One of the winning pieces of art in the elementary school category, this painting was done by Benjamin M., 5, a pre-kindergarten student at Elizabeth Meyer School in Skokie.

One of the winning pieces of art in the elementary school category, this painting was done by Benjamin M., 5, a pre-kindergarten student at Elizabeth Meyer School in Skokie.

These Chicago-area kids won the Sun-Times’ latest student art contest

We asked students for their artistic takes on the theme ‘Spring ahead’ — and had artists Molly Z., Cheri Charlton, Rahmaan Statik and POSE review their work.

SHARE These Chicago-area kids won the Sun-Times’ latest student art contest
SHARE These Chicago-area kids won the Sun-Times’ latest student art contest
We asked kids in Chicago and the suburbs to “spring ahead” and create something artistic with a forward-looking spring theme for the Chicago Sun-Times’ latest student art contest, part of what we call The Imagination Project.

More than 120 entries poured in. We selected 10 winners each from elementary school, middle school and high school.

These are the winning images, with critiques from four professional artists: Molly Z., Cheri Charlton, Rahmaan Statik and POSE.

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL WINNERS

Benjamin M., 5 (art at top)

Pre-kindergarten, Elizabeth Meyer School, Skokie

POSE: “I love when a painting full of speed and force can also bring you to quiet moments of serenity.The color washes, juxtaposition and more minimal areas of the painting help create these moments.”

Rahmaan Statik: “Dynamic use of color and energy.”

This artwork is by Andrea R., 7, a first-grader at Center School.

This artwork is by Andrea R., 7, a first-grader at Center School.

Andrea R., 7

First grade, Center School, Orland Park

POSE: “The energetic gesture and vibrant color really capture the expression of nature at work and in full bloom.”

Rahmaan Statik: “Beautiful flower and nature depiction.”

This artwork is by Lily S., 10, a fourth-grader at Field School.

This artwork is by Lily S., 10, a fourth-grader at Field School.

Lily S., 10

Fourth grade, Field School, Oak Park

POSE: “With the texture, gesture and canvas, this really feels like a painting.I enjoy how it fluctuates between representation and abstraction, familiar and unfamiliar.”

Rahmaan Statik: “Good use of abstraction, form and color.”

This artwork is by Noah G., 6, a kindergartener at Grove Avenue Elementary School.

This artwork is by Noah G., 6, a kindergartener at Grove Avenue Elementary School.

Noah G., 6

Kindergarten, Grove Avenue Elementary School, Barrington

POSE: “The luscious, colorful blends, washes and streaks built up onto each other, seem to jump towards the viewer with three-dimensionality.”

Molly Z.: “The background reminds me of a Chicago winter sky, dark and watery. But the flower seems like it is bursting forth with its powerful blue color and strong, thick brushstrokes. What a bold expression of spring!”

This artwork is by Grace Z., 7, a second-grader at Covenant Classical School.

This artwork is by Grace Z., 7, a second-grader at Covenant Classical School.

Grace Z., 7

Second grade, Covenant Classical School, Naperville

POSE: “I really enjoy the bold, confident outline defining everything juxtaposedwith the bright washes of color.”

Rahmaan Statik: “Great colors and form.”

This artwork is by Zachariah W., 5, a pre-K student at Sinai Preschool.

This artwork is by Zachariah W., 5, a pre-K student at Sinai Preschool.

Zachariah W., 5

Pre-kindergarten, Sinai Preschool, Loop

POSE: “I love how intense and built-up the center of the painting is. It’s very captivating.”

Molly Z.: “The color palette truly captures the excitement of springtime. I love how the artist mixed and moved around colors and experimented with the thickness of the paint. This piece has such an expression of growth and fun!”

This artwork is by Johanna W., 7, a first-grader at Ogden International School.

This artwork is by Johanna W., 7, a first-grader at Ogden International School.

Johanna W., 7

First grade, Ogden International School, Loop

POSE: “One of the most awe-inspiring and also technically challenging views of Chicago.”

Rahmaan Statik: “Great use of watercolor and pastel.”

This artwork is by Colette F., 9, a third-grader at Glencoe West School.

This artwork is by Colette F., 9, a third-grader at Glencoe West School.

Colette F., 9

Third grade, Glencoe West School, Glencoe

POSE: “Art is at its best when it becomes a vehicle to express our deeper emotions.I love that you were not afraid to express such vivid emotion in your work.”

Rahmaan Statik: “Interesting perspective of the human experience during the pandemic.”

