Drawing a victory, student awarded in international art contest

Keely Jenkins

When junior Haley Bjursten looks at a photograph she plans on drawing, the first things she notices are the shadows. Her attention is drawn to the juxtaposition of light and dark, and she determines whether the contrast is enough to merit being drawn meticulously in Bjursten’s medium of choice, colored pencils.

Bjursten poses with the drawing that won her the Silver Key Award.
Bjursten poses with the drawing that won her the Silver Key Award.

An AP Drawing and Paint student, Bjursten recently won a Silver Key Award from an art competition hosted by Scholastic. The competition was international, with over 300,000 applicants. Bjursten was one of 2,000 selected to receive recognition for her work and one of 600 awarded with a Silver Key.

Bjursten discovered the contest through her art teacher, Lauren Bartone, who helped her photograph her art for the submission process.

“I announced it in class and she went home and researched it on her own, and decided it was something she wanted to pursue. She came back and told me this is what I want to submit,” Bartone said.

The piece Bjursten entered was a self portrait made with colored pencils, a medium she had only recently begun using.

“The piece that I submitted was the first time I had ever used colored pencil,” Bjursten said. “I really like painting and color, so I decided to try mixing the color that I use to paint with and trying that with graphite and it worked really well.”

https://vimeo.com/158669339Previously, Bjursten used black or grey graphite and watercolor for her work. She also focused on “model faces,” faces that are perfectly symmetrical. However, Bartone prompted Bjursten to look beyond the perfect face.

“I haven’t done model faces since,” Bjursten said. “I have just been doing ‘real’ types of pictures. I’m focusing more on real life and what people actually look like rather than what someone thinks they might look like.”

Bartone credits Bjursten’s success to her work ethic.

“She’s a very thoughtful artist; she considers each step in her work process very carefully,” Bartone said. “She is also a very hard worker–– she puts in a huge amount of time outside of class on her drawings as well as in class and she has very high standards for herself. ”

After winning the Scholastic contest, Bjursten submitted another colored pencil drawn piece to the Rising Star Contest hosted by the Youth in Arts. She received the award best in show for drawing. Her “two-for-two” wins have inspired her to consider entering the Congressional Art Competition which is a more competitive, national contest, according to Bjursten.

“Now that I’ve won two of the two contests that I’ve entered, I feel that my artwork is stronger and it just grows my confidence and my abilities,” Bjursten said. “I just want to keep pushing myself for bigger and harder achievements.”