South Allegheny Middle/High School art teacher Jayne Sweet said one of the things that makes artist Stephanie Taylor, 17, special is that she does not rest on her laurels.
"She wants to improve and not be stagnant," Ms. Sweet said. "I don't know how many students keep trying to improve," she said of the Glassport teen, who was named winner of the 14th Congressional District Art Competition sponsored by U.S Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills.
This is the fourth consecutive year that Stephanie, daughter of Mark and Sandy Taylor, has received one of the top five awards. She has also won two first-place awards -- an unprecedented distinction in the history of the contest.
The competition garnered 58 works from 12 schools in the 14th District.
Stephanie's 24-inch by 18-inch acrylic painting "My Artistic Discovery: Mona and Me" will represent the district in the national exhibit of high school students' artwork that will be displayed in the U.S. Capitol for a year. Stephanie is also part of the U.S. Congressional Record of April 18, 2013, in remarks by Mr. Doyle in recognizing her artistry.
"It's a real tribute to her skill and vision that her work was chosen as the winner of this year's competition," he commented.
Stephanie also submitted a second work, which received an honorable mention.
In the fall, the National Honor Society student will begin studies at the University of Pittsburgh Oakland campus for studio art, with possibly a dual major of business or biology.
Stephanie began drawing with crayons about age 3. In her early grades, it was something the shy child could do without calling attention to herself.
"I could sit down in my chair and color my actions," she said.
By fifth grade, she was using pencils and drawing animals. In eighth grade, she began painting.
For this year's winning entry, she painted a 4-year-old girl painting a child's version of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.
"A lot of thought and sketches and preparation and colors went into it," Mrs. Sweet said.
As a reference for the child, Stephanie referred to a photograph of herself at that age.
"It made me smile, and in many ways I still feel like this little girl." she said.
For Stephanie, the distance she has traveled between her first-place showing in the ninth grade for her first painting and her recent first-place award, can be measured by her personal growth, as well as the heightened artistry that comes with painting nearly every day.
"Winning for the first time was unexpected and greatly appreciated, and was an epiphany as I realized I had this talent," she said. "The second time I am more mature, so I can better appreciate everything."
Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: email@example.com.