Student Cover Art Contest Winners 2011
Jonathan Shum, 17, has been studying the quiet, detail-oriented art of Chinese brush painting for nearly half his life. But for an art class last year at Piedmont High School, Shum just “wanted to make some noise.” Assigned by teacher Gillian Bailey to produce a work of Cubist art, Shum came up with “Phoenix Rising,” a vivid, attention-getting gouache and color pencil painting.
“Some people could interpret it as a phoenix rising from ashes or opening up like a flower,” he says. “It’s showing the world something. Doing something loud. Making a statement.”
Making statements is something that Shum, now a senior at Piedmont High, knows a bit about. Having taken up tennis in eighth grade, he hoped to play on Piedmont’s varsity team that fall, but didn’t make the cut. “So I worked really hard, and the following year, I made the team,” he says. Today, Shum not only plays for his school, but teaches at the Berkeley Tennis Club.
And the “same thing [happened] with painting,” he says. “My first Chinese brush stroke competition, I didn’t do so well. But then the following years I went from third [place] to second to first.”
Deeply immersed in Chinese culture—both parents were born in Hong Kong—Shum has made several trips to China with his family, including younger brother Kevin, an aspiring figure skater.
College is another year off, but Shum speculates that he may eventually study architecture—a discipline that blends his passion for art with his academic strengths in math and engineering. And if an obstacle or two should arise along the way, that’s just fine with Shum.
“When someone puts you down, it gives you more motivation to work harder and prove them wrong,” he says. “Tough situations are what make you better.”
Lorna Chiu, who starts her freshman year at the University of Southern California this month, is a self-motivated student of self-portraiture (check out her work on the website deviantart.com). And, she admits, “I tend to like more tragic things.” So last year, when her art teacher at Head Royce School in Oakland assigned a self-portrait, Chiu turned out two interpretations, and submitted the (psychologically) darker one, “Forgotten Treasures of the Sea,” to our contest.
“I see beauty in tragedy,” Chiu says of the work, which incor-porates watercolor and colored pencil. “The concept of this picture is like a stone statue, but at the same time a statue can’t drown. I wanted to show how life can get pretty hard but is still beautiful at the same time.”
Chiu, whose father is a chef at Silver Dragon restaurant in Oakland, credits her mother with noticing her keen interest in art as a young child, and providing her with private art lessons. But “my high school art teacher taught me to expand beyond that and explore ideas and abstract art more,” she says.
Chiu plans to study psychology at U.S.C. So it’s entirely fitting that the other version of the self-portrait assignment—the one she didn’t enter in The Monthly’s contest—is a representation of the interior of the mind. Rendered in watercolor and Sharpie, it’s a “more jumbled” work than “Forgotten Treasures,” Chiu says, “because minds can be pretty chaotic.”
Chiu’s reaction to her second-place win, however, is absolutely straightforward. “It feels good to be good at something. It feels good to have people acknowledge that,” she says. Or, as she wrote of yet another self-portrait, posted on deviantart.com, “That is sooooooooo totally the shizz . . . !”
Wylie Kiskaddon’s first brush with art fame arrived in preschool when his self-portrait—made with paint and markers—was published in an Oakland newspaper. After that, Kiskaddon progressed to a messy foot project with his best friend when they were about 6. Their parents covered the kitchen floor with paper, de-shoed the boys, and then let them loose with a tray of green paint, then red paint, then blue—and . . . you get the idea. The result? A multi-colored footprint masterpiece.
Kiskaddon says his third-place acrylic painting, “Dog in Color,” was inspired by a photo of a dog in a magazine—his art teacher always has piles of them around to help boost kids’ creativity.
“The dog was just looking at the camera, and looked very funny, just staring there really happy and not really doing much else. It reminded me of all the pets I have seen,” says Kiskaddon, who currently has a 17-year-old cat.
The 15-year-old Piedmont High School 10th-grader figures art will always be a part of his life. It’s in his genes for sure. With an artist aunt who paints surreal realism incorporating Buddhism and nature, and parents whose fashion business has them dreaming up clothing designs at home, Kiskaddon has grown up surrounded by discussions of color and light.
“They’ve always aided me in finding colors that stick out more, to be able to bring out the life in certain objects,” he says.
So do his friends think of him foremost as an artist?
“Oh no, they think of me first as a musician,” he says quickly. Turns out he plays rock, funk, jazz, and occasionally classical music on five instruments: guitar, piano, bass, ukulele, and accordion—mostly at home with his dad, who plays in no less than three bands.
HONORABLE MENTION: Sara Hopkins, “One Summer Day” (acrylic); Greer Johnson, “Tree” (charcoal); Marie Knechtli, “Bird Shattered” (colored pencil); Sarah Levin, “Journey of the Mind” (watercolor); Alley Simpson, “Dark Scene” (acrylic); Hope Stutzman, “No Parking” (watercolor).