Janaya Lewis was surprised by the success that she achieved when she entered the local patriotic art contest sponsored by the Coon Rapids VFW Ladies Auxiliary for high school students.
Not only did Lewis’ pencil drawing win at the local level, but she also took first place in district competition, then earned a $200 check for placing second in the state VFW Ladies Auxiliary patriotic arts contest.
“I was pretty happy and surprised I got that far,” Lewis said.
Lewis graduated from Coon Rapids High School in June – she was a member of the National Honor Society – and plans to attend Mount Marty College, a private Catholic liberal arts college that is located in Yankton, S.D., this fall.
But she will not be majoring in art, for which she took classes in high school, which she views as a hobby, according to Lewis.
Instead, she plans to major in anesthesiology for a career as an anesthetist; her mother is nurse and she wanted to follow her into the medical field, Lewis said.
This was not the first time that Lewis had entered the Coon Rapids VFW Ladies Auxiliary’s patriotic art contest, but the first occasion was in 10th grade “when I did not know how to do it right,” so she decided to try again, she said.
There was no specific theme that she had to follow in creating her art work, just something that reflected patriotism, Lewis said.
Her drawing was an original piece of art, but Lewis drew as her inspiration a book that she had read titled “The Things They Carried,” which is a collection of related stories by Tim O’Brien about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam War.
In the narrative that Lewis wrote to accompany her entry in the patriotic art contest, she stated, “In my art, I was trying to convey the grief felt by many soldiers when they lose a fellow comrade and friend.
“The way in which I did it was by really focusing on the anguish in the man’s face.
“By having a deep frown and a knotted brow, I felt I was able to achieve this.
“To add to it, I also focused on the ways his veins began to pop out as he tried to hide his sorrow from others, but slowly he begins to become overtaken by it.
“I hope I was able to show the sadness this soldier feels about the death of men he knew and that when people view it, they can feel it, too.
“I especially hope that the veterans are able to relate to the work and that it stirs up emotions within them as well.
“With this, I would like to say thanks to all our soldiers and all those who came before for fighting for our country and making our nation safe. They will not be forgotten.”
On the dog tag that the soldier is wearing, Lewis drew the words, “To The Fallen.”
Lewis estimated it took her between 10 and 14 hours to complete her art work at home.
The final version is for the most part how she originally conceived it, but with a few tweaks, she said.
According to Mary Kaye Kathy, Coon Rapids VFW Auxiliary immediate past president, the Minnesota patriotic art contest winner placed eighth in the nation.
Sponsored by the Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and originally known as the Young American Creative Patriotic Art Contest, this annual scholarship contest gives talented art students in grades nine through 12 an opportunity to compete for up to $10,000 for college.
“The competition requires the fusion of artistic talent with patriotic vision,” the Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars website states.
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]