When Avery McFarland, a 10-year-old Helen M. Knight Elementary School student, set out to depict a drawing of a girl reading under a tree, she wanted to create something totally unique. Her piece, “Under the Tree,” explodes with color and different materials—she used paint, beads, felt, oil pastels, markers, and paper—to portray the idea of a story coming to life. As the girl reads quietly under the tree, the tree itself turns into a book, inviting the viewer to experience the story along with the character depicted. The work is expertly structured, drawing the eye in extravagant and exciting ways. 

“You’re trying to find all of the pieces,” Avery said. “The whole concept is just showing you my creativity … I thought if I put all of that together, I could make something out of it.” 

Avery said she enjoys making art because it’s something she can do when she’s in a funk—she can just sit down and do something creative. She also enjoys reading and learning, she said, something her art coach at HMK, Bruce Hucko, has noticed about her too. Avery enjoys an artistic challenge, he said. 

“Several times this year, I’ve gotten emails from Avery saying, ‘Art Coach, I’m kinda short on ideas—can you throw me something?’” Hucko said. “So I’ll throw four or five her way, and she’ll come up with number six or seven that’s better than any of my ideas … [Avery] has so many stories to tell.” 

Avery’s artwork is on display at Gallery Moab throughout the month of February as part of the HMK Elementary art exhibit, called the “HMK Student Art Invitational.” This year marks the fifth year that Hucko has put on an art show—for this show, Hucko highlighted artwork by students who showed enthusiasm for art, he said. The exhibit shows off the work of 10 student artists. 

“Sometimes these students will even bring work from home to school to show me,” Hucko said. “That’s exactly what I want to reinforce and reward … these kids have gone the extra mile.” 

[Alison Harford/Moab Sun News]

Lily Villapando Salas, an 11-year-old student, often creates art at home with her acrylic and oil painting sets. At the exhibit, she has a landscape painting on display, “Camp Winter,” and a painting depicting butterflies, called “Butterfly Nausea.” Both works show off her depth of skill and mastery of materials. 

“Art is just fun,” she said, “and nice to do in your free time.” 

She enjoys landscapes, she said, because “you can’t really mess up natural shapes.” The butterfly painting, on the other hand, helped her stretch her creativity. 

The exhibit displays artwork from students of all ages. Hucko said he wanted to highlight a piece by Pearl Cameron, a seven-year-old student, because of her dedication—she never has to be reminded to stay focused on her artwork while in class. Her watercolor painting, called “My Dragon,” depicts a yellow, blue, green, and purple dragon in flight against a vibrant pink and purple background. Pearl said she recently watched (and deeply enjoyed) the 2021 Disney movie “Raya and the Last Dragon,” which inspired her to draw a dragon.

“Sometimes drawing brings me into different worlds,” she said. Hucko called the piece “marvelous.”

[Alison Harford/Moab Sun News]

Aspen Dalton, an 11 year-old-student, painted her piece in an entirely new style inspired by Picasso. To create “Picasso’s Arch,” she started by drawing Delicate Arch, then she broke up all the pieces to create a painting that looks like a mosaic. It took a while—she spent an hour after class finishing it. 

“This has knocked my socks off ever since she finished it,” Hucko said. “I just think it’s gorgeous.” 

Painting the piece was enjoyable because Aspen didn’t have to focus on being exact, she said: she would paint one color at a time, not worrying about the final product looking like Delicate Arch. Art is very freeing for her, she said, because she can draw whatever she wants. “Picasso’s Arch” shows off her knowledge of contrast: she used different shades of orange and blue to reinforce the mismatched puzzle look, and she outlined pieces of the arch in black to better draw the eye. 

“It’s an honor to present the work of these students,” the exhibit description reads. “This show is a celebration of the creative spirit in all children—in all people—including you! May this work inspire you to seek your own creative outlet. If you’re ever in doubt about how to find a way out of the rigors of the day, follow a child into creative play—theirs is the way.” 

The exhibit will be on display throughout the month of February.