posters contact advertise cover archive subscribe

Student Cover Art Contest Winners 2017

Expressing Themselves | Three young artists earn kudos in the 2017 cover contest. By Judith M. Gallman

The first-, second-, and third-place winners of The Monthly's annual student art contest credit their outstanding art teacher, Gillian Bailey, with inspiring, pushing, and leading them on a fulfilling journey of artistic expression. Under her guidance, the students said they flourished and grew as artists.

The Monthly invited students attending East Bay public and private schools in grades six to 12 to submit entries for the annual contest. The winner's drawing is featured on the cover as well as here, along with the second- and third-place winners. Congratulations to all the young artists who submitted entries in this year's contest.

Kate Abel
Piedmont High School
Bridge the Gap
(acrylic paint and collage)

When Kate Abel was helping to build a house in Mexico with her church as a junior, a cute toddler, James Williamson, 3, took a shine to her.

"He wouldn't really talk to anyone, but I was a team leader, and he noticed I was leading people around and followed me all over doing what I did," said the recent Piedmont High School graduate.

One day, the child crawled into her lap and clung to her, eventually falling asleep in her arms. The scene was captured in a single-use disposable film camera, and Abel used that photograph as the model for Bridge the Gap, selected as the winner of this year's student cover contest for The Monthly.

Bridge the Gap was one of a number of pieces that Abel, 18, said she completed this year that contemplated how to show connections between people of vastly different socioeconomic backgrounds—in this case, she as a privileged white Piedmont resident; and the child, a poor villager whose family she was building housing for. The piece incorporates acrylic paint and sewing pattern tissue paper for an intimate self-portrait that clearly conveys a tender bond.

As a young, developing artist, Abel, a big fan of street artist Banksy, said she has made much progress, going from someone obsessed with perfect execution and redoing a piece multiple times to being more forgiving and accepting of her mistakes and turning such mistakes into "something pretty." She also has found that she likes doing really big art pieces.

"I have dyslexia, and I sucked at every single subject at school but art. I use my frustration with words and express that through my art, so I definitely do as much art as I can," Abel said. "I definitely want to do something involving art because it makes me feel so happy."

Abel is headed to Chapman University in Orange where she will be majoring in studio arts. Her twin sister, Sally ("She hates art," Abel said), is going to nearby Claremont McKenna College. Both are lacrosse players and will be rivals.


Jakob Armstrong
Millennium High School
(ink and acrylic on cardboard)
--click the art to see a larger version--

Jakob Armstrong took his art teacher's advice on his second-place self-portrait: Rather than painting from a photograph, he used a live model—himself. This feat required that he hold a mirror as he drew and painted.

Choosing large cardboard as his medium, Armstrong, a Piedmont student, inked his self-portrait and added greenish-blue heavyset acrylic for a splash of color. He also took an X-Axto knife to the cardboard, outlining his profile and peeling away the top layer of the cardboard for an interesting textured effect. Completing the work took him a couple of 90-minute class sessions—quick by his account.

"I was working on a lot of art pieces. I was moving really fast, making a lot of pieces. I just kind of kept going, moving on to the next one," he said about the works he did in class. That pace is partly why he did not name many in the series, he said, adding he "didn't want to look back.

"Unnamed—I like it like that," he said.

In truth, Armstrong doesn't appear to like titles or labels. For instance, he plays guitar and sings in a band, Mt. Eddy. "It's tough," he said when asked to describe the music style. Members have eclectic tastes, influences, and likes, so the result ranges from surf punk to and alternative sounds.

"It's hard to label," Armstrong said. "I don't like labeling things. That's clearly something I need to work on."

The young artist said his art teacher, Gillian Bailey, encouraged him to push himself and try new things in art class, and he did. One of his favorite artists is Austrian Egon Schiele, whom Armstrong admires for his modern style though he lived 1890-1918. A fresh Millennial High School graduate, Armstrong is headed to Parsons School of Design in New York City where he will pursue art studies. While he isn't sure where that will lead, he does envision an art-related career.

"I hope so I am," he said. "I'll be trying to do my best."


Natalie Jeng
Piedmont High School
(colored pencil)
--click the art to see a larger version--

Natalie Jeng uses what she loves and cares about, including Lucky Charms cereal, as subjects for her art.

"It's one of my favorite foods, and I eat it every morning," said the perky 16-year-old who can recite the different shaped cereal and marshmallow charms (Oh, my gosh! I got them all!), which she hadn't really noticed before in all those cereal-eating years. "I just really like the cereal, and I decided to draw it one day. I'm weird like that.

"I like to draw things that I care about and that I kind of like because it makes me a more passionate and more motivated artist," she said, adding she "always wears" Crocs, another favorite art subject.

Jeng, a fan of sewing and cosplay who also likes doing digital art, has been drawing since age 4 and credits her dad, Bill Jeng, an artist (whose Alameda Sentinels was on the January cover of The Monthly), and her mother, a big arts-and-crafts enthusiast, with encouraging her artistic side.

"I used to borrow my dad's colored pencils. Now I have my own set," she said, identifying her father as a source of inspiration and portraitist John Singer Sargent as a major influence on her artistic style. Jeng likes working in charcoal and acrylic paint, too, and loves Impressionism, especially by Monet.

Jeng, who likes to practice her Spanish language skills at local Mexican restaurants, spent most of the summer taking six weeks of pre-calculus at Laney College where she said she had a blast, even though the course prevented her family from going on vacation. This year, the junior will be carrying a lot of classes in math and science, which the straight-A student and tae kwon do black belt also excels at.

"I struggle with what I want to do in the future—pursue art or science. I'm a math-science person, too, so that's always on my mind, " Jeng said, adding that she is "very nervous" as a junior in what she expects to be her hardest high school year.

Camila Avila-Martinez, Holy Names High School; Trevor Huffaker, Piedmont High School; Maddy Lake, San Ramon Valley High School; Anna Schacker, Piedmont High School; Nina Tafapolsky, Piedmont High School; Joy Zhou, Piedmont High School.

Odessa Blackmore

Camila Avila-Martinez

Ilana Franklin

Trevor Huffaker

Ilana Franklin

Maddy Lake

Charlie Gamble

Anna Schacker

Charlie Gamble

Nina Tafapolsky

Charlie Gamble

Joy Zhou











 FIRST PLACE Maddy Lake,
San Ramon Valley High School,

Kate Abel
Piedmont High School
Bridge the Gap
(acrylic paint and collage)