Abstract portrait awarded people’s choice in virtual High School Juried Art Show

Ethan Waldner received the People's Choice Award in the ninth annual Mann Art Gallery High School Juried Art Show for “Geometric Portrait.” (Mann Art Gallery/Submitted)

The Mann Art Gallery has announced Ethan Waldner’s “Geometric Portrait” as the People’s Choice Award winner for this year’s High School Juried Art Show.

Waldner graduated from Carlton Comprehensive Public High School this year and is a longtime student at Christina Thoen’s art school.

The coloured pencil piece, said Waldner, was born out of boredom when schools closed in mid-March as a COVID-19 preventative measure.

“I drew it and I was like ‘I’m going to try something new’ I guess, and then decided to start with a couple of colours and just see how it was going to go,” he said. His other artworks, mainly portraits, are more realistic.

Waldner liked the way it looked, so he kept adding colour.

The harsh lines between blue, yellow, green, pink and purple on the man’s face contrast with the neutral tones in the rest of the piece.

“It was kind of shocking at first,” he said about winning the People’s Choice Award, which is sponsored by the Kyla Artist Group.

“It inspired me to keep creating art.”

Waldner will continue as an artist on the side while pursuing business and then potentially law. He credits Thoen for kickstarting his art career back when he was nine years old.

“She just always kept pushing me to accept your pieces, I guess. They’re all not going to be perfect and so she just kept pushing me, try to work on different things. She also had little things at the beginning of class, like exercises,” he said.

“She taught us a whole bunch of different techniques and things to better your art.”

Waldner had a second piece displayed in the High School Juried Art Show, a portrait of musician B.B. King.

Mann Art Gallery Acting Educator Danielle Castle curated the ninth annual show, which was forced to take a virtual format due to the pandemic. Her final selection featured 76 artworks from 64 different students.

“Your portrait is so abstract and fun and colourful to look at,” said Castle to Waldner in the video announcement.

“You definitely deserved this.”

Castle said putting the show together has taught her about the importance of connection during an unfamiliar time.

After its temporary closure due to COVID-19, the Mann Art Gallery is reopening on July 14. Artists and staff are currently installing an exhibition by Cecile Miller, Rich Miller and Lynn Salo about migration and movement.