HVHS senior receives artist of the month honor at Northeast State Technical College

By Julie Fann
star staff

A Happy Valley High School senior was honored as October artist of the month at Northeast State Technical Community College. Grace Wagner, 18, achieved the honor after her art teacher, Ann Whitson, recommended her work to the director of the Elizabethton campus.
   "I usually do about an average of three students for Northeast State during the school year, and she's an advanced art student. She's had art before. I generally just look at the quality of the work that they're doing and choose, basically, my best artist," Whitson said.
   Keith Young, director of Northeast State's Elizabethton campus, said all area high schools are invited to participate. Young lets art teachers choose the most talented artists for their school, and then Northeast State honors them for one month during the academic year.
   "I know Unaka, EHS, and Hampton have all participated. We open it up to all of the high schools in our service area," Young said.
   Whitson has chosen two other students in her art classes, and they will be honored at Northeast State in January and February 2004. Those who are honored have their work displayed at the college with a picture of themselves and school information.
   Grace Wagner has been drawing continuously since the age of three, she said. "I drew all the time when I was bored ... I like fairies and mystical things, and I like drawing figures too."
   Wagner said it is more difficult for her to draw portraits of males than females, and said she also enjoys drawing females more. "I guess because girls look different, and guys are like, just usually the basic figure. I don't like drawing guys," she said.
   Wagner's art consists of portraits and landscapes created in pastels, chalk, charcoal, pencil and oil. Though she likes drawing and painting, Wagner said she isn't very interested in studying art history.
   "I was never into art history and stuff. I just like doing my own thing. I don't like studying the past," she said.
   Wagner plans to attend ETSU, assuming she can get a scholarship or grant. "I want to go into photography and computer graphics; I want to open up a tattoo parlor and a photography studio. I don't want to do the tattooing, but I want to design them and run the business," she said. "I plan on taking a business course and a graphics course, as well as photography."
   Fascinated by the 1960s, Grace said she wishes she had lived during that time as a hippie. Some of her art mimics the time period, including a painting she described of a mountain, a waterfall, and a Grateful Dead bear. "I also painted one that just looks different. It's glittery, with objects of different shapes and sizes in it."
   A mural painted on a wall at the Princeton Arts Center in Johnson City also belongs to Grace, who said that art she is forced to paint is art she hates. "I don't like it when I have to do something," she said. "I didn't like doing that mural. I didn't like the paint we used. It was runny and then faded in the sunlight."
   Wagner tried to register for an introductory art class at ETSU, but university staff told her that her work was too advanced for several art classes offered there.
   During her interview, Grace was working on a black ink drawing on white paper of a wine glass half full of water with a flower floating in it. Flowers also surround the base of the glass. "I started with the glass first, making sure I got the lips of it to look right, then work on shading and the rest," she said.
   Powder paint is a medium students in high school art classes are sometimes required to use. The painter adds water to the paint to obtain the right consistency.
   "Powder paint keeps better, but it's really hard to use. If you don't use the right amount of water, it gets runny. I really don't like painting with it," she said.