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Chasing after the gold (leaf)

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Chasing after the gold (leaf)

Elena Grant (11)

Elena Grant (11)

Taylor Harahan

Elena Grant (11)

Taylor Harahan

Taylor Harahan

Elena Grant (11)

Macie Lavender, Staff Writer

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The inviting atmosphere of the upstairs art classroom may be familiar to some; warm light filtering through the broad paned windows, paint splatters and charcoal smudges, hushed tones as students whisper so others, deeply immersed in their respective works, can focus.

It is in this idyllic scene where I find Elena Grant, student artist who has recently distinguished herself through acquiring this year’s scholastic National Gold Medal. This recent win was in addition to her winning the NAACP Black History Month competition, as well as two gold regional keys. Last year, she took home a gold regional and silver national key in similar competitions. Despite her impressive accolades, she remains modest.

When asked about her art itself, Elena lights up. “The winner of the Black History month competition was the portrait I did of OJ [another Plant senior]. I think the sketch had a lot of character, because I chose to leave the marks I made from the original etchings. I wanted it to look sortve rough; The marks were left so that the viewer could see the process and get a more accurate view of what I was trying to portray.”

This drawing style was a shift from her usual technique, where she prefers to focus on realism. The next most critically acclaimed work of Elena’s is her self-portrait, where she used oil paint and gold leaf to create a Renaissance esque rendering of her own face. “It was my first major painting in oil that I actually finished, and it required me to go through a lot of stages in figuring out how to use the medium. It definitely tested my patience and skill.”

Despite the differences in material composition, both artworks are characteristic of Elena’s distinct style. Each features direct and strong eye contact from the subject of the portrait to the viewer, creating a unique experience for those appraising the artwork. Elena touted the old saying, “Eyes are the window to the soul”, while explaining that she felt the strong eye contact allowed greater understanding of and connection with her artwork.

When asked about her material of choice, Elena was torn. “It definitely used to be charcoal, but I’ve started to like oil paint as well! It’s probably about even.” The process of creating such an ambitious piece as her self-portrait allowed her to become more comfortable with the medium of oil paint, improving her future ability to be versatile in creation.

Elena will certainly be grateful for such a learning experience in the future, as she will be attending the renowned Maryland Institute and College of Art, or MICA, on a merit scholarship. She fully intends on pursuing a career in art and does not let those with negative views deter her from her dream. “I want to pursue art as my career because it has been my passion for as long as I can remember. A lot of my happiness derives from creating art and the achievements I earn from it. It is the most fulfilling part of my life. Although it is a challenging path to follow, I would not choose any other profession.”

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Chasing after the gold (leaf)