Best of show: Local artist and her student earn top honors in contest

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Sandy Hall earned Best of Show for “The Guardian” in a Brown County art show.

GREENFIELD – A local artist and her student earned top honors at the Friends of T.C. Steele Member Art Show, and the two are grateful for each other’s support and inspiration.

Sandy Hall earned Best of Show for her fluid acrylic painting of a dog guarding backpacks. Sarah Stonerock, 14, won first place in the youth category for her animation-inspired watercolor “Personal Space.”

The show, at the Brown County Art Gallery, gave cash prizes for winners and a $150 prize for Stonerock’s art program at Greenfield-Central High School. It was the first time the show featured a youth category; Stonerock is a freshman.

Hall, who taught art to Greenfield junior high students for 32 years, is now retired with a downtown studio and gives private lessons. A lifelong learner who developed the fluid acrylic painting technique from fellow artist Sandy Maudlin at a conference, Hall said she was pleased by the honor and also grateful to see her student earn first place.

“We’re all lifelong learners. We can always learn something new,” Hall said. “I can encourage others to develop that artist within. It’s sweet.”

Her painting, “The Guardian,” started off as a photograph from a trip to France in 2019 with other artists. She created the piece in the spring of 2020 during the pandemic shutdown.

“I’ve gotten some good reactions by it; I think people are fascinated by the technique and the process,” she said, adding that the paint is poured in layers. “It’s an unusual look, and I think it draws people in.”

Hall is involved in the Hancock County Arts Society and several other local and state groups. There were 71 member entries in the T.C. Steele show, and Hall said she was surprised and humbled by the “Best” honor. She had encouraged Stonerock to enter the show and was grateful to see her “little sponge” of a student earn the top honor in the youth category.

Stonerock said she became serious about pursuing her art passion in the sixth grade and has been doodling ever since. “Personal Space” was one of two pieces of art she entered in the contest; her other was a realistic painting of a bird, and she was pleasantly surprised the illustration watercolor earned first.

The piece was sketched first then outlined and colored in watercolor.

“​It started as a doodle in a notebook, inspired by (the game) Animal Crossing,” she said in an email. “ You can see a lot of Animal Crossing items in there if you know what you’re looking for. I really like complex illustrations, so I started to draw it out and added details here and there until I was happy with it.”

Stonerock had started private lessons with Hall prior to the pandemic, had stopped for a while due to COVID, but then picked up private lessons again in November.

“Sandy is so knowledgeable about various techniques, and I like the way she uses materials creatively,” Stonerock said. “And she’s good at ‘show, don’t tell.’”