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Phoenix High graduate wins congressional art contest

News that she had won a congressional art contest came as a big surprise to recent Phoenix High School graduate Tess Lewis.

"I was really shocked because I was pulled out in the middle of class. I thought I was in trouble," she said. "Then my art teacher read me the email that I had won."

Lewis said she submitted the portrait for the contest, then largely forgot about it as she went through the flurry of activity that comes with being a graduating senior.

Her haunting, detailed portrait titled "Petrichor" was the overall winner for Oregon's Second Congressional District in the 2015 Congressional Art Competition. Her work will be displayed along with the art of other winners in a national student art exhibit in Washington, D.C.

"I want to congratulate Tess on this impressive accomplishment," Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., stated in a news release. "The artwork she submitted is a testament to her talent, and I look forward to seeing it featured in the U.S. Capitol. Her work will be displayed among the best artistic talent from students throughout the nation."

Lewis said she spent a whole school quarter on the challenging piece, which was created with white charcoal on black paper.

"It's the reverse of using black charcoal on white paper. You use white charcoal to do all the highlights. Everything is opposite," Lewis said. "It was my first time doing white charcoal. I asked for advice from my peers and art teacher. I've never done a drawing that took so long."

Lewis said she plans to join the workforce rather than deciding right away whether she wants to go to college. She has taken art classes throughout high school and also participated in the Rogue Gallery & Art Center's Artist Teen Mentorship Program, but doesn't yet know if she wants to pursue a career in art.

She is also interested in writing and video editing.

The Congressional Art Competition is a nationwide program for students to showcase their artistic abilities and to highlight the importance of art education. Since its start in 1982, more than 650,000 high school students from across the country have participated, according to Walden's staff members.

Winning artwork from the Congressional Art Competition will be displayed at www.house.gov/content/educate/art_competition/.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at valdous@mailtribune.com or 541-776-4486.

Phoenix High School graduate Tess Lewis won the Congressional Art Competition for Oregon's Second Congressional District with her white charcoal on black paper portrait titled 'Petrichor.'
Tess Lewis