SOTY 2015: Artists draw from their experience to brush up on their skills

To be crowned Student of the Year Visual Artist, you need to constantly evolve

Ariel Conant |

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Winner of Visual Artist award, Rainbow Tse.

Being an artist takes more than just talent. To really excel, you need to constantly be practising, learning and improving. This is a process previous finalists of Student of the Year Visual Artist award know all too well.

Since their SOTY success, all three have continued their pursuit of artistic excellence by challenging themselves in new ways.

Dylan Wan Wai-lam, 17, and a student at STFA Yung Yau College, won second runner-up with his animation. His creativity in this medium has since won him multiple prizes and awards from competitions and festivals around the world.

"I created three animations: By My Side, Electrofishing, and Game Over," Dylan explains as he lists out the prizes his recent creations have won. He won the Silver award at the Infomatrix 2015 in the Computer Art Category, and was a finalist at three film festivals - the eighth Four River Film Festival in Croatia, Spain's International Youth Film Festival Plasencia Encorto, and the sixth International Children and Youth Animation Film Festival Varazdin, also in Croatia.

Dylan says it all started with the boost of confidence he got from SOTY. "The recognition is not only from others, but from myself, too," he says. "Thanks to this, I have become more confident and this enhances my passion for visual arts."

First runner-up Christina Chiu Man-yan has also expanded her breadth of knowledge. The 17-year-old student at St Paul's Co-educational College has entered international painting competitions, and had her own painting exhibition in the Art Centre for Children and Young People in Finland this summer.

"SOTY is one of the most prestigious awards for Hong Kong secondary school students," says Christina. "The fact that I have won this award greatly boosted my confidence and drove me to create more, and better, artwork."

For Rainbow Tse Lok-yau, last year's SOTY visual artist winner, the past year has been a whirlwind of artistic experiences and discovery. Shortly after her SOTY win, Rainbow held her own exhibitions in Hong Kong, including participating in Art Central. Now the 18-year-old Renaissance College alumna has expanded internationally, with group exhibitions in South Korea, Albania, Indonesia and India.

"I think SOTY pushed me to work harder, and to do the best that I can. It gave me the confidence and encouragement to keep going and creating art," says Rainbow. "In terms of visual art, I have continued to develop my style.

"Art is a very complex subject and there is so much to be explored in it. In the past year, I was exposed to a lot of different styles, which has widened my perspective and understanding of visual art."

All three winners feel that it was this exposure to other artistic perspectives - from the judges and from fellow SOTY candidates - that made the experience exceptional.

"The judges gave me a lot of useful advice on how to improve my artwork, allowing me to grow and become a better visual artist," says Christina. "I have learned to research and explore the theme thoroughly, so as to make my art more powerful in terms of sharing ideas and messages."

Dylan agrees. "The judges are all renowned in their areas and have very unique and useful opinions on our work," he says. "It definitely improved my artwork."

Dylan also says seeing artworks by other contestants helped give him perspective on his own personal style. "They really inspired me and gave me lots of insights," he says.

Rainbow says this is what makes SOTY unique. "The most valuable thing was the experience of SOTY that allowed me to meet so many different students with the same interest as me," she says.

Winners' circle

Last year's SOTY Visual Artist finalists have some advice for this year's candidates.

Second runner-up, Dylan Wan Wai-lam
Be confident, show your creativity and your art skills. Always think about what you can learn from the competition instead of simplywinning an award.

First runner-up, Christina Chiu Man-yan
Do thorough research before working on the assigned artwork. For the interview part, you have to know your artwork really well and explain why you presented the subject in that way. Being confident will also leave a good impression on the judges.

Winner, Rainbow Tse Lok-yau
In any competition, any award, it should be about your own personal growth, how you can be better than the "you" yesterday. Try to learn as much as you can in the process because these chances do not come often.