A young artist shines at St. Edward the Confessor

A wavy pencil forms the letter “S.”

Three boxes of children’s watercolors unite to create a cheery “H.”

An artist’s palette mimics the letter “C.”

When Molly Millet planned her design scheme for this year’s Catholic Schools Week banner contest, she didn’t simply throw in all the typical symbols of a well-rounded Catholic education – the books, the musical notes, the math equations – she took pains to invent an entire font.

Paintbrushes, rulers, pencils, crayons, erasers and other tools commonly used by artists spell out her banner’s wording, a clever “alphabet’ that helped the St. Edward the Confessor sixth grader earn first place in the annual banner contest sponsored by the Office of Catholic Schools.

Prayerful focus

“I just thought of it,” said the modest 11-year-old, who will have the thrill of seeing her banner suspended from the ceiling throughout the 2016 Catholic Schools Week Arts and Music Festival at Lakeside Shopping Center Jan. 26-30.

To remind mall shoppers of how Catholic education is centered on prayer, Molly drew a rosary around symbols for music, dance, education and art. The rosary, whose rust-colored Hail Mary decades are punctuated with pink “Our Father” beads, ends in a simple cross.

Outside this heart-shaped “lasso” are figures representing “all the different kids” who go to Catholic schools, Molly explained.

“It’s a simple design but yet very thought out and balanced in terms of her plan,” said Carolee Miller, Molly’s St. Edward art teacher since kindergarten. “Molly is dynamite! She’s quiet and unassuming. Drawing is her thing. You throw out an idea and she just runs with it.”

In addition to her weekly art classes at St. Edward, Molly is a member of her school’s art club which meets twice a month. Miller asked her students to enter original art into one of two contests this school year: the banner contest and the Louisiana Flag Design for Youth competition.

Acrylic: a forgiving medium

Molly and her St. Edward classmates currently are learning about one-point perspective in art, with a goal of creating their own cityscapes.

“Sometimes if I see something I’ll draw it, or sometimes I’ll just use my imagination,” said Molly, who  favors acrylic paint “because if you mess up you can paint over it.”

Molly, whose other school pursuits include chorale, soccer, volleyball and the library club, is also a member of the National Junior Art Honor Society, a National Art Education Association endeavor that recognizes exemplary middle school and junior high school artists.

The by-invitation-only honor society has had a chapter at St. Edward the Confessor for three years. Its members are tapped as greeters at open house, painting backdrops for school events such as the fall talent show and spring chorale concert, and helping Miller curate the school-wide art exhibit held at the end of April.
Lately, these gifted young artists have been helping Miller mount and label artwork destined for public showing at the upcoming Lakeside festival, an exhibit that will showcase St. Edward students’ undertakings in Pointillism, landscapes, printing and portraiture.

When the thousands of Lakeside shoppers file under Molly’s banner during Catholic Schools Week, they probably will not appreciate the many afterschool and recess hours it took the young artist to turn her winning design – submitted to judges on an 8 ½-by-11-inch sheet of paper – into a 5-by-9 1/2-foot-long banner.

Typically, artists will use a projector to cast a larger scale version of their design onto the banner cloth and then use this as a guide to pencil in the outlines of their design.

Molly shunned the projector, opting instead to sketch the enlarged version of her design scheme freehand. After completing this rough outline, Molly and two art club friends filled in the banner images with acrylic paint, which – in typical Molly fashion – went beyond the typical primary-color palette. Her banner’s unusual hues include lime green, deep lavender and Pepto Bismol pink.

“Molly was very particular about every color that we mixed,” said Miller, now in her 40th year as St. Edward’s art teacher. “Every color had to be specific, and she was very determined to have it turn out exactly as she wished it to be.”

But even perfectionists can relax. Molly said art class offers just such an outlet during her busy school week.

“I don’t have to worry about tests or anything,” she said. “I can just draw.”

Beth Donze can be reached at bdonze@clarionherald.org.

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