When Clare Hernandez set about to create her award-winning piece of art, she wasn’t thinking of entering it into a contest.
“I didn’t do it for this competition. I was actually working on it for my brother. I was doing it for a graduation present for him, but then I just decided I was going to enter it into the contest,” said Hernandez, who just won the 2017 Congressional Art Competition sponsored by U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis.
The winning art was selected by a panel of judges with the Pasco Fine Arts Council, according to a news release from Bilirakis’ office. There were more than 30 entries from high school students across Florida’s 12th congressional district.
Hernandez entered a pencil drawing of an unknown Confederate soldier. It was based on a photograph of an 1860s tin-type that the young woman from Dade City found through an online search.
The portrait combines two of her interests.
“I’m really interested in history; that’s what I want to study in college, particularly U.S. History, particularly war history — like the (U.S.) Civil War, the Revolutionary War,” Hernandez said.
And, she loves art, too — enjoying it since she was around 5 years old.
Hernandez said it took about 15 hours to complete the portrait of the soldier.
“I tend to be a perfectionist. Even though I feel like something is finished, I’ll come back the next day and I’ll be like, ‘No.’ And, I’ll work on it some more,” she said.
Getting the shading on the Civil War soldier’s coat was particularly challenging, she said.
“I love to do faces and portraits, but I have a harder time with fabrics — in the folds and things like that,” Hernandez said.
The portrait is “pretty much an exact drawing of the photograph. It’s a little awkward in some places because tin-types often are awkward in the way the people in the photos are positioned,” Hernandez said.
“When you look at my drawing, it doesn’t seem to be completely realistic — his form. But, that’s really because that’s what that looks like. It looks awkward,” she said.
She was taught at home through her early years by her mother, Cheryl, who also happens to be an artist. Beginning in her middle school years, Hernandez has increasingly studied more independently, and in recent years she has taken some dual enrollment classes at Pasco-Hernando State College.
Next, she plans to attend the University of Dallas, in Texas.
Hernandez said she feels ready and is excited about what lies ahead.
She chose the University of Dallas after falling in love with the college during several visits to see her sister, who recently graduated from there.
“It’s a good size. I love the students, and it’s got a really good history program,” Hernandez said. Plus, “It’s a Catholic school. That’s important to me, too.”
Hernandez plans to pursue a degree in history, with a possible minor in art. She also will be part of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (R.O.T.C.) program, which provides a four-year scholarship, and she’ll be entering the U.S. Army when she finishes college.
Because her portrait was the winning entry, it will be displayed for a year along with outstanding work by other students around the nation in the U.S. Capitol, often referred to as the Capitol Building.
There will be an awards ceremony, but she won’t be able to attend because she’ll be on a mission trip to Ecuador.
However, she will receive two airline tickets, and she’s hoping she and her mom can make the trip together to view the portrait on display.
Having her work on exhibit in such an important building is an honor, Hernandez said.
And, for those who were wondering — she still plans to give the portrait to her brother.
Indeed, she already has. He just hasn’t seen it yet.
Published June 6, 2017