Art teacher continues to inspire her students


Staff Writer

Art teacher Elaine Smith presents Willie Ponder with the Overall Best in Show award for his work “Santa Elna Big Ben Park, Texas, 1947” during her annual presentation of her students’ work. Art teacher Elaine Smith presents Willie Ponder with the Overall Best in Show award for his work “Santa Elna Big Ben Park, Texas, 1947” during her annual presentation of her students’ work. FREEHOLD — Karen Preston has a new passion. Well, it’s not exactly new, but it is certainly unearthed.

Preston, of Freehold Township, has been drawing and creating art for almost two years and is now working to change her amateur status to one of professional artist.

Wally Zuber, of Freehold Borough, is a machine operator-turned artist. His painting “Fearless,” which is a portrait of a GI in Iraq, hangs on a wall at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot/

Eastern Recruit Region, Parris Island, S.C.

Willie Ponder, also of Freehold Borough, is out of work right now and spends a good deal of his time drawing. He has found a new way to connect with who he is inside.

Preston, Zuber and Ponder are all students of Elaine Smith, a Freehold artist who helps people reach inside and — with a brush, a piece of charcoal or a colored pencil — learn how to bring forth what lies within.

Smith held her annual art show at the Carnegie Library, East Main Street, on Jan. 11 and honored the work of her teenage and adult students. Family members and friends showed up to view the art work which had been hung on the library walls and perched atop the bookshelves for “Miss Elaine’s” seventh annual student art exhibition.

Smith said she started the art show seven years ago by displaying the work of 14 students. On Jan. 11, 45 of the students she teaches at the Around the Corner Art Center, Freehold Township, had pieces on display.

Smith passes downs more than just technical training to her students. She imparts her unwavering belief in the power of art and her passion for art form that is her lasting legacy to them. The artist has taught more than 1,500 students in more than a quarter-century.

This year’s show displayed charcoal, colored pencil, and black and white sketches, as well as works in watercolors, acrylics and mixed media.

The subject matter of the entries, as always, was varied. Animals, still life fruits, landscapes, even a portrait of Keanu Reeves that won its creator, Marcie Martin, the first-place award in the adult charcoal category. There was a rendering of Aphrodite that depicted the gossamer goddess in all of her celestial beauty on a background of deep blue.

Preston’s colored pencil “Butterfly” won a coveted Judge’s Award. Her rendering of a yellow and black butterfly nestled among lovely pink and white flowers looked so authentic it was as though it had been snapped by a digital camera rather than drawn by hand.

Kristen Solis took home a Judge’s Award in the teen colored pencil category for her incredible “Red Rose.” The flower looked so real that people could almost reach out and feel the petals and inhale the sweet floral scent.

Ponder used pencil to re-create a work from one of his favorite artists, Ansel Adams. His rendering of the “Santa Elna Big Ben Park, Texas, 1947,” was a study in patience. Tiny lines and pencil movements were used to re-create Adams’ original photograph. Ponder’s moving rendering of the solitary tranquil park won him Overall Best in Show.

Ponder said Smith’s patience