the world. For me, art has been an ever-present part of my life. What many people don't realize is that art is not about just being another Leonardo da Vinci. I have witnessed so many people, young and old, who have the false impression that if you cannot paint perfectly you possess no artistic ability. I believe the exact opposite is true. Everyone has creativity and everyone, in one way or another, enjoys art. The trick is having the patience and determination to experiment. Trust me, the journey through the wonderful world of art may not always present itself as easy, but when you find what inspires you to look deep within yourself you will have found the rewards more than pay for the time spent searching.

Art has such a broad spectrum of choices, but as a homeschooler it can be difficult to find the right artistic niche. This is where some of that creative ingenuity comes in. Don't just wait for art to find you; go out and actively seek it. Look into what classes are available in your community. Many national store chains, such as Micheals Arts and Crafts, Ace Hardware, and Home Depot will have classes on a variety of artistic mediums. Sometimes even local artists give workshops, so check your newspaper and local events calendar. Basic painting technique workshops are always fun, but don't be afraid to try something different. You may find that basket weaving, woodcarving, or even computer animation is where your greatest talent lies.

One of the amazing facets of art is that you really have unlimited possibilities, so let your imagination guide you. First, find what you like to do and realize that nobody is perfect in the beginning. Then as you begin to progress, hone your craft. Go and learn from the masters. As you develop your own style look for opportunities to share your gifts. Teaching others is a phenomenal way to do this because you are helping someone else find their way on the road of art. Once you find your artistic niche, try to find a club that shares your interest. Such clubs offer a way to meet people of similar interests and the ability to gain continued insight into what might be more than just a hobby.

I have greatly enjoyed looking for opportunities to meet and work with artists. One of the artistic endeavors that I have embarked upon is photography. Remember the statement, "One picture is worth a thousand words"? That is what art is; it's a story, your story. I have gone around taking photos in Alaska since I was old enough to press the button on the camera. Slowly I learned the finer points and my pictures improved. I have even gone on magazine photo shoots with Alaska magazine, our most popular state magazine. Our neighbor, John Pezzenti, is a wildlife photographer and has many books out as well as the honor of being featured on National Geographic. He has not only given me tips, but has also taken me behind the scenes to see how his books are put together. See, you never know, an artist may literally be just around the corner!

Kristin, John, Pezzenti, and Kristin's brother Erik
Always keep in mind you will usually do the best at something if you have a passion for it. I love photographing landscape scenes, anything in nature that really moves me. I have entered numerous pictures in the Alaska State Fair and one of them even won first place! The photograph was that of an icy frozen world, but even in its cold surroundings it had warmth. The sun, a promise of the change to come.

When any kind of art is being judged - photographs, paintings, sculptures, masks, you name it - some basic guidelines must be considered. Workmanship is very important. Showing that you put time into your piece proves to the judges that you are dedicated. The degree of difficulty is another important factor. Copying another person's art (like painting the Mona Lisa) is fun to do sometimes, but if you really want to win your work needs to be as original as possible. Your art really needs to be a part of you. The other factors that come into play are whether or not the materials are suitable. Are the colors and textures pleasing to the eye? Does any one part detract too much from the entire project?

Results will always differ because of the personal preferences of the judge, so don't get discouraged if you don't win the first time. Also, get feedback from friends and family. Make sure they give helpful candid, helpful answers. Saying something looks wrong without pointing to the reason for the problem usually makes the artist feel inhibited about sharing his or her art with others later. The best way to give constructive criticism is with the idea of improvement, so find a way to make it better.

There are many contests for every kind of art. State, county, and local fairs are wonderful places to exhibit your art. There are many specific art categories as well as additional age categories. Going to these fairs ahead of time will give you a good idea of what kind of art wins, and what artistic level is expected. I found my niche in the Arts and Crafts category. I have made everything from silk rose angels, to Alaskan Nativity scenes, to elaborate wreaths, to birdbaths. I have won three Grand Champion rosette ribbons, as well as a host of first place and other ribbons. In all I have over 55 art ribbons.

Alaska State Fair Grand Champion project. Theme category: “2001: A Moose Odyssey”
Fairs are a marvelous way to showcase your work. Every time I go to the fair I am overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of talent. What really makes it special is that each piece is so unique. When I received my Grand Champion ribbon I felt completely euphoric; I had worked so long and put so much of myself into it. The validation of others was very pleasing; however, for me the true prize was the accomplishment of making something that expressed who I was. Above and beyond the satisfaction of receiving an award comes the elation of knowing your art has touched people. Besides fairs, there are always art contests through art supply stores, volunteer organizations, and local businesses. Sometimes museums and even state capitols like to exhibit youth art, so always be on the lookout for this opportunity.

The best advice I can give for being successful in art contests of any kind is do what you love. That happiness will be projected through your art.

Art is a lifetime experience and will enrich your life. Anything beyond that is just icing on the cake. Remember that just as your life must have a purpose, so must your art. Art is a lifetime pursuit, so pursue greatness within yourself and you will not be disappointed.

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