Elysabeth Kleinke’s Self-portrait Conveys the Fluidity of Youth

Lake Girl won the Gold Key Award in Scholastic Art for painting last spring when the artist was in seventh grade.

As art instructor, Dave Sorenson knows: it’s a tough world out there for a middle school artist. But St. Croix Preparatory’s Elysabeth Kleinke, daughter of Jim and Diane of Stillwater, earned the Gold Key in the Scholastic Art Award for seventh grade. “Her award was in one of the most competitive categories,” Sorenson says, so we caught up with the now 14-year-old eighth-grader.
What was the inspiration for this piece?
The title of the painting is Lake Girl, and it is a self-portrait. I enjoy using nature as inspiration and started there, but when I added the self-portrait the project started to take on new meaning. I spent a lot of weekends working on this illustration, learning technique, drawing and redrawing, and not rushing.

What is the special meaning behind it?
When I started working on this, I really didn’t think about meaning. There are so many possibilities when you start a drawing or painting. The butterflies and reference to water (in the colors and way I drew my hair) pull meaning into the self-portrait. Butterflies can symbolize change, water can symbolize life, and adding a portrait emerging from the riverbed can symbolize the changes we all experience growing up.

How long have you been interested in art?
My mom is an artist, and I enjoy working in her studio. There are lots of art tools to explore and try. That’s how I came across the watercolor pencils I used on this painting. It was a lot of fun to be able to draw with pencils and then add water with a brush and watch it change.

Do you hope to pursue it?
I would like to do more paintings like this. There are so many interesting things to explore with self-portraits and nature. I am working on some sketches at home for this year’s scholastic event, but it is hard to work it in with all the homework I have along with my archery practice.