This artwork is by Charlie H., 9, a third-grader at Edison Regional Gifted Center.

This artwork is by Charlie H., 9, a third-grader at Edison Regional Gifted Center.

Charlie H., 9

Third grade, Edison Regional Gifted Center, Northwest Side

POSE: “I am a sucker for a bold and colorful portrait. But what really brings me into the piece further is the whimsical, cartoon-like depiction of the figure being one with nature.”

Molly Z.: “Such a playful and hopeful spring spirit! The background blue and marking style is full of energy and movement. And the way the green is used in the clouds, hair, trees and beard is so unique and fun. This artist has a great imagination.”

This artwork is by Violet S., 11, a fifth-grader at Southwest Elementary School.

This artwork is by Violet S., 11, a fifth-grader at Southwest Elementary School.

Violet S., 11

Fifth grade, Southwest Elementary School, Evergreen Park

POSE: “Great job embodying the joyful transition Chicagoans feel as they exit winter and spring ahead.Using a cheerful portrait to portray this metamorphosis reminds us of how those days actually feel.”

Molly Z.: “What a clever way to think about the concept of spring and winter being captured within a portrait. I love how the artist chose and rendered traditional symbols and colors to represent the change of seasons. Great use of color and detail.”

MIDDLE SCHOOL WINNERS

This artwork is by Leah J., 13, a seventh-grader at Orland Park Junior High School.

This artwork is by Leah J., 13, a seventh-grader at Orland Park Junior High School.

Leah J., 13

Seventh grade, Orland Park Junior High School, Orland Park

POSE: “I’m drawn to how self-assured and direct this piece is while the full interpretation of its meaning stays open for the viewer to decide.”

Rahmaan Statik: “Epic concept and narrative of life, nature and time.”

This artwork is by Maya G., 14, an eighth-grader at St. Robert Bellarmine School.

This artwork is by Maya G., 14, an eighth-grader at St. Robert Bellarmine School.

Maya G., 14

Eighth grade, St. Robert Bellarmine School, Northwest Side

POSE: “Such fun playful and expressive line work as well as great concept of outdoor/indoor.”

Rahmaan Statik: “Epic surreal narrative of nature and time.”

This artwork is by Patrick W., 12, a sixth-grader at Mount Greenwood Elementary School.

This artwork is by Patrick W., 12, a sixth-grader at Mount Greenwood Elementary School.

Patrick W., 12

Sixth grade, Mount Greenwood Elementary School, Southwest Side

POSE: “The composition is very striking.I enjoy how the elements almost become a motif for spring.”

Rahmaan Statik: “Beautiful depiction of the red bird. Good perspective of nature.”

This artwork is by Lauren H., 12, a sixth-grader at Jerling Junior High School.

This artwork is by Lauren H., 12, a sixth-grader at Jerling Junior High School.

Lauren H., 12

Sixth grade, Jerling Junior High School, Orland Park

POSE: “Each brushstroke gives a different, tangible quality and characteristic.”

Rahmaan Statik: “Good composition, color and lighting.”

This artwork is by Pearlin S., 11, a sixth-grader at Ray Elementary School.

This artwork is by Pearlin S., 11, a sixth-grader at Ray Elementary School.

Pearlin S., 11

Sixth grade, Ray Elementary School, South Side

POSE: “Great color and detail, I really enjoy the addition of you and your dog peacefully enjoying the rebirth of nature’s lifecycle.”

Rahmaan Statik: “Great use of color and composition.”

This artwork is by Lily A., 12, a sixth-grader at Rogers Park Montessori School.

This artwork is by Lily A., 12, a sixth-grader at Rogers Park Montessori School.

Lily A., 12

Sixth grade, Rogers Park Montessori School, North Side

POSE: “Stylistically, this is a very satisfying piece. But what holds my attention further is the thought that the figure (although seemingly confined) is actually growing and ascending.”

Molly Z.: “The roots and leaves wrapped around the figure remind me of the blooming of a beautiful flower. Great job capturing a ‘lightness’ in the character’s expression, the background cloud formations and the treatment of her hair and skirt. I love how this piece has an uplifting, floating energy.”

This artwork is by Kaya S., 12, a seventh-grader at Taft Academic Center.

This artwork is by Kaya S., 12, a seventh-grader at Taft Academic Center.

Kaya S., 12

Seventh grade, Taft Academic Center, Northwest Side

POSE: “I enjoy the timeless nature of this piece.It hints at a direct scene as well as gently opening the door to deeper, dreamlike symbolism.”

