Oct 31 2006

Talented Teens Take Off With Tech

A mix of imagination, skill and technology creates award-winning works.

Jane Soung

KYNDELL UPTON GOT A LATE START with art, but it hasn’t held back the 18-year-old Texan. Her piece “Flyaway” garnered top honors in CDW•G’s fourth annual Education Contest.

Upton has been interested in art since she was young, but the senior says, “I didn’t have a knack for it until my sophomore year,” when she decided to take an art class and try her hand at painting.


She continued taking art, and, during her junior year, the students started creating variations of their paintings in Adobe Photoshop. Though Upton had not been tech-savvy in the past, this opportunity allowed her to begin exploring and learning more about digital art.


CDW•G’s Education Contest, co-sponsored by Adobe Systems, encourages high school juniors and seniors to show how technology has enhanced their learning experience. As part of their entries, students submit original two-dimensional artwork and a 250-word essay about how technology has influenced their life and learning.

“The quality of submissions in this year’s CDW•G Education Contest was impressive and showed high comfort levels with technology as a tool to create art,” says Chris Rother, CDW•G vice president of education sales. “We hope the students and teachers who participated found the exercise challenging and personally gratifying. Our judges certainly enjoyed reviewing the materials.”

More than 450 entries were received, and seven judges scrutinized the submissions for content, creativity and artistic criteria. Ten places and one honorable mention were awarded. The top 10 winners received technology prize packages. In addition, all 11 artworks will appear in a future CDW•G calendar.

First Place:
Kyndell Upton

Upton, a senior at Allen High School in Allen, Texas, started creating her piece even before she heard about the contest from her art teacher, Susan Tadlock. Originally, the artwork was going to be a birthday present for a friend.

“Instead of my picture, I had her picture and a different song in the background,” Upton explains. “It had similar elements, like the flowers and [newspaper] articles, but not the birds or the song lyrics.” Upton continued to swap out photos, tweak and add other elements, and eventually decided to use a photo of herself that she had filtered in Adobe Photoshop instead of her friend’s photo.

Music is a big influence on Upton, and she and her classmates agree that a piece of music that gives them a good feeling is often reflected in their artwork. In this case, lyrics from the song “Fly Away” by the singer Poe worked their way into Upton’s winning art.

Second Place:
Matthew Belk

Matthew Belk has been using digital technology since sixth grade. So it’s no surprise that the senior at Chicago’s Senn High School is very comfortable with computers and will attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this fall to study computer science.

Belk, a self-proclaimed doodler from his elementary school days, now creates all his art digitally, working primarily with Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, as well as Macromedia Flash.

Artistic talent runs in Belk’s family, and the 18-year-old recognizes the strong visual influence of his older sister. “While Juana is a fantastic writer, she is also a great artist, and I always sought to mimic her,” Belk says.

Third Place:
Thomas Thorne

Sailing into third place with his piece “The Expanding Horizon” is Thomas Thorne, one of two juniors to win top 10 honors. Thorne, who pilots sailboats in Lake Travis near Austin, Texas, was inspired to create this idealistic work based on personal experiences.

He compiled the work from a few pieces he finished last summer, and it took him only three to four days to complete the final product. Though 17-year-old Thorne’s medium of choice is sketching with a No. 2 graphite pencil on lined paper, he spends several hours each day working on his college portfolio in a computer graphics class.

Dale Baker, a Westlake High School art teacher, entered Thorne’s work into the contest. Thorne credits Baker with bringing him to his current level of proficiency as a digital artist.

Fourth Place:
Tina Schurg

Ideas spring from all sources. Just ask Tina Schurg, who found inspiration from her cousin’s checker-patterned shoes and a book about chess called The Kings Are Already Here by Garret Freymann-Weyr.

Schurg, a senior at Beall High School in Frostburg, Md., has been intrigued with art, especially painting, for five years. About two years ago, she picked up digital art after joining the school’s Web page staff. Like a number of the other winners, Schurg plans to major in art and pursue a career as a graphic designer.

For Susan Baker, Beall’s art teacher for 20 years, the contest is perfect for students like Schurg who are considering art careers. “Win or not, it is an excellent experience for any of my students considering a graphic design career,” Baker says. “It gives them a feel for the field. They need to meet deadlines and create to a specific topic.”

Fifth Place:
Jessica Meads

After taking several drawing and painting classes, junior Jessica Meads decided to take her first computer art courses this year. She enrolled in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator classes that created artworks for the CDW•G Education Contest as class projects.

