High hosts inaugural competition

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High hosts inaugural competition

The Southerner

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By Simon McLane

Dozens of young artists are standing at easels, sitting on the floor with drawing boards and using the floor itself as a flat-top, waiting for the starting signal. The model gets into place, the clock is set for five minutes and then they begin drawing furiously as the first-ever official High School Art Throwdown begins.

The competition was held at the High Museum of Art and included students from Grady, North Atlanta, Riverwood and North Gwinnett high schools. The museum hosted five competitions including five-, 20- and 60-minute figure drawing, a 60-minute collaborative sculpture competition and a 60-minute still-life competition, each one scored by a panel of seven judges. Also included, but not judged, was a portfolio review: a themed collaborative performance and a judge’s critique of long-term work submitted by competitors.

Junior Charlie Denton, who competed in all three figure-drawing competitions spent a lot of time preparing for the event.

“It’s kind of like starting a day of school; you have to get up and get in the zone,” Denton said. “I get up, eat breakfast, try to remember what breakfast looked like and then draw it.”

Denton was also planning to compete in the collaborative sculpture competition but could not due to a conflicting start time with his 60-minute figure-drawing.

“I decided to do all the figure drawings instead because Mr. B [Grady art teacher John Brandhost] said it would be like being Michael Phelps if we did all of the figure drawings,” Denton said.  “It is an endurance thing.”

This art competition was the first of its kind at the high school level. One of the many first-time competitors was North Atlanta sophomore Charlotte McCauley, who competed in the five-minute figure drawing.

“During the competition I think about the light and shadows of the model,” McCauley said. “I try not to think about unrelated stuff.”

McCauley also submitted a self-portrait in the long-term works section.

“I spent about three weeks on my long-term piece,” McCauley said. “I sat down and thought about my influence and talked to my teachers. The completion was inspiring, being able to see other artists’ works.”

While the competition was a first for many, Chris Appleton, competition judge and the founder of the nonprofit arts organization WonderRoot, has done this before.

“I have been a judge for several other art competitions before,” Appleton said. “They have been at various levels, some at a professional level, some at the college level, but never for high schools.”

Appleton said while the competition was enjoyable, he would have liked to see more events in which artists could compete against one another.

“I think it would be really interesting to incorporate photography and a creative-writing competition into the event,” Appleton said.

Appleton was not the only one who thought that more could be added for the next competition.

“I would like to see pyrotechnics added,” said competition judge Pabin Williams. “I would like to see a lot more of a theatrical element added. I want to be entertained.”

Williams also thought there should be more consistency in the competitions.

“Things like drawing tools and paper size should be the same for all competitors,” Williams said. “That way things like scale won’t be a factor upon the artist who is creating the piece, like they did today.”

Overall, Williams said he was pleased with the outcome of the event.

“I get my juice from young people,” Williams said. “It is great to see a whole group of young people continuing the legacy of contemporary arts. Contemporary art is missing skill today, and it makes me happy to see it here.”

Each competition had four winners.  Grady junior Sofia Economou won first place for the five-, 20-, and 60-minute figure drawing competitions. Grady also scored the second and third place honors in the collaborative sculpture competition but fell short for the most awards won. North Gwinnett High School earned that distinction, winning 12 of the possible 20 awards.

HOLD THAT POSE: In the first-ever high school art competition at the High Museum, a participant competes in a 20-minute figure-drawing heat. A variety of students from Greater Atlanta area schools traveled to partake in the five-hour inaugural event, organized by Grady teachers and students.

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