Sasebo high school senior’s drawing takes the gold in national competition

Halle-Marie Santiago
Halle-Marie Santiago

Sasebo high school senior’s drawing takes the gold in national competition

Stripes Japan

A senior at E.J. King High School is receiving national recognition for her impressive art skills.

Halle-Marie Santiago, 18, received a gold medal for her graphite drawing in the Scholastic Art and Writing Contest through the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.

Her drawing “Squish” features a black and white shaded rendering of an arm and a hand. Santiago was first awarded the regional Golden Key which then meant her work moved on to the national level of the competition. According to the awards’ site, this meant regional winners’ work was submitted to a jury of New York City art professionals selecting work for national recognition based on three criteria: originality, technical skill, and emergence of a personal vision or voice. The committee announced Santiago’s gold medal on March 17.

This award means Santiago is eligible to win scholarships through the organization and also have her work displayed in New York City.

Stripes Japan asked Santiago to share a little about her future plans for her art and how it feels to be receiving accolades for her drawing skills.

Q&A with Halle-Marie Santiago

Grade, age: Senior, 18 yrs.

Time in Japan: 7 years


How long have you been drawing?

I’ve been drawing off and on ever since I could hold a crayon, though I didn’t really start drawing seriously until 8th grade.

What type of art is your favorite?

For my own work, I lightly favor the style of dark art and tend towards realism, as with “Squish.” It’s impossible for me to choose one type because I appreciate all other art styles and subjects that are different from my own. But as long as it’s clear that the artist had fun with themselves, that’s my favorite type of art to see.

Is art something you want to pursue as a career?

There was a time that I aspired to be a cartoonist or even an architect, but I honestly can’t see myself in a serious art career no matter how cool I think it’d be.

At this point, I’m pursuing a career in STEM and Education while art is a passion I keep alive on the side.

What was the inspiration behind the art you submitted and were awarded for?

“Squish” is just one piece of a mini four-part flesh study that I did as a part of my AP Studio Art class. Alongside my other works in that particular portfolio, the inspiration for “Squish” came from my investigation into human vulnerability, exploring confidence, insecurity and self-struggle.

How did it feel to find out you won an award for your graphite drawing?

I was ecstatic when I opened the notification and actually jumped a little. It took a while to fully process that my work was recognized at the national level because I never thought it would be.

What are some tips you’d give younger students who want to start drawing, sketching, painting, etc.?

An artist’s most daunting task is finding your own voice, so my number one tip is to create work that’s meaningful and enjoyable to you. Seriously, have fun and draw what inspires you. If you’re just starting, you won’t always see improvement unless you’re consistent; and I know because I’ll go months without creating anything. But trust yourself and trust the process because that’s what art is. The months of work I put in before “Squish”— the ideation and my failed pieces— were just as—if not, more— gratifying than the short 10 or so hours I spent actually creating the finished product.

Has being a military child inspired you and your artwork? How?

Not really. I’d be lying if I said my experiences as a military brat didn’t contribute at least a little to my tumultuous inner life, but because the subject of my art often requires me to look inward, I don’t think my military background is unique to what I produce.


Artist statement:

Despite what people may believe, I think I’d lose some enjoyment if I pursue art as a profession, so drawing is truly just a hobby of mine but it’s one that I take seriously.

As an artist I take a lot of my inspiration from the results of my own self-reflection. I am enamored with capturing the raw beauty and ugliness in humanity and a lot of my work tends to reflect that aspect along with a few pieces of myself (literally). My style leans towards realism and surrealism because of the fact that I like to study body composition and details in real life. Graphite and similar dark mediums are my strong suit since I’m most comfortable working in monochrome. I work slowly, methodically, and for the most part in my head. Thus, one of my major goals is to transport the concepts from my mind onto the paper and be able to experiment with materials and technique.

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