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Lakeland art student wins big at nationals

It took Heather Nygaard three grueling weeks of attention to detail to pencil draw the flannel pattern of her boyfriend’s shirt from a photo she took.

But Heather’s hard work paid off.

The Lakeland High School senior submitted the drawing of her fiancé holding a kitten in the National PTA Reflections contest and won a second place Award of Excellence.

“I was so shocked, but really excited,” Heather said. “It took me a longer time, because there was so much detail work involved. I told my fiancé, ‘I love that shirt, but it sure was terrible for me to draw.’ I poured my heart into it though, and the end result was definitely worth it.”

The competition is held each year with a different topic — this year’s was “Beauty is…” Students from high schools in each state and American military bases around the world submit their art in district competitions, the winners of which go to state competitions and then to the national competition.

Nygaard’s was one of eight pieces in visual art, literary, dance and film categories from Virginia to be submitted to nationals.

“When they announced the topic, I instantly thought of this picture I’d taken,” Heather said. “There was a stray kitten, and my fiancé picked it up. It’s those little moments — a person strong and powerful who could very easily, even accidentally, hurt such a fragile, weak thing — that are truly beautiful.”

Nygaard’s prize includes $200 in cash, which she said she will use toward paying for two years of study at Tidewater Community College, after which she plans to attend Old Dominion University and focus on art.

“She is an outstanding artist,” Lakeland art teacher Annette Lowe said. “She’s very talented and conscientious. Every assignment I give her she just goes with it. Her work here is an example of that.”