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Stickland believes there#039;s nothing better in school than art class

For Meghan Strickland, there is no better subject than art. Not because art class is easy or doesn't require a lot of effort, but because there is no right or wrong answer and Strickland is free to create whatever she chooses.

"It doesn't have to be exact or follow any formulas or anything," the Charles Henderson High School freshman said. "In fact, it's better if it doesn't."

This quiet, shy girl is brought to life in the vivid colors and interesting patterns of her artwork. One piece in particular received statewide attention Feb. 28 when she was awarded first-place for her rendition of a portion of Vincent Van Gogh's oil painting, "The Church at Auvers," at the 2004 State Superintendent's Visual Arts Exhibit in Montgomery.

Her art teacher, Pam Smith, had entered it in the category for ninth- and tenth-graders. Along with her ribbon, Strickland received a $30 gift certificate to purchase art supplies, a $100 savings bond from Blue Cross Blue Shield and a certificate.

Strickland's winning art piece started as an assignment last semester in her art class. Art teacher Pam Smith asked each of her students to take a portion of well-known painting and recreate it using marker, oil pastels, colored pencils and acrylic paint.

Strickland chose Van Gogh's painting, which he painted in 1890, because "it had the most color in it and the most texture."

"It kind of surprised me the way it turned out," Strickland said of her artwork.

And she certainly didn't expect to win first place with it.

"I thought (the other pieces) were better than mine," she said. "I was trying to figure out how I ended up first."

But Smith said Strickland was just being modest.

"I wasn't surprised," Smith said. "And (Day) Barnes and (Lise) Patterson were not surprised that she did so well, either. They both taught her (art) in middle school and elementary."