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New Tech Sophomore's Artwork Wins Prestigious Awards


Artwork by Axel Hernandez

Axel Hernandez’s bedroom looks like an art studio. 

The Belton New Tech @Waskow sophomore, who has excelled in  art classes in Belton ISD since 6th grade, views art as a way to express his creativity and individuality.   

“The art classroom and my room are pretty much the same things,” he said. “I have all the supplies I can think of in my room.”

Hernandez learned this week that his piece, “My Grandmother,” won Best in Show at the 2020 District 31 Congressional Art Competition.

“While we couldn’t do our normal celebration and awards ceremony, I want every participant to know how proud I am of them,” Representative John Carter said in a press release. “I look forward to Axel’s incredible artwork representing our congressional district in the U.S. Capitol for the next year.”

Carter contacted Hernandez by FaceTime to tell him the good news.

“I stood at my desk with absolutely no words,” Hernandez said of the call. “All I could think of was how out of the 66 pieces of art, the judges chose my art to be showcased in the U.S. Capitol Building.” 

Art teacher Mark Graham wasn’t surprised to learn of Hernandez’s success. 

“I know he is ecstatic to win this competition, and it is well deserved,” he said.

In April, Hernandez’s piece “Rare” earned a top score at the Texas Art Education Association’s High School Visual Arts Scholastic Event state competition.

“This is our big annual art competition,” Graham said. “Axel received a four - the top score - which is a big deal. Only 5 percent of the over 31,000 students that entered statewide achieved this.”

Receiving these recognitions feels like his hard work has paid off, Hernandez said.

“At the state competition, I was competing against all of the most gifted artists in Texas which was awesome,” he said. “When (Mr. Graham) told me that I had placed at state, I was truly shocked and in disbelief.”

But earning recognition isn’t everything to Hernandez.

“Although winning multiple times in a couple of months has felt incredible, I want everyone to know that not everything is about medals, ribbons, and diplomas,” he said. “It’s about improving and recognizing how far you’ve come.”

During the school closure because of COVID-19, Hernandez has challenged himself to keep improving by coming up with new projects to work on each week. Currently he’s working on a portrait of Mother Teresa.

“The thing that makes Axel such a great student and successful artist is that he is willing to put in the time and hard work,” Graham said. “He responds well to criticism and is always trying to improve. He is competitive but also humble and kind.”

In addition to Graham, Hernandez has been influenced by South Belton Middle School art teachers Trudy Voss and Richa Butler.

“I would like to thank my art teachers for constantly pushing me to work harder and motivating me with their words and positive criticism, my parents for always keeping me busy with new projects, and lastly, my friends for their kind words which made me want to continue drawing,” Hernandez said. “Without the amazing people in my life, I would've never accomplished any of this.”