Stetson Student Wins International Art Competition

Grace Netanya Roberts talks about her winning entry at the Tokyo awards ceremony June 14.

Stetson senior Grace Netanya Roberts was celebrating her birthday in New York City last month when she learned she had won a top prize in an international art competition sponsored by a Japanese maker of art markers.

The email arrived the day after her 19th birthday, saying she had won one of three top awards in the Copic Awards, sponsored by Copic art marker and pens.

She flew to Tokyo on an all-expense paid trip for the awards ceremony June 14 and was “shocked” when she won the $5,000 Grand Prize. Her entry, “The Explorer,” was the judges’ unanimous selection from more than 2,000 entries from 72 countries.

“The Explorer” by Grace Netanya Roberts

“Since this is a worldwide competition, I really wanted to create a piece that expressed a worldwide theme, which for me was the imagination of childhood,” Roberts said at the awards ceremony, which was live-streamed on YouTube. “My art for me has always been about expressing imagination.”

Roberts ’20 is a commuter student from Port Orange and transferred to Stetson last year from Daytona State College. The Art History major hopes to work in an art museum or gallery after graduation, and one day open a gallery with her own artwork.

“This was pretty much a birthday present,” she said about the award this week, just back from Japan and a little jet-lagged from the 13-hour time difference. “It was perfect timing.”

Roberts said “The Explorer” actually was her second attempt at an entry for the contest last spring. She realized her first drawing was too similar to the other entries submitted on the website, so she decided to try for something “that stood out from the other submissions,” even though the deadline was a week away.

Creative Arts Professor Joseph “Rusty” Witek, Ph.D., her mentor, praised the composition of the piece, which contains a lot of elements without appearing cluttered.

“I think the primary strength of the piece is, as one of the judges mentioned in the awards presentation, that it’s very imaginative—it’s about the imagination, of course, but it’s also inventive both in the overall theme and in the execution of the details,” he said. For example, the boy’s image in the mirror is not a literal reflection, but an imagined future.

“And even little details like the dinosaur socks echo the theme of exploration and discovery. Those socks also indicate the other point I would mention: the use of color. Copic is, of course, a company specializing in color markers, so you know the judges paid careful attention to that aspect of the entries,” he said.