Rahmaan Statik: “Beautiful composition and concept. Nice perspective and use of nature.”

This artwork is by Gloria B., 13, a seventh-grader at Coonley Elementary School.

This artwork is by Gloria B., 13, a seventh-grader at Coonley Elementary School.

Gloria B., 13

Seventh grade, Coonley Elementary School, North Side

POSE: “I love the confident simplicity of the moment you created, paired with terrific richness of color and skill.”

Rahmaan Statik: “Very majestic depiction of nature and wildlife.”

This artwork is by Samantha M., 13, a seventh-grader at Orland Park Junior High School.

This artwork is by Samantha M., 13, a seventh-grader at Orland Park Junior High School.

Samantha M., 13

Seventh grade, Orland Park Junior High School, Orland Park

POSE: “Wonderful technique and movement. It evokes a dreamlike fantasy setting very well.”

Rahmaan Statik: “Great work. Cool style, great use of light color and composition.”

This artwork is by Favor O., 13, a seventh-grader at Orland Park Junior High School.

This artwork is by Favor O., 13, a seventh-grader at Orland Park Junior High School.

Favor O., 13

Seventh grade, Orland Park Junior High School, Orland Park

POSE: “It’s great to see you pushing your work with digital processes.It gives the work a now-ness that reflects our times as well as being lush and visually striking.”

Rahmaan Statik: “Nice landscape, good lighting.”

HIGH SCHOOL WINNERS

This artwork is by Mehak C., 15, a sophomore at Waubonsie Valley High School.

This artwork is by Mehak C., 15, a sophomore at Waubonsie Valley High School.

Mehak C., 15

10th grade, Waubonsie Valley High School, Aurora

Cheri Charlton: “I love the combination of the figure with fantasy nature elements. The placement of the flowers and butterfly makes for an interesting composition. Great variety of texture, pattern and attention to detail.”

Molly Z.: “A powerful portrait. There is a strong symbolic energy in the nature elements — the green leaves, the floral elements in the hair and the two butterflies. The shading in the green leaves and the details in the butterflies are very strong. The background looks less resolved than the rest and could benefit with more detail, maybe additional patterning, nature elements or shading.”

This artwork is by Melissa G., 16, a sophomore at Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz School.

This artwork is by Melissa G., 16, a sophomore at Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz School.

Melissa G., 16

10th grade, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz School, North Side

Cheri Charlton: “There is some interesting storytelling happening in this piece. I see the phone as a way to show the contrast of pre-pandemic and post-life. It seems cheerful and optimistic through the storytelling and the bright colors used for the details on the phone. I also like all the attention the artist gave to the figures’ expressions.”

Molly Z.: “The composition captures a special moment, and I can see experimentation in the different renderings of the various pairs of eyes. What a playful drawing connecting friendship, Chicago and the devices we use to connect with time and meaning. Potentially, this piece could benefit with additional color or a final rendering in ink and color.”

This artwork is by Lizzie L., 16, a junior at Lane Tech High School.

This artwork is by Lizzie L., 16, a junior at Lane Tech High School.

Lizzie L., 16

11th grade, Lane Tech High School, North Side

Cheri Charlton: “This showcases some technical expertise in digital drawing and painting. Visually dynamic and technically strong. The color palette is cheerful and calming. The placement of the flowers around the figure creates a frame that brings the viewers’ attention to the subject of the piece.”

Molly Z.: “What a stunning illustration! The loose, gestural line work is enhanced by the soft color palette and highlights on her face and treatment of the cloud forms. The figure is very well-rendered, and it’s great how you framed her with the sky and florals. Maybe the garden forms could use some additional highlights, shading or details.”

This artwork is by Mehek I., 15, a freshman at Lane Tech High School.

This artwork is by Mehek I., 15, a freshman at Lane Tech High School.

Mehek I., 15

Ninth grade, Lane Tech High School, North Side

Cheri Charlton: “The combination of the drippy, more expressive materials with the highly technical drawing style of the figure is working successfully to create an interesting and surreal piece. I like the choice to substitute the flowers for the eyes and hair. It creates a lovely but less literal metaphor for spring and Mother Nature.”

Molly Z.: “This work has an elegant, mystic, symbolic energy. Nice job! The covering of the eyes with florals causes me to think there is a secret or hidden story in this portrait. The blooming floral elements lifting towards the sky create a wonderful contrast with the cascading gold and red, linear paint drips.”

This artwork is by Caeley D., 17, a junior at Lincoln-Way West High School.

