Their studios are the waters of the Caribbean, the streets of Edgartown, a quiet Vineyard pond.
But even more often, the regional high school students who have won state recognition for their artistic achievements say they find inspiration at school, in the comfortable classrooms where creative juices flow.
The high school art department nominated more than 70 works for consideration in the Boston Globe Scholastic Art contest, and 22 received awards, including several gold keys, the highest honor.
“We are very proud of the students and what they have done,” said Chris Baer, art department chairman.
The students are part of a long tradition of artistic achievement at the high school, he said. “We are well supported by the community, and by the school,” Mr. Baer said.
The students who have prospered in that environment include David DaSilva, a senior at the high school whose primary medium is ceramics. He won honorable mention this year for his eight-piece ceramics portfolio.
He’s found respite in the art department studio, which he describes as relaxed and cool. “You can do whatever,” he said Monday over the phone. “It’s really open in there. You can do whatever project you want to do.”
In that space, he’s created a tall vase with a glazed neck that’s striped in fall tones, and a bowl standing on three feet, among others.
“I think it’s just really interesting being able to transform a ball of clay into whatever you want,” he said.
Jack Yuen, a junior, is a fixture in the drawing and painting room, where he works in graphite and acrylic paint to hip hop and reggae music. A lifelong artist, Jack was awarded the gold key this year for his graphite portrait of Jean-Michel Basquiat, the graffiti artist. It took him five hours to produce the drawing, notable for its attention to the texture of Mr. Basquiat’s drawn-up dreadlocks, the threads in his jacket and a provocative glint in his eye.
“Recently I have been getting into more urban style paintings,” Jack said of his work. “It’s more spontaneous style art, more political messages.”
In her gold key-winning photograph, Money Can Build A House But It Can’t Build A Home, tenth grader Savannah Trudelle memorializes a derelict home on Mullen Way in Edgartown she saw while touring her neighborhood. She applied the rule of thirds, a perspective theory taught in art class, to position the house to the side, with an ivy-covered tree in the foreground.
“It was different and unique,” she said Monday. “The sun was just kind of right on the tree.”
Jessica Sonia, recognized with a gold key for her photograph entitled, Lifeless, says photography keeps her busy.
“It is a hobby that I can do in my own time . . . something to express myself,” she said.
While Anna Reinthaler began borrowing her mother’s camera at age 10, her first academic course in the subject was this year, when she came to the Vineyard on exchange from Austria, where photography is not taught in school.
Her photograph, taken near her home, captures a droplet of water suspended in the air and its reflection in a pond below. She calls it One Second of Individualism.
Taymon Brown, a senior who calls the creation of ceramics “peaceful,” submitted a portfolio of eight pieces which earned a silver key. It includes a speckled red lamp base, shiny with glaze, as well as a lighter-toned tea pot, and a orange bowl with an etching pattern.
“I wasn’t expecting an award, but I am happy to get one,” he said. While he praised the art department’s support, he is concerned about the future of the ceramics at the high school.
Many accomplished throwers are graduating this spring, he said, and he’s worried there aren’t younger students to replace them.
He said he’s committed to teaching some of the younger kids the trade, just like the seniors taught him when he was a freshman.
“I basically learned from them,” he said. “I have to give it back.”
Each year, the school sends between five and 10 students to art school. The scholastic art contest is often a place for scouts to identify promising artists who they might like to select for scholarships.
The national medalists will be announced March 17. The work of the gold key recipients will be displayed in the statehouse in Boston from March 7 to March 31.