Almost all of them started as regular class assignments.
But the art that four Nebraska high school students produced became some of the best in the country.
And soon their drawings, photography and writing will be on display for the nation to see.
About 230,000 pieces were entered in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Past winners include Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath and Truman Capote.
But less than 1 percent of the entries receive gold medal honors or the American Visions Medal that two Omaha high school students and two from Lincoln received last month.
The winners did what all art teachers want from their kids, said Robert Bacome, a visual arts teacher at Omaha South for 20 years.
“Any good art student will take it to their level and personalize it,” he said. “If you just always do exactly what you're supposed to do in an assignment, it's probably going to be pretty boring.”
One of Bacome's students, Beto Drake, was the only Omaha Public Schools student to win a gold medal this year.
The gold medals go to the most outstanding pieces — about 670 of them this year — submitted nationwide.
Drake, a senior at South, won for his drawing titled “Desires of a Sawyer,” a colored pencil and marker drawing of faces.
Bacome asked his students to draw a panel of faces — an area of expertise for Drake.
When Drake was little, he and his father shared a sketchbook. His father was religious and often drew pictures of Mother Teresa — the reason Drake draws crosses in some of his works, including his award winner.
Drake favored — and still enjoys — drawing something different: creatures and monsters.
“Desires of a Sawyer” features 26 faces, some new monsters and some that Drake has created in the past. Some faces smile or have their tongues extended; others display squished grimaces or puzzled gazes. “That's what makes art good, when you have a lot of emotion in it,” Drake said.
He also twice included his own face.
Drake worked on the faces in class for about eight days but finished it at 4 a.m. the day it was due.
A former classmate at Omaha Burke, Alison Concannon, can relate to the early morning work. (Drake attended Burke before his family moved to South Omaha before last fall.)
Concannon finished her award-winning drawing of a book and a necklace with a pocket watch at 1 a.m. the Monday that her assignment was due.
Using a pencil and charcoal, Concannon, a senior at Burke, drew a broken pocket watch on open pages of “The Hollow,” a novel by Jessica Verday.
“Stopping Time” received an American Visions Medal, which are given to 75 artworks.
Concannon said the drawing represents what reading and art do for her. “It's ridiculous how much time passes and I don't even notice,” she said. “I feel like I don't think.”
And not thinking is rare for the 17-year-old, who takes a full class schedule and works part time.
She wakes at 5 a.m. on weekdays, leaves her house at 6 a.m. and is sitting in Advanced Placement English class by 6:50 a.m. Her other classes: Advanced Placement versions of calculus and psychology; honors nuclear science; honors junior ROTC; sociology and a few periods of art, including an independent study course and a period as a teacher's aide.
“I love all my studies,” she said.
She also works 20 to 30 hours a week at a Hy-Vee Supermarket. “They pay me to smile and be happy and ring up groceries,” she said.
She also says words like “gosh” and “fudgemuffin,” reads about seven books a week and sleeps about three hours a night.
Concannon wants to major in art and psychology this fall at Creighton University, go on to medical school and work as a medical examiner.
“I plan on being the cheeriest one ever,” she said.
Other Nebraska gold medal winners:
Jessi Sniff, sophomore, Lincoln Northeast
Sniff was completing an assignment in her beginning photography class when she took the photo that won a gold medal.
She was having a “bad photo-taking day,” unsure of what to take or how to make her pictures interesting. Then she spotted three crosses and took a picture looking up at them. The sun was still out, but her flash was on, so the picture came out as if shot at nighttime.
“I was just taking pictures for art class,” she said.
Kailee Pedersen, senior, Lincoln East
Pedersen won two gold medals for personal writings she did on her own, free of teacher prompts: one for a poem and another for a short story.
She was born in southern China and adopted when she was 1 by white parents. She and her parents used to live in Oklahoma, where Pedersen said she experienced racism .
Her award-winning poem, “The Pareidoliad,” is about a young woman living in the South. The main character in her gold medal-winning story, “Tyger, Tyger,” is also adopted.
“Writing them was very cathartic,” Pedersen said.
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Nebraska winners in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.
|Beto Drake||12||Omaha South||gold medal||drawing|
|Kailee Pedersen||12||Lincoln East||gold medal, gold medal, silver medal||poetry, short story and writing portfolio|
|Jessi Sniff||10||Lincoln Northeast||gold medal||photography|
|Alison Concannon||12||Omaha Burke||American Visions||drawing|
|Grace Bydalek||11||Brownell-Talbot||silver medal||poetry|
|Kylee Carter||11||Omaha North||silver medal||ceramics and glass|
|Mirakle Crockett||10||Omaha North||silver medal||painting|
|Shane Hickey||8||Alice Buffett Magnet Middle||silver medal||drawing|
|Julia Lanoha||10||Omaha Marian||silver medal||drawing|
|Katy Pratt||10||Omaha Burke||silver medal||drawing|
|Oria Simonini||12||Omaha Benson||silver medal||drawing|
|Shara Rose Yumul||11||Bellevue East||silver medal||drawing|
The winning works will be on display June 1 to 15 in New York City. The gold medal works will be at Parsons The New School for Design exhibit space, and works that won American Vision Medals will be in the Pratt Manhattan Gallery.