Portrait of a Young Painter
Teen artist Savannah McGill while still in high school had already had her first major exhibition.
After winning state awards in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards contest, three of Savannah’s oil paintings were included in an exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum this year. One of her paintings, “It’s Outdated,” then went on to receive a national award in the contest.
Savannah is a senior at Sheboygan Falls High School.
The Scholastic competition is one of the best known and most prestigious contests for middle and high school student artists and writers in the country. The contest has been held since 1923.
“I just felt incredible,” Savannah said. “I didn’t expect anything to come out of it. It was an incredibly validating experience.”
“It’s Outdated,” a portrait of a child’s tea party and “Priority,” a picture of a girl trapped in a dark space, both received Gold Keys -- the top award -- at the state level of the Scholastic awards. Another painting received a Silver Key. “It’s Outdated” received a Silver Medal in the national contest and was one of three paintings from Wisconsin to receive a national Scholastic award this year.
Savannah’s art teacher, Joshua Loppnow, was not surprised by her success.
“She’s extremely diligent, one of the most motivated students I’ve ever had,” Loppnow said.
He praised “It’s Outdated” for its exceptional execution and the thoughtfulness that went into the work.
“It’s just very elegant and very meticulous and it touches pretty much everyone who sees it,” he said.
Savannah used her little sister as a model for the painting. Her goal was to illustrate the importance of creative play for children.
“The root of my creativity was 100% playing with my toys,” she said, adding that she worries that children today are not as exposed to free play.. “I wanted to make a painting about how we can be creative and how it’s being taken away from children.”
She has been creating art for as long as she can remember. She became serious about learning techniques in seventh grade and took lessons from her father. She has experimented with watercolor, sculpture and all sorts of media but says oil painting is what she enjoys the most.
Before she starts painting, she spends hours plotting the work, creating an initial sketch then scaling it to the correct proportions, determining where the shadows will fall and what shapes to use. She estimates that she put 120 hours into “It’s Outdated.”
In addition to her art, Savannah is active in forensics and choir. High School principal Kevin Krutzik called her “bright and articulate.”
“I am extremely proud that she is a student at Sheboygan Falls High School and am impressed with her abilities,” he said. “Savannah deserves all the accolades and awards that she has received. “
Savannah has not decided what she will do after she graduates this spring. She wants to go on to college but plans to spend some time carefully considering her options. She hopes to eventually settle on a career that involves art.
Loppnow is confident she will succeed. She is one of the very few students he has ever encouraged to consider a career as a painter..
“I think art is something that will be part of her life always,” he said.