Student’s lesser prairie chicken poster wins contest

By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer

A Portales student has drawn the best lesser prairie chicken in a contest, according to judges.

Portales Junior High School eighth-grader Alexa Herrington’s watercolor won first place, and $50, in the junior high division of the 2009 High Plains Lesser Prairie Chicken Festival Poster Contest.

Herrington’s art teacher, John Birdsong, was runner-up in the adult division.

The contest produced the poster design for the annual High Plains Lesser Prairie Chicken Festival April 17-19 in Milnesand. This year, the poster features the artwork of the adult division winner.

“I was excited, and I couldn’t stop smiling,” Herrington said when she learned she won.

Herrington said it took about a week and a half to complete her painting of a prairie chicken crouching in grass with a sunrise in the background.

The first-year art student had never seen a prairie chicken before Birdsong gave the poster contest assignment. She said she thought the project would be boring and hard.

“It was, but I liked it because I got to make something that won a contest,” Herrington said.

Dan Williams of the New Mexico Game and Fish Department, which sponsored the contest, said the junior high division contained about 15 entries.

“As I recall, the judges liked (Herrington’s) choice of colors and just the way her artwork represented the lesser prairie chicken in its mating season,” Williams said.

Birdsong said realism and detail are important to doing well in wildlife art contests.

Herrington said she prefers abstract art, which Birdsong said makes realism more difficult because abstract artists don’t think in those terms.

“She’s such a sweet girl, and she’s such a good student overall,” Birdsong said.

The teacher said the project was difficult for the students. However, he said they found they could do something they thought they couldn’t, as well as learning about the bird and realism.