Rutherford Art Classes

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Story of Abe

This. Is. Amazing.

We just found out that Abe is 1 of 8 students invited to New York City to receive a National Gold Metal for his Portfolio in Art. This is after a year of dedicated work and watching Abe chase a dream. We had no idea this was even possible and now we are going to Carnegie Hall to watch Abe accept an award from the biggest art competition in the United States.

To help people understand what we went through to get to this point, I am writing the story of Abe. This is how we came to help Abe compete in a competition, win the highest honor, and accomplish a dream.


A year ago, in February of 2015, Abe won a Gold Key award with Best in Region for Printmaking at the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. This was monumental at the time and we were all excited for his success. When I went to pick up the artwork, I talked to the administrator who helped set up the show. She was quick to tell me how impressive the print was and how rare it was to see a print in that style. At this point I had a light bulb go off in my head.

What if.

This idea would carry through an entire year and now, to our shock, New York.

The Octopus print that won in 2015. Abe's second ever linocut. To understand what a linocut is, see this link:

Understanding Scholastics

A year ago, after Scholastics 2015, Naar and I called a meeting with Abe and his mother to discuss the possibility of creating a whole portfolio for the competition in 2016. Since 2015 was our first Scholastic Awards, we did not know what to expect as far as the caliber of work and what each award meant. First of all, there are multiple regions in each state and our region is the Southeastern Michigan Region. In this region there are up to 6,000 submissions. To sum it up, there are three general awards: Honorable Mentions, Silver Keys, and Gold Keys. The Gold Key is the highest honor for a single artwork and is sent on to the Nationals to compete with all the other gold key winners in the US. However, above the Gold Key awards, there is the more difficult Portfolio competition. Over 300 students in Southeastern Michigan submitted portfolios this year and only 7 are chosen for the Regional "Best in Show". A portfolio consists of 8 works of art that are intentionally created with a similar meaning.

Carving Begins

So Abe started working. Before the end of the year, Abe had carved out the two pinned birds. This success motivated him to continue and over the summer, Abe continued to carve out three other prints before the beginning of the new school year.

On a quick side note. A good portfolio has thought and continuity through the work. Abe's Portfolio: called "Cabinet of Curiosities" was developed over time with much purpose and intention. I have attached the link to our other blog post with all the pictures from the finished portfolio:

Abe's Artist Statement:

I am inspired by my childhood experiences, natural phenomena, my love of the natural world, and the emotions incited from readings and observations of the way that human nature affects the dynamic between the animal kingdom and mankind. Through my linoleum relief prints, I try to suggest the fragility of life and the uncertainty of the future survival of earth’s biodiversity in the wake of humanity’s interaction with the natural world.
        My work is characterized by hidden meanings, original compositions, analytical detail and  use of negative space in order to create a ghostly feeling of weightlessness around my prints. Additionally, I juxtapose man-made elements with animals in ways that feel unnatural in an attempt to point out irony or beg questions about the assumed dominance of humanity over the natural world. My work speaks to the issues I see in the world around me but also makes a comment about myself and the high school experience.

Close up of "Pinned"

 Inking the "plate" (lino)
 Carefully printing on the press!


 Over the course of the school year, Abe continued to carve and we spent time at Eastern Michigan, using the large press to print his linocuts. To print a perfect print is actually harder than it may seem and I could talk about the nuances of printing forever. To sum it up- it's not as easy as it looks! You have to have the right pressure, ink consistency, carved out edges and press etiquette to get the perfect print. Also, unlike woodblock, the lino slowly disintegrates over time and you can only get so many quality prints from one carving. On top of that, the paper costs up to $6 a sheet and once we get a good print- we stop. We have had good luck with Abe's prints, and even the tiniest details have successfully printed using our technique.

December rolled around and we were quickly approaching the Scholastic Deadline. With 6 prints done and 2 to go, Abe had to rush to finish his final prints. The chicken heads and the fish were his last two linocuts and he managed it like a champ (Abe even had to skip school to spend 3 days in a row carving so we would have time to print and submit to the competition).

Lino stamps after being inked up. 

Close up of the carved fish head lino. 


The prints were carved, the ink was dry and Mrs. Naar was able to photograph each piece at a high resolution and quality. It's amazing to look back and see how many hours we put into this outside school. Mrs. Naar spent time after school carefully photographing and editing while I drove with Abe to Eastern to spend hours printing. 

