Teen artist gets a worldly win

Education Beat

News from Howard County schools and colleges

July 24, 2005|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Caitlin Smith is starting to make a name for herself in the world of art.

The 13-year-old Laurel girl, who will start eighth grade at Hammond Middle School next month, recently placed fourth in an international drawing competition that attracted tens of thousands of contestants from all over the world.

Now she is providing illustrations for a children's book.

Caitlin's work was honored in the 14th annual International Children's Painting Competition on the Environment, organized by the United Nations Environment Programme, Bayer AG and the Foundation for Global Peace and Environment.

The theme this year was Green Cities. Caitlin's pastel drawing shows a fanciful grove of tall trees with walkways between them and windows lined up like ladders along the stately trunks.

"I didn't think it was one of my best drawings, but it won," Caitlin said. It was the first time she had received a prize for her work, she said, but she plans to enter other competitions and hopes to make a career using her talent.

Caitlin was encouraged to enter the drawing competition by her art teacher, Cher Compton, director of Moonstruck Studios in Highland.

Compton, who exhibits her own work locally and teaches artists of all ages through the studio and venues such as colleges and recreation programs, said she likes for her students to enter contests "not so much because I'm hoping they'll win, but because it's good for them to do artwork based on a theme."

The assignment for the U.N. contest, which was open to children around the world ages 6 to 14, was to create artwork on paper with crayons, paints, watercolors or other media on the theme "green cities."

According to the contest Web site, the competition has been held since 1990 and has attracted more than 160,000 entries.

Paintings were submitted to each of six regional offices, which selected their winners and submitted at least 100 for the global competition.

As a result, Caitlin won twice. First she found out that her pastel drawing had been selected as one of the pieces to represent North America. That announcement was made on Earth Day, April 22. Then she learned that it had placed in the fourth-prize category.

The top winner in each region won $1,000 and a trip to San Francisco for World Environment Day on June 5. The top global winner received $2,000 and a trip to Japan, second-prize winners got a certificate and plaque, and third-, fourth- and fifth-place winners got certificates.

All winning artwork will be exhibited in Japan and may be used on postcards, calendars and other U.N. literature. The art will also be stored in the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka, Japan.

Caitlin's mother, Billie Smith, said Caitlin and her two older brothers inherited their artistic talents from their father. "Not from me," she said.

Caitlin has been taking classes at Moonstruck Studios for about a year. She started because her father, Larry Smith, was taking art classes with Compton through the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks.

He brought some of his daughter's work to class, and Compton suggested that Caitlin take lessons too. Caitlin goes to Moonstruck one day a week and draws at home a couple more times a week, she said.

Another writer has asked Caitlin to illustrate her children's book.

Larry Smith said he began conversing with the writer, Rhoda Hill of Weymouth, Nova Scotia, through a writing group. Hill is writing Don't Talk to Dragons and needed an illustrator. Smith recommended his daughter, and she got the job.

Caitlin works for free, but it's the experience that's so valuable.

Caitlin is also a talented gymnast, Compton said, and this spring she had to undergo knee surgery that temporarily sidelined her from the sport.

The announcement that she was one of the regional winners, Compton said, was "a good pick-me-up at the right time."

To see the winning art, visit http://www.unep.org/Tunza/paintcomp/14Wi nners/index.htm.

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