Imagine taking a dead fish, applying water-based ink to it and then transferring the image to a piece of paper: What would that artwork look like?
One local youngster was among a class of students to put gyotaku - the Japanese art of fish printing - into play last year. For his efforts, a colorful and beautiful printing, John Paul Bieller was named a winner in the 2007 Georgia River of Words drawing contest.
"The art teacher said we'd probably like this," said John, a sixth-grader at Lakeside Middle School and the son of John Bieller and Jennifer Bieller, of Martinez. "They were dead, so that was a good thing!"
The River of Words contest is held annually in conjunction with The Library of Congress Center. The contest, according to the Georgia Web site, is "designed to help youth explore the natural and cultural history of the place they live, and to express, through poetry and art, what they discover."
John entered his "The Colors of Fish" project as part of a county 4-H submission. In May, John was notified that he had been named a Georgia winner and attended an awards ceremony at the Chattahoochee Nature Center in north Atlanta that same month.
"John was an absolute joy to teach," said Ivey Coleman, the art educator at South Columbia Elementary School where John did the project. "I love doing this project with my students every year. We always use real fish. The children always ask, "Do we get to do it this year?'"
Coleman said, despite the fun the class always has with the project, by week's end, it's nice to get the dead fish out of her classroom.
"By the end of the week, I am so glad to be done with dead fish," she said.
John's not taking art this semester at Lakeside Middle, but plans to enroll in the school's art club and put his love of drawing and art to good use.
Some of the projects the club plans to do this year include creating cement stepping stones for the school's entrance, painting on canvas and tie-dyeing shirts.
"I like to use clay," said John, an A student with a fondness for science and social studies. "My mom still uses this one bowl I made a long time ago."
In addition to art, John is an avid sportsman and has considered the idea of mixing a career that includes the two loves.
"I like drawing. I like art," he said, adding that he really wants to attend the University of Georgia. "And, I really like sports, so I've thought about doing sports drawing."
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