FARMINGTON — After sifting through 381 art submissions, a panel of judges chose three San Juan County high school students to receive New Mexico Scholastic Arts Awards.
José Mares, a Farmington High School senior, received a gold key, silver key and honorable mention for his 3D designs; Noël Begay, a Kirtland Central High School senior, received an honorable mention for her art portfolio; and Lemuel Begay, a Shiprock High School student, also received honorable mention for his drawing "Rewilding."
Mares creates his art using Blender, an open-source software used for 3D design and animation. Because it is open-source, its interface is different and more challenging than a lot of the other 3D animation software.
"Eventually, when you get used to it, it's one of the benefits of it," Mares said.
Mares won a gold key for a scene he created of a zeppelin flying over houses.
He first created the scene in Blender. Then he rendered -- or made images -- of each individual object, which he placed into Adobe Photoshop as layers. To create the light from street lamps, Mares made a series of cones in Blender and decreased the opacity in Photoshop.
Mares started working with 3D design in sixth grade and picked it up again when he was a freshman at Piedra Vista High School and took a drafting class using AutoCAD.
In a 3D animation classes his sophomore year, he was introduced to Cinema 4D and Blender. At first, he preferred Cinema 4D and didn't like Blender. When summer came, he wanted to continue creating 3D designs, but he didn't have access to Cinema 4D. He downloaded Blender onto his computer and, by the end of the summer, his preference in software had changed.
In order to learn Blender, Mares had to watch YouTube tutorials.
During the second semester of his junior year, Mares transferred to Farmington High School. He continues to take classes in 3D animation there.
"It's pretty exciting when I finish it and I go over here to print it out," Mares said as he took an image of "Zeppelin" from the printer in Farmington High's 3D animation classroom.
Mares submitted 11 pieces of art to the contest the day after it closed for submissions.
"I just kind of thought why not? What do I have to lose?" he said.
Because he had been late and because of the quality of the other art submitted, Mares said he wasn't expecting to win anything. He didn't even know if he would be considered. Hundreds of students from around New Mexico had also submitted art.
"I kind of thought I wasn't good enough to place or get any recognition," he said.
Earlier this month, Mares opened the mailbox and found a letter inside telling him he had won awards for three of his pieces.
Two of his pieces will be displayed at Warehouse 508 in Albuquerque in March, and he will attend an awards ceremony at the end of the display.
After he graduates, Mares plans to continue doing 3D design. He has applied for Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in Lakewood, Colo.
Noël Begay started sketching when she was in elementary school. She said many members of her large family are also artists.
When she reached her sophomore year of high school, Begay decided to try painting with tempera.
Upon seeing Begay's work, her teacher, Shirley Pelot, encouraged her to enter the competition.
"She's really motivated for me to get into art school," Begay said.
Begay has already applied for the Chicago Institute of Art and the Art Institute of San Francisco. She is in the process of applying to Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo.
Following her teacher's prompting, Begay entered an eight-piece art portfolio into the competition.
Three weeks ago, she received a letter in the mail from the Scholastic Arts Awards informing her she was one of 78 students who received honorable mention awards.
She said she was surprised, partially because she had forgotten she had applied.
The art she submitted included collages and paintings. While she still sketches and uses various other mediums to create art, she said she prefers painting.
"I love the feeling of the paint on the paper," Begay said. "It's just so smooth."
Begay drew "Rewindling" based on a lesson his art teacher, Géraldine de Haugoubart, gave about ecology and the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park.
Begay, who has never been to Yellowstone, spent a week working on the drawing, which features various animals around a river in Yellowstone with mountains in the background. He said the hardest part was creating the mountains.
"I never did a landscape like that before," he said.
He said he entered the competition as a way of trying something new.
"I've never really entered my artwork in competitions before," he said.
Begay started drawing as a child after watching his brothers draw.
He has received acceptance letters from various universities, including Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash. He said he is hoping to attend Baylor University, where he plans to study either graphic arts or construction and engineering.
He said he enjoys art because of the way it exercises his mind and because of the idea behind art.
"You can draw and create something that's amazing," he said.