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Safiya Azam

Freshmen bring back accolades from state VASE in Austin

Freshman Art II Honors student Safiya Azam’s first taste of artistic recognition came during fifth grade, when her art about candy was chosen for Youth Art Month. Since then, Azam has taken art classes every year and participated in multiple state competitions. 

This year, Azam has taken art classes every year and participated in multiple state competitions. This year, Azam entered her first year of competition for the Visual Arts Scholastic Event (VASE) and won a Gold Seal for her piece “Binge” – another piece detailing her relationship with junk food. Azam was also awarded the Youth Art Month recognition for this piece.

How was your first year going through the VASE process?

This was my first time going through the VASE process in high school and in person. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything like the interview portion of the process, but I really enjoyed it.

Why did you choose these mediums, palettes and techniques?

Both pieces were class projects. My still life, “Binge,” was a project about junk food. When I start an art project, I want it to be personal and have meaning to me. I took the assignment and I added my own twist by making it about my journey with eating disorders. I took photos of used wrappers and made the decision of how to depict it: despite the fact that I was conveying a serious message, I decided to keep the colors vibrant because I wanted to convey the irony of an eating disorder. 

Some people think an eating disorder means you want nothing to do with food, but really, food becomes your everything: it becomes your holy grail. I decided to stick to Prismacolors, which is my favorite material. My second was a class project to make a self portrait, but we could choose the medium and meaning, so I made a self-portrait based on my religious journey as a Muslim-American. Once I got my photo, I made my composition and laid down a sketch. I wanted to experiment with mediums so I used the Verdaccio technique, which is when you lay down a layer of green colors and paint skin tones on top. I found this on TikTok and I became obsessed with it for my portraits.

What was an obstacle you had to overcome during this process?

When I was walking into the interview room, I was so nervous. My heart was racing. I learned to be calm and be myself doing interviews. People would tell me I should stay professional during interviews – and that’s true, but you also want to be yourself during interviews. I cracked jokes, I made my judges laugh and overall, it was a great experience.

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