Most mornings, Lawson Belcher jogged by a quiet cattle pasture during cross-country practice.
Belcher, a senior at Keller High School, said that he knew little about farms or ranches but that he drew inspiration from the peaceful animals.
That suburban pasture would become the subject of Belcher’s painting The Lonely Longhorn, which was named grand champion of the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo Art Contest.
“The sun was coming up, and it looked just right,” said Belcher, 18, who used oil paints on canvas to re-create the image of a grazing cow. He won a $3,000 scholarship, which he plans to use to study graphic design in college.
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Belcher was among the winners named Saturday in the annual art contest, which drew about 1,050 entries. The contest, usually held during the Stock Show, was moved to early January this year as the number of entries has steadily grown.
Young artists won $20,000 in awards, prizes and scholarship money for pieces that depicted a hog taking a bath, thoughtful cowboys, scenic farms and other scenes.
A panel of local art professionals judged the entries from children ages 5 to 18. Entries will be on display at the Stock Show, the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, and the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.
For the first time, this year’s top six entries will be auctioned during the Stock Show to raise more money in scholarships for the artists.
Artists were instructed to use their imaginations to create works that capture the spirit of the Stock Show or Western heritage, said Jay Blackmon, coordinator of the competition.
The contest helps engage young people who can’t or don’t want to show animals, she said.
“We have kids drawing horses who have never seen an actual horse,” Blackmon said. “We are trying to create opportunities for more kids to learn about Western heritage. And it’s working.”
Ha Bee Lee, a senior at Stratford High School in Houston, moved from Los Angeles to Texas a year ago. He grew up around the ocean and surfers and knew little about ranches.
Lee, who learned of the art contest online, visited a few ranches in the Houston area. When he spotted a horse and cow gazing at each other as a trainer looked on, Lee said, he knew he had found an ideal subject.
Lee’s painting Connections was named reserve grand champion.
“I am completely new to this culture,” said Lee, who won a $2,500 scholarship and plans to study art in college. “I didn’t really know what I was looking for, but this jumped out at me.”