and Melina Aguirre-Robinson
For the first time in the history of Uvalde High School, students have produced works of art that have advanced to state-level competition. The artwork of three Uvalde High School students will head to the state Visual Arts Scholastic Event, better known as VASE, in San Marcos on April 25. The students took their pieces to the first level VASE competition in San Antonio Feb. 15. VASE is considered the UIL competition for art.
The three medalists whose work advanced to state are freshman Candice Moreno, sophomore Mia Treviño and senior Genevive Vasquez.
The VASE process is an intricate one. The students must go through verification of authenticity for their work. Then they are assigned a room where they face a judge in a personal interview. This is after the high school art teachers have determined that the piece meets the high standards for this competition.
UHS art instructor Beverly Kroening is excited about the historical outcome of this year’s event. “The quality of the artwork this year was on a very high level. The work, overall, was the best I have seen.
“The students have excellent drawing skills and they know how to paint. However, there was anxiousness this year that I have not seen before. All of us, students and teachers alike, had to mentor one another, and it worked!
“As we got closer to the date of entry, the students gained confidence in their abilities and in their work. I can say that the three who are going to state work on art all the time – they are ‘home’ artists. They do not need to be reminded to draw. These three artists have excellent skills and they know how to use them to make excellent art. They deserved to place as highly as they did. Overall, most of our students placed in the highest rating code area and received medals. However, only ten percent of each Regional District are selected to go to state.”
Vasquez is a veteran of VASE competition as a four-year art student at UHS. But she still finds the demands of this rigid competition challenging. She actually entered two pieces of her artwork. One, entitled “Sprout,” earned a perfect score in the first round of judging, but didn’t advance out of the upper level judging process. Her other piece, titled “Aged Beauty,” didn’t receive a perfect score in the first round, but received enough points to make it to the next level. It was at that level that judges found the piece so compelling and chose to send it to state competition.
“The focal point of my work is my grandmother,” Vasquez said. “She used to be a model, and before she passed, she used to talk about the time when she felt she was beautiful. I looked through our old family photos and found one I used as my reference photo for my piece.”
It took her about three-and-a-half months to complete her drawing. “The day of the competition, I started seeing every little flaw in the work.” But apparently the judges saw it differently.
Vasquez’s love of art goes back to as long as she can remember. She remembers using crayolas and coloring books and making up stories to go with the pictures. “When I was in the seventh grade, I drew some things, and my dad liked a few, so he got me a sketch book. That’s when my art really took off!”
Her favorite medium is acrylic and graphite. “Actually, I used to do tattooing, too. When I was around 12 years old, I used my dad as my canvas – he has tattoos all over him as samples of my work.”
Treviño entered a piece titled, “Overwhelmed.” It’s based on a selfie of Treviño, embellished with flowers and flies. “I chose that title because I have been feeling overwhelmed for the past year.” The flies are depicted very graphically in her artwork – one coming out of her mouth and others entwined in her hair and the crown of flowers encircling her face.
“I did this piece the night before competition,” Treviño said. “But I was so tired when I finished, I just looked at it and decided it wasn’t good enough. But a friend pushed me to take it to the competition.” Mia’s judge in the authentication process questioned her depiction of flies in her piece, so he asked her to draw one in his presence. “He saw that I could do it – that I hadn’t just found one on the internet and drew it from there, so he was satisfied.”
Treviño’s first interest in art was also at home. Her father is a tattoo artist. “So I’ve been around art all my life. My mom also does some art. And I always made things for my dad – cards, little posters—when I was around first grade. Then I’ve had teachers who complimented me and that encouraged me to pursue my art.”
Treviño has worked with acrylic, water color and pen and ink. But her favorite medium is colored pencils. She is enrolled in an art class this year and also took art in middle school. “Here (at the high school) we get the basics. I wanted to learn more, so I’m also taking a college art class right now.”
Moreno also got her start in art using crayolas. “I was in the third grade when my sense of creativity came to me. I have a huge family and I finally realized that I needed to find a way to put myself out there,” Moreno said.
She has explored colored pencils and graphite, but hasn’t really developed a favorite art medium yet. “I don’t have any real preference. I’m trying to stay open-minded. I’m really in the early stages.”
Moreno finds that her mood controls the work she does as an artist. “If I’m happy, I produce something happy. If I’m feeling sad, that’s what I create. It all depends on how I feel at the moment.” But her winning, state-bound work isn’t either of those.
“That piece is determination. I had that (required reference) photo for a while and I wanted to create something with it.” The graphite drawing is based on a photo Moreno took last summer” of her niece and sister.
“I really liked the mood of that scene, so I focused on the details around my niece.” She titled the piece “Life in Detail.” Moreno is not taking an art class this year, but art instructor Kroening had heard about Moreno’s talent and persuaded her to enter a piece into the competition.
All three girls had great experiences with their one-on-one interviews with their assigned VASE judges.
“My judge was pretty easy,” Treviño said. “He just asked the basics. And it turned out that we had a common interest in comic book illustrations. He goes to Comic-Con conventions. So he made me feel pretty comfortable.”
Moreno echoed that sentiment. “He took my piece and hung it up and took a step back so he could really look at it. Then he started asking about my personal involvement with my work. When that happens, you kind of know that they like your work.”
Vasquez also enjoyed a good interview. “My experience with my judge was really calming and engaging. After all, the judges are artists as well.”