Mike Dutton remembers the first time he got real encouragement from an art teacher. He was in third grade, and he had made a tiger sculpture.
"It was Mr. Briggs," Mr. Dutton, now 35, said, recalling the event as if it were yesterday. "I made this tiger, and he liked it so much that he lent it to some contest, and it ended up at an exhibition hall in [South Korea]. I got this letter from the U.S. ambassador to South Korea about how much he liked the piece. He said I should be proud of this great opportunity to have my work displayed.
Mr. Dutton is now an artist for Google, the giant search engine company. He creates doodles, those illustrations and animations on Google's search page that celebrate cultural and historic events. He says he has created about 170 of them.
Because Google says it values the importance of encouraging young artists, the company last week launched its latest national Doodle4Google contest for students 18 and younger.
According to Google, "Kids can send in submissions from Jan. 15 to March 22. We'll select the best 50 doodles -- one from each U.S. state -- with the help of our celebrity judges and announce the state winners on May 2."
The search giant adds: "A public vote (at www.google.com/doodle4google) will help us pick the national finalists and winner, and we'll reveal who these are at an awards ceremony in New York on May 22. The winner's doodle will appear on Google.com on May 23."
Mr. Dutton says this contest can encourage young artists. He says both his mom and dad were very supportive of him. And then, of course, there was Mr. Briggs, the teacher who took his sculpted tiger and helped give him a professional future in art.
Today, his work is seen by millions. And if you win the Doodle4Google contest, yours will be, too.