WILLMAR - Catarina Orellana must be the embodiment of natural talent.
Her self-portrait recently won Best in Show in the drawing category at a high school art competition hosted by Minnesota State University Moorhead. Students from three states participated in the competition.
The large drawing in graphite and charcoal shows Catarina in a dress holding an open Bible, with light from a window shining on the book. Its title is "Guided Faith." The study in light and shadow was drawn by a young woman who said she had never taken an art class until last month.
Orellana's portrait and artworks from many other Willmar Senior High School students are currently on exhibit in the art gallery at the Willmar Education and Arts Center.
Colorful paintings and clay sculptures are scattered around the gallery, but two works in the center of the gallery draw some attention.
One is Orellana's self-portrait. The other is a sculpture of a girl petting a puppy by Sharina Reyes, who won honorable mention at the Moorhead art competition.
Orellana and Reyes, both juniors, have been drawing since they were young children.
Orellana said one of her early memories is drawing in preschool, and she didn't stop after that.
"My family really supported me," she said. Her late aunt, Rose Byrne in Arizona, often sent her art supplies. "I know she did it so I could follow my dream," she added.
It took her 10 months to finish the drawing. She had attended DREAM Technical Academy in Willmar and decided last year to transfer to the high school. She joined the art club right away, but had never taken a class until the current term started in January.
"I'm so happy I made that decision," Orellana said.
She met art teacher Jessalyn Canavan, who has been a source of encouragement.
Reyes' sculpture shows the relationship between human and animal. "I just love dogs, and I've never had one," she said.
She started drawing when she was a small child, starting with anime characters and moving on to Disney princesses. When she was about 8 years old, she said, she started moving on to developing other projects.
"I grew with a family that knows how to draw," she said. She grew up in the Philippines and moved to Willmar about five years ago.
After years of drawing, she's learned about working with clay in art classes. Reyes said she's realized that "I really like getting my hands dirty and working with clay."
Canavan said she enjoys watching students move beyond their comfort zones.
A closing reception for the student art show is planned for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 26 at the gallery.
The gallery is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and whenever the building is open for events. There is a guest book where visitors can sign in and leave comments.