Submitting Abe's work was one of the most exciting parts of my year. I had to drive all our submissions to Detroit after school (thank you, Naar for constantly watching the puppy). Once the submissions were in, all we had to do was wait. Waiting didn't come easily! On the day we found out about the artworks that got in, the email about Best in Show did not come until about 20 minutes after the initial email naming 6 of his works Gold Key winners. Abe, Naar and I were biting our fingernails and stressing out for 20 minutes until we got the email congratulating Abe on his Best in Show portfolio. Whew!!

Moving around his prints on the floor in the hallway, 
Abe's Studio class came out to give their input.

Getting Ready

So behind the scenes, Abe's father had been making wooden frames for Abe's prints. The frames were purposely clean wood, and were designed so the prints would sit held up by foam core to show off the deckled edge of the paper. We had Olivia's help to set up all these frames, meticulously glueing down each print.

Olivia and Abe matting and framing.

It was worth the time and effort because seeing these prints all together for the first time in frames was so exciting! We all went to drop off Abe's artwork at CCS in February 2016!

Southeastern Regional Award Ceremony

There is a wonderful show in Detroit for the local Scholastic winners, hosted by CCS. The award ceremony is held at the the DIA and the artwork is hung over three floors at CCS. Most of the artwork is placed tightly packed together, showing off a variety of talent and skill. The only artwork hung alone is the seven Best of Show portfolios on the first floor.

This is my favorite picture because this is what it looked like from outside CCS.

So, this was a big deal. We thought for sure we had reached the highest point and didn't even know about New York- it was just a wayward dream. After the show was over, I went to pick up the artwork and we lamented the end of our journey. This was a year in the making and it was suddenly over!


Out of the seven portfolios, the regional judges pick one portfolio to send to the Nationals. We did not know Abe's had been picked so imagine our surprise when Abe told us he had a phone call scheduled with the director of Scholastics three weeks after the artwork was taken down at CCS. After the phone call, Abe asked to meet us in person to tell us the good news and that's when we found out about New York.

Finding out about New York and just..... laughing in shock.

A final thought. I was a printmaker in college. I know printmaking and I knew that Abe had something special. Even after four years of college, Abe has achieved something I've never seen in my college level classes or at print competitions. As his portfolio grew, trying to explain to people that no, this was not a drawing- it's a stamp made from linoleum that is printed using a press, made me nervous that no one understood how CRAZY the works were. So, by winning at New York, it has validated all the work he has done in a medium that no one knows. Luckily, the stars had aligned and Abe tried printmaking on a whim in my class and he fell in love. 

This is Abe's first ever print. I have it hanging in my house because I fell in love with his style way back when he made this Starling and mushrooms. Crazy to look at this print next to the last print he made.

New York

The New York experience begins on June 2nd but for now this is what we know about the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards! 

- There are 8 visual art Gold Metal Portfolio winners and 8 Gold Metal Writers on stage.

- Award Ceremony at Carnegie Hall with a surprise guest host (two years ago it was Meryl Streep!)

- The Empire State building is lit in gold to honor the winners.

- Each winner receives a $10,000 scholarship to the school of their choice.

- The art is displayed at Parsons and Pratt Art Schools for the event.

- With 320,000 submissions Nationally, this recognition puts Abe in the top 1%.

- After the show is over, the artwork will travel across the United States and eventually be displayed at the Department of Education in Washington, DC.

-Since 1923, the Awards have recognized teenagers from across the country. The legacy of celebrated authors and artists includs Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon, Robert Redford, Lena Dunham, and the renowned filmmaker who will receive our Alumni Achievement Award this year, Ken Burns.

Thank you to all those who helped Abe succeed along the way! Abe's parents for their hours of dedication to this journey.... and also for dealing with all the crazy moments. This article was written from my perspective, but Naar and I were a team that needed each other at every moment along the way. Brian and the Eastern team for letting us use the press and supporting Abe! My mentor, Mr. Moss, was a rock when our department was nuts! Our principal, Mr. Kapolka, was endlessly supportive and would always answer the phone when we called with news! Olivia helped Abe by coming for every printing session! Thanks to Chris, for dealing with the puppy! 

CONGRATULATIONS, ABE!!!! Wish us luck as we look forward to our adventures in June!!!


  1. Proud - it is as simple as that!

  2. I'm beaming. Well written Geo and bravo Abe.

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  4. Amazing work to Abe and to his mentors Naar and Geo in the Art Department. This is a success story for all of you to celebrate.