The 16-year-old student focused on illustrating a blend between traditional and technological learning by using elements such as a textbook and computer cables and circuitry to symbolize learning coming from all sources and directions. Then she superimposed a photo of her own eye to serve as the focal point. “When I think of looking at tomorrow, I think of seeing through each individual’s eyes,” Meads says.

Barb Kurilla, Meads’ computer art teacher at Harlem High School in Machesney Park, Ill., entered seven works in this year’s contest and had two students, Meads and Jake Ruef, place in the top 10. “Having two students win a national contest makes for a great year,” Kurilla says. “I am very proud of both of them.”

Jane Soung is a Skokie, Ill.-based freelance writer and editor specializing in education.

Additional Education Contest Winners

Following are the sixth through 10th place winners and the honorable mention in CDW•G’s fourth annual Education Contest:

Sixth Place: Katherine Harden, senior “The Nature of Technology” Sanilac Career Center, Peck, Mich.

Seventh Place: Jake Ruef, senior “The World at My Fingertips” Harlem High School, Machesney Park, Ill.

Eighth Place: Anjali DeMarco, senior “Self Portrait” Manheim Central High School, Manheim, Pa.

Ninth Place: Daquan Richards, senior “Running Imagination” Bellport High School, Brookhaven, N. Y.

10th Place: Renee Delosh, senior “Changing for the Better” Harborfields High School, Greenlawn, N. Y.

Honorable Mention: Travis Simpson, senior “Veins” Coahoma High School, Coahoma, Texas

To view the winning artwork and essays in CDW•G’s fourth annual Education Contest, visit CDWG.com/artcontest

The Importance of Technology in Education

As part of their submissions, CDW•G’s Education Contest entrants were asked to write a 250-word essay describing how technology has enhanced their learning experiences. Here are excerpts from the top-five winners’ essays.

1. In today’s world, a day without technology would not be much of a day at all. Without the technology I use today, not only would my world be limited, but my artwork would be limited as well. Different programs like Photoshop and Illustrator have expanded the way I think and how I can create art. I went from using popular mainstream art mediums like paints and Prismacolor [markers and colored pencils] to more technology-oriented art compositions that are just a click away.

Not only has [technology] changed the way I do art, it has challenged my whole career as a student. The realm of what we think is possible is limitless, thanks to technology.

—Kyndell Upton

2. For centuries, art has been influenced not by the artists, but by the technology the artists employ to produce the wonderful pieces. Art has advanced far from the days of cave paintings and rock carvings to oil paints that allow subtle shadows, giving artists the ability to suggest three-dimensional forms. Now, with the digital revolution, artists can render photorealistic images with the aid of computers.

I have never been skilled at drawing or painting; my ideas never seem to come out right. When I discovered Photoshop, it was fantastic. With the control it gave me over the colors and brushes, I could open my eyes to the artist I was inside. What I produced was far better than anything I could have done with a pen and paper.

—Matthew Belk

3. In our new and constantly expanding world, technology is becoming so intertwined with our existence that it is now nearly as essential to our lives as food or water. It is impossible not [to] have technology enhance everything we do, including our learning experiences. Day by day, technology grows exponentially; people 20 years ago would be dumbfounded by the things we have today.

My artistic relationship with technology began when I was about 8 years old, when my father bought one of the newest Apple computers available at that time. He installed Bryce 2, and I was awestruck by the visual symphonies that it made possible to create. I had been using it for years before I decided to move on to more flexible and powerful tools.

—Thomas Thorne

Technology is like the game of chess. It has all the pieces; all I have to do is use them. In education, technology provides all the materials to help me win. It enables me to win by providing knowledge. Technology enables me to go places that would have been impossible to reach a hundred years ago. In communication, it makes the sharing of ideas possible; technology allows me to access information everywhere.

With technology, any room in the school can be a classroom, and any classroom can be a door to the world.

Without technology, just like without the pieces in chess, it would be extremely difficult to win in the game of life. Education that is acquired through technology opens up so many moves and ways to win that I will never have to be limited in my choices again. —Tina Schurg

5. Technology is a big part of my learning experience. With all the different technological advances we have available at our school, I am able to learn more and faster than those without technology.

Computers are [used] for gathering any information you need. Televisions can show announcements throughout the school or videos to go along with what you are studying. Graphing calculators help [you] complete complex problems more efficiently and at a faster pace.

Our school was able to put together a program to teach students the basics of computer art. This is a huge opportunity for kids interested in design or [advertising]. It is a way for them to get started before going off to college.

—Jessica Meads