There’s nothing quite like a deadline — noon Wednesday — to motivate Lisa Fine’s art students at Billings Central Catholic High School.
Twenty-two of Fine’s talented painters participated in the 24-Hour Art Challenge at the school and made possible by, among other things, a cadre of parents who supplied pizza by night and pancakes the next morning.
Fueled by near-continuous encouragement from their teacher, the students completed paintings that will be sold during a gala at Yellowstone Art Museum Feb. 9. A video explaining the artwork's creative process will accompany each piece. On Feb. 2, Clark Marten Photography will display the paintings during ArtWalk.
Over the summer of 2018, students will use the proceeds from last year’s and this year’s sales to see for themselves an artist’s paradise: the Greek islands.
Parents picking up their tired but giddy artists Wednesday morning marveled at Fine’s event, the second consecutive year she’s held the challenge over Christmas break.
“They got to bond by staying awake together. It’s a great platform amid all the craziness” of the holidays, said Vicki Song, whose son, Carter, completed a striking portrait of the Star Wars golden boy himself, C-3PO. Her son “would never have done this piece otherwise,” she said, adding that Wednesday morning afforded her the chance to “see everybody’s work and celebrate their gifts.”
Sarah Pankratz toiled into Tuesday night to get melted and grated crayon and sand just right to illustrate the poem “Footprints in the Sand.”
“I was just going to blow dry the candles, but (the dryer) blew crayon dust everywhere,” she said with a laugh. She solved the problem by holding a space heater over the crayons for about an hour. “I’m tired,” she allowed, “but I’m very proud of this piece.”
Annie Byorth combined her love of hiking and of Montana to paint a deep purple and blue mountain image. Her deadline was tighter than the one faced by the other artists: she’d confused the date of the challenge and arrived just three hours before the noon deadline. But by mid-morning Wednesday, she was on track to complete her work.
“I’m not sure I want to be an artist,” she said during a brief pause. “I just go with the flow.”
With a senior year that’s been in flux so far, Ashley Vralsted chose for the basis of her painting this verse from the Book of Proverbs: “She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future.” Vralsted painted a girl’s silhouette reaching toward a dragonfly, which she said represents strength and perseverance.
She’s that girl, she said, stretching out for the next stage of her life beginning next fall at Montana State University.
Fine, the students’ eighth-year art teacher, deemed this year’s art challenge as successful as the inaugural event held over Christmas break in 2016.
“We try to get students to come out of their shell by staying overnight and bonding while they experience art,” she said.
Students are always free to create the art they choose, she said. The art they produced for the upcoming ArtWalk and gala was created more with a buyer in mind.
“I asked them to imagine who they are painting for, and what story they wanted to tell,” she explained. “This work is totally outside themselves, and that makes it marketable.”
“These stories are remarkable, and that brings another dimension to their work,” she added. “They’ve created pieces that are meaningful — not just something pretty.”