This artwork is by Caeley D., 17, a junior at Lincoln-Way West High School.

Caeley D., 17

11th grade, Lincoln-Way West High School, New Lenox

Cheri Charlton: “This piece is showcasing an excellent ability in material use and technical art-making. The composition is successful in creating an almost abstracted presentation of something that is painstakingly rendered realistically, making it an interesting and awe-inspiring piece. The transparency of the egg yolk moving in space is truly outstanding!”

Molly Z.: “What an exercise in observation and paying such close attention to an object one sees often and capturing all the special nuances and intricate details.You have a keen eye for seeing what many people often ignore. Well done. It’s not easy to capture liquid forms in a painting, and you have captured a very energetic, unique moment.”

This artwork is by Hafsah K., 15, a freshman at Barrington High School.

This artwork is by Hafsah K., 15, a freshman at Barrington High School.

Hafsah K., 15

Ninth grade, Barrington High School, Barrington

Cheri Charlton: “My favorite part of this piece is the overall mood created by the artist through a combination of color texture and composition. It’s truly dreamlike, makes me think of stories of fairies wandering through enchanted forests. The range of textures and material application makes this an exceptionally successful piece of art.”

Molly Z.: “What a stunning painting. The variations and use of blues really create a dream-like visual experience. The brushstrokes, textures and topical splatters are well-executed. The artist has done a wonderful job of using paint to evoke a sense of ethereal transcendence.”

This artwork is by Eliza S., 14, a freshman at Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School.

This artwork is by Eliza S., 14, a freshman at Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School.

Eliza S., 14

Ninth grade, Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School, Southwest Side

Cheri Charlton: “This piece is a lot of fun. Through its use of bright colors and lively patterns, it illustrates a landscape but in a super-unique way. The use of line to create geometric shapes that are then filled with different patterns both natural and playful abstracts and flattens the piece while still creating a sense of space and depth.”

Molly Z.: “What a unique landscape! This has a lot of good energy. I love the exploration and variation of each of the patterns and colors in sectioned-off shapes. If you enjoy creating art with patterns, you could look into different folk art traditions and learn about the symbolic meanings of various patterns used in different cultures.”

This artwork is by Sunny N., 16, a junior at Maine East High School.

This artwork is by Sunny N., 16, a junior at Maine East High School.

Sunny N., 16

11th grade, Maine East High School, Park Ridge

Cheri Charlton: “The limited color palette of this piece does a great job of creating a soothing and otherworldly mood. The addition of the texture in the foreground acts as a great compositional choice to pull the viewer in and around the artwork.”

Molly Z.: “An enchanting monochromatic fantasy nature scene! The circular forms interact well with the triangular forms. And the spiraling, transparent forms help create that enchanting feeling. You could consider adding a complementary color as an accent, maybe in the form of a small bird, star, cloud or flower to add an element of focus to the landscape.”

This artwork is by Asher C., 16, a sophomore at Maine West High School.

This artwork is by Asher C., 16, a sophomore at Maine West High School.

Asher C., 16

10th grade, Maine West High School, Des Plaines

Cheri Charlton: “This piece is an excellent example of artistic skill both technically and conceptually. I love all the attention to detail you see in the blades of grass, flowers and leaves. The storytelling is quite strong, too. We see a metaphor for the passage of time/seasons/life being created. It’s all heightened by the beautiful, atmospheric details in the sky through the way the clouds are drawn and the way light is used on the far right side of the piece.”

Molly Z.: “What an interesting study of the seasons, the passage of time and the beauty and uniqueness of nature! I like how the artist is exploring various techniques to render the details, creating both a realistic and mystic quality. This is such an amazing start at portraying how light interacts on the smallest of forms in nature.”

This artwork is by Linnea H., 16, a sophomore at East Aurora High School.

This artwork is by Linnea H., 16, a sophomore at East Aurora High School.

Linnea H., 16

10th grade, East Aurora High School, Aurora

Molly Z.: “What a clever concept! I love it when art makes us question how we see. Is this a mirror that becomes a window we look through to see spring? Or is this a mirror reflecting the spring in the holder’s soul? The choice of images is unique, but paying a little more attention to the foreground, mid- and background might create an even stronger visual composition.”

Cheri Charlton: “The photo-montage quality is a lot of fun and looks well-edited and composed. I like the hand holding the mirror as a framing device. It makes me think of ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ The space has a great sense of depth. The colors are cheerful and make me think of those longing thoughtsmany of us have at the end of winter, anticipating the warmer days of spring.”

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