Fruitful art

Sixth-grader finalist in national contest
Friday, December 5, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:24 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

When Joe Lopez watches his family’s old home videos, he notices something special about his son David that he hadn’t considered until recently. “David was always off to the side with a pencil in hand, drawing pictures,” Joe Lopez said.

David Lopez, 12, always has been interested in art, but before this past summer he had never attempted to employ artistic principles. In fact, the Gentry Middle School sixth-grader has never taken an art class.

When the Lopez family traveled to Boston in July, however, David found inspiration at the Boston Museum of Fine Art in the works of Pablo Picasso’s “Portrait of A Woman.”

“It stood out in the room because you had to look beyond the obvious,” David said. “You have to understand the artist’s intentions to interpret it.”

Picasso wasn’t the only artist who caught his eye.

“I was inspired by the variety and the famous artists and wanted to learn how to create my own artwork,” David said.

David admires Diego Rivera’s color blending techniques and said he plans to experiment with them in the future.

He merged his interest in painting with his love for watermelons — a regular summertime treat at the Lopez household — and discovered an artistic niche that recently gained national attention.

A panel of judges in Houston selected his “Watermelon” painting as one of 11 national finalists out of 420 entries in the second annual Deck the Walls Kids Masterpiece Contest sponsored by the national framing and art retailer.

When winners of the contest were announced on Wednesday, David’s “Watermelon” was not selected as the grand prize winner. Even so, his entry will be framed by Deck the Walls and he will receive an art activity kit.

“I thought it was special that I was a finalist in the first competition I entered,” David said.

David’s art, along with the other finalists, can be viewed at

To develop his skills, David explored techniques in “The Twentieth Century Art Book,” which his father bought in Boston. He continued his artistic research at the Columbia Public Library and began painting on canvas with oil pastels, still his medium of choice.

It wasn’t until this summer that David began using a brush. In August, he contributed three pieces — “Twin Kiwis,” “The Vase” and “Strawberries” — to the Ramp Art Show, an annual fund-raiser for wheelchair ramps in Columbia.

Since then, he has completed more than 30 pieces, eight of which are watermelons. David’s mother, Fabiola Lopez, said the family is running out of wall space for David’s creations, and some have been shipped to relatives in Texas.

David said his featured “Watermelon” piece is an oil-on-canvas mosaic piece that combines cubism, impressionism, Mexican art and elements from van Gogh.

“I was surprised at how well he did it, and how he applied different artistic techniques,” Joe Lopez said.

Joe Lopez attributed David’s development to successful time management. “It’s amazing what kids can do when they are limited from the TV and computer,” Lopez said.

When David or his brother Daniel, 15, play computer games, their dad sets a timer that goes off after 15 minutes.

“Once the buzzer sounds they are done playing computer games for the day, regardless of the status of their game,” Joe Lopez said.

Kathy Libey, David’s teacher at Gentry Middle School, was also somewhat surprised by his artistic savvy when he suggested the class study modern art.

“All of a sudden he was expounding all this information about modern art, and nobody really knew he was an artist,” said Libey, who teaches for the school district’s gifted program. “David is a bright, motivated boy and a talented artist.”

During the contest, David’s dad wore a T-shirt when he went jogging that urged people to go to the Web site and vote for his son’s art. David returned the gesture by painting an abstract watermelon on canvas for his father’s birthday on Tuesday.

When he sets his brush aside, David plays and referees soccer at Cosmo Park and competes in chess.

Though his artistic talents have gained national attention, David has other professional ambitions: He aspires to become a molecular chemist.

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