Tiffany Sellers, Beta Club’s First National Champion


Elaine Liu, Co-Print Managing Editor

Donning rectangular glasses, a gray oversized sweatshirt, and brown corduroy jeans, junior Tiffany Sellers epitomizes an artist’s touch and color coordination. Thick eyeliner carefully and precisely outlines her light eyes, and her short brown hair elegantly swoops away from her face. In a sunlit classroom, Sellers weighs her options for AP Studio Art pieces, examining each one with a critical eye. Ultimately, she sets aside the pictures with a blurred background.

Two months prior in Nashville, Sellers’s drawing placed first in the 9th/10th grade drawing at the National Beta Club Convention, making Sellers the first national champion in Tompkins’s history. She remembers the city’s bright green foliage, a contrast to her home in Houston, and the resort where the convention was held, where an indoor river provided her tranquility in the little downtime she had. Sellers’s prized drawing, originally a piece for the Houston Rodeo, showcases an elderly man riding his horse, looking down at the animal he so dearly loves.

“I had always loved the connection and attachment between people and their animals,” said Sellers.

An avid animal lover, Seller has had pets her entire life, including dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, snakes, and lizards. Therefore, Sellers had known from the start that she wanted to draw animals for her Rodeo art piece. She visited George Ranch to photograph ranch animals and western attire, capturing the candid moment between the elderly man and his horse.

“It was important to me to portray how different people can have different connections, and the length of those connections,” Sellers said.

As she worked on her art piece, Sellers most enjoyed drawing the horse’s face. She always starts with the focal subject’s eyes before any other features. Slowly but surely, Sellers drew the horse’s eyes, hair, cheeks, the graze of its nose, and the browns of its forehead.

“I really like bringing it really to life to see the horse’s eyes because the man he’s looking down at his horse, and you don’t really see his eyes that much,” said Sellers. “ Life, to me, it’s in someone’s eyes. I think that was the most enjoyable part of it: bringing the horse to life.”

However, like any project, not all went smoothly. Sellers’s art piece had a blurred background of trees, fences, sand, and dirt, which was tedious and uninteresting for her to draw. Furthermore, she sometimes struggled to form a smooth gradient from a dark color to a light color, and the blurred background meant that these stark contrasts had to be simultaneously sharp and soft.

“You would think that making things blurry instead of doing a bunch of detail would be easier,” Sellers said. “For me, it’s not because I’m blending like the green of the tree with the blue or I’m blending like the shadows of the tree, and they’re not that sharp because the tree’s further away.”

At the National Beta Club Convention, Sellers’s parents viewed the gallery of winning art pieces before Sellers did, since her participation in a teamwork competition overlapped with the gallery’s opening. As Sellers’s parents walked into the competition room, their faces showed no emotion, as Sellers had told them not to tell her how she placed. However, her parents’ blank expressions concerned Sellers.

“If I did well, wouldn’t they be smiling?” asked Sellers.

After the teamwork competition, Sellers sprinted to the enormous gallery room, frantically passing the crowd of people and scanning the long tables for her art piece. She had placed first at state, meaning her piece had a blue ribbon attached to it. Sellers saw the blue ribbon before her art, then shock and disbelief hit her.

“I felt, like, my insides shaking, and I was just looking around,” Sellers said. “I was like, ‘I’m not dreaming, right? There’s no, like, gigantic moose here…’”

The artists’ names were not displayed with their art; thus, viewers did not know who drew what. Many people surrounded Sellers’s piece, pointing at it and praising the art, not knowing she drew it. As for Sellers, she simply could not believe it.

“Going in and seeing people set up their artwork I was intimidated like there are a lot of good artists around the nation,” said Sellers. “ I was like, ‘I don’t know how good I’m going to do.’”

Sellers never has one distinct message for viewers of her art. She accepts that each person will have a different perspective on it due to individual experiences. Though, she always wants the viewer to know that her art is part of her.

“I think the main thing is just, like, don’t draw for what you think will get you to win,” Sellers said. “If you know [the judge’s] preferences, don’t draw for that. Draw what you want to draw. Paint what you want to paint because, like, how you portray it might get you pretty far.”

Due to Sellers’s flawless commitment to her personality, her individualistic artistic style shone through in her piece, winning her the national championship for the 9th/10th grade drawing at the National Beta Club Convention in early July. Her love for animals fueled the passion and emotion viewers can find between the elderly man and his horse, symbolizing the special connection humans have with animals. However, like Sellers, that connection never fits one mold: the portrayal of humans and animals can stretch outside a boy and his dog, and an artist can draw with a disregard for judges’ eyes.