The art category of the Teen Talent Contest includes a menagerie of different mediums. There is pencil drawing, charcoal drawing, painting and 3-D art, like sculpture. There are so many different things you can do in this category, and as a former contestant and winner, I’d like to encourage you to try it out!
Some teens might be wary of entering the contest because it seems like the same people win every year, and they feel like they don’t stand a chance against people who are so good. That’s not true. The people who enter are the people who win—and often, not as many people enter as you think. That is why it seems like the same people end up winning—when really, theirs are some of the only entries that are even available to be judged.
I entered the Teen Talent Contest for many years as a teen, so here are some tips from my experience.
The contest was a great opportunity to express something quite personal to me. I’m probably more of an artistic person than normal, but for anyone who is interested in art, this is a great opportunity to meet other teens who feel the same way. If you come to Philadelphia Youth Camp, you will see the other teens’ entries, and it helps you realize that there are other young people in the Church who share the same interests as you.
But what do you enter? My first entry was a picture of Winston Churchill. I was thinking about both my interests and the mentality of the judges. I wanted to enter something the judges would like while still doing what I liked. Now, it’s easy to get into a mindset of what the judges would like versus what you want to do, and you have to find the proper balance in your mindset. When I entered, we had heard about Winston Churchill a lot, so I thought he was a strong figure. Plus, I appreciated what he said and wrote, so it was a win-win. I did use a photo reference for the picture, but I ended up changing the background entirely. I put the British flag behind him in charcoal. That helped me keep a good balance between copying a little bit to show my skill level and maintaining some originality, which is an important part of the contest.
There are two main things to think about when you are crafting your piece of artwork: skill and quality. The skill level will vary for everyone, but that shouldn’t deter you from entering. It’s supposed to be fun! And as you have fun, you are also increasing your skill level because of the work you’re putting into your piece.
The other thing to think about is quality, and a big part of the quality of your piece has to do with originality. When you are creating a piece of art, is it just a nice copy of someone else’s piece, or it is something that you put some real thought into? Is it an unoriginal re-creation, or is it an original idea that you are translating into a piece of artwork? Even if you are using a photo reference for your piece as I did for my first entry, you still need to put thought and conscious effort into it. Something as simple as changing the background of your piece can show your added thought.
Now, you can take that to the other extreme, overthink it, and end up not turning anything in. You have to find the balance between thinking about your piece and then letting it go and focusing on having fun with it.
Another aspect of quality is the presentation, which focuses on what you do with your finished product before you send it in. When I entered the Teen Talent Contest, I would always buy frames at Walmart, which were $10 to $20, and put my pieces in those. It doesn’t have to be professionally framed, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot. You just want crisp edges and clean lines so that it looks like you care about your piece. The more concern you show for your work, the more a judge will care about it. If your piece has food stains on the edges, is kind of crumpled, and was folded up and stuffed in an envelope, the judges will be able to tell that you don’t really care about it, and they won’t really care about it either.
When you are presenting your piece, you want to present a standard of excellence. If you were to play a piano piece for the contest on the stage of Armstrong Auditorium, you would not come in your hoodie, jeans and Converse. You would be in a suit or dress. Art is not that much different. A nice presentation is like putting your artwork in a suit.
So remember, even if you feel like you aren’t going to win, don’t let that prevent you from entering. If you don’t win, you’ve still worked on and improved your skills, and you’ve had fun producing and presenting a personal piece of art. If you do win, you’ll accomplish all the same things—and receive a cash prize!