Junior Jason Li submitted 10 pieces that he has compiled since freshman year to the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Five of his pieces received Gold Keys in the California Central Coast Art Region and are being considered for national recognition. National medalists will be announced on March 13.

Q: How did you hear about the competition?

A: I have heard about it since middle school because my friends in high school applied to it.

Q: Were you surprised by the pieces that got nominated?

A: I submitted my portfolio, which had some pieces focused on a theme, but the pieces they selected weren’t necessarily all from the same theme. I submitted 10, and five got nominated (three in the Drawing and Illustration category, one in Painting and one in Mixed Media).

 They were my technical drawings — not my most-thought-of drawings. I wasn’t expecting them (to win). Some of the ones I thought would get admitted didn’t. It was kind of the opposite.

Q: What was the theme?

A: They are all on animal protection and pollution. This first one is animal cruelty and how humans slaughter a lot of rare animals; there’s anger expressed. One is air and water pollution, and the animals have to flee. One is plastic in the ocean. I used bottles to make the octopus. The last one is the California fires, a consequence of humanity.

I took magazines and ripped them up and taped them on at first. Then I used acrylic to render the shapes and color.

My newest piece is on deforestation. It’s an owl looking back at his home that’s been cut down.

Q: Where did the inspiration for the theme come from?

A: I watched this video on animal cruelty, and I’d adopted a puppy right before watching it, and I just felt really guilty about what we are doing to Earth in general. So I wanted to do a concentration on it.

I want to show people that this is what we are doing to the world to make them realize that we are damaging more than we expect.

Q: What was the process for the drawing  “Tell Me Why?

A: My dad went to India with his friends a few years ago, and he took a picture of this little kid sitting with trash around everywhere. At first, I was doing a portrait just for fun, and when I was done with the face and the body structure, I thought I could interpret this into a modern-issue-themed drawing. I added the broken-down car and the burned-down buildings in the back to reflect the horrors of war and the damage it does to humanity.

It’s all charcoal, and it took about 20 hours.

Q: Are you looking at any other competitions?

A: Yes, the Congressional Art Competition is coming up later this spring. If you win, your piece gets featured in Washington, D.C. It’s by district, so last year when I got third, my piece and the second place piece were featured in Sacramento, in the Congressman’s office.

—By Jackson Crawford

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