Helen Kim never gravitated toward drawing people.
Instead, the 13-year-old eighth-grader at Sky Vista Middle School sketched animals when she took up a pencil, a paintbrush or a piece of charcoal. No matter the medium, Kim said creating images of four-legged subjects was much more rewarding than trying to find a human subject.
"Drawing people isn't really my thing," Kim said. "Horses are one of my favorite animals. I've always loved them."
Her preference appealed to contest organizers at one of Colorado's most respected and hallowed institutions. A drawing rendered in charcoal of a horse and a foal stood out to officials at the National Western Stockshow.
"It's a dark piece. It takes place at night, so there are a lot of shadows," Kim said. "I covered the entire drawing in shadows."
Judges for the Stock Show's 2015 Youth Art Contest selected Kim's piece one of the winning entries. The piece will be on display on the third floor of the Expo Hall at the Stock Show until the event wraps up on Jan. 25.
Kim's drawing stood out in a crowded field. She competed with more than 350 Colorado student artists from 1st through 12th grade for the honor, and her victory is all the more impressive considering she chose the challenging medium of charcoal as her format.
But these points of pride don't seem as important to Kim as the challenge of the artistic process. Kim spoke about the drawing with humility, speaking of the value of growing as an illustrator and trying to learn as much as possible from the experience.
"This contest seemed like more of a good learning experience for me. I entered more for fun," Kim said. "I didn't expect anything out of it."
Kim is much more focused on her development as an artist than any single contest. She takes art lessons outside of her academic schedule at Sky Vista and works in multiple mediums, including paint, pen and charcoal. The prospect of showing her artwork is still a novelty for Kim, who's always approached her craft as a private enterprise.
"I'm a little scared. I've never shown my art to anyone but my art teacher and my mom," she said, adding that both encouraged her to enter her piece for the Stock Show contest. "This gives me a little more confidence. My teacher wants me to enter new contests, but I think I'll keep practicing."