Abstract painter Doris Cheng Wai drew deep from her creative well to win the first South China Morning Post Student Visual Artist of the Year Award. The 17-year-old started making Chinese brush drawings of animals when she was a little girl in Nanhai, Guangdong. Wai, of St Mary's Canossian College, came to Hong Kong when she was nine and has studied with various teachers. Her real impetus as a painter came when she was 14 and learned the principles of abstract expression at the Zi Lui Studio. Her teacher, Lui Wing-lan, taught her that abstract expression knows no limits. 'Its horizon is so wide you can freely create your own dream world within its parameters,' Wai said. She said she loved to draw because it provided an outlet for her creative energies. 'My work reflects my view of the world around me,' she added. The Form Four student from St Mary's Canossian College is studying Art as part of her HKCEE next year and then plans to study fashion design abroad. 'I have loved fashion since I was a child,' she said. Judging the contest were the chairman of the Arts Education Committee, Andrew Lam Hon-kin, chairperson of the Hong Kong Society for Education in Art Catharine Leung Chi-fan, and the president of the Confederation of Hong Kong Visual Artists Ltd, Eddie Lui Fung-ngar. Mr Lam told Young Post he was amazed with Wai's early achievements. 'She has her distinctive style and is tremendously talented,' he said. Mr Lui also praised the high standard of Wai's work. He said he approved of her clear direction for the future and that fine art laid the groundwork for a career in fashion design. Ms Leung said she was impressed with Wai's sensitivity to the society she lives in. Wai will receive a $20,000 Citibank scholarship, two British Airways return tickets to Manila, admission to 10 Hong Kong Arts Centre courses or seminars and complimentary film tickets. Runner-up was Christine Shum Yin-yan, 18, a Form Seven students at St Paul's School (Lam Tin), who won a $5,000 Citibank scholarship.