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Local artist wins Congressional Art Competition
Bethany Gill and her dad Charles Gill

Student Bethany Gill has such a love of art that she never expected to win anything for her work. Gill, who grew up in Conyers and now lives part-time in both Conyers and Savannah, recently won the 2010 Congressional Art Competition for Georgia's 12th Congressional District for her painting "Motherly Love." The painting, along with winners from across the country, is currently on display in the tunnel between the Capitol and the House of Representatives office buildings in Washington D.C.

The 17-year-old artist was one of the Gold Key winners in The 2011 Scholastics Art & Writing, a program that recognizes 50,000 students in their local communities. Gill also came in third place for her rendition of John Lennon in 2010 Sidewalk Arts Festival hosted by Savannah College of Art and Design in April 2010.

"My class is full of really awesome, talented kids and I was shocked to be one of the winners," said Gill, of her Gold Key win.

Though Gill had always been on the artistic side, it was not until three years ago that she decided she wanted to pursue a career in art. Gill attended the Master's Academy of Fine Arts, a home school program for students K-12. When she took her first art class in the ninth grade, her interest grew serious. Gill credits her teacher Leslie Raab for giving her the motivation to become a career artist.

"She definitely been a great inspiration to me," said Gill. "She really helped me find my interest in art."

Gill cites J.D. Hillberry, who was renown for his photorealistic illustrations, as the biggest influence in her art. For her 16th birthday, her mother Melody took her on a surprise trip to Colorado, where Gill had the opportunity to meet Hillberry and participate in one of his workshops.

As the oldest of three children, Gill and her sister would spend much of their childhood drawing. Melody recalled the first time she noticed her daughter's artistic gift was when Gill drew a stunning portrait of her brother. She said the accuracy of the illustration just blew her away.

"I was amazed when I saw the picture," marveled Melody. "I still have it framed and hanging up."

"My parents have been extremely supportive," added Gill. "They are always trying to get me to draw something for them to hang up."

Gill plans to attend Savannah College of Art and Design upon receiving her high school International Baccalaureate diploma. After receiving her degree, Gill has no grand ambitions - just a simple plan to become a working freelance artist earning a living.

"I don't want to be a professor or some designer," said Gill. "I just want to be a local artist and sell my work at the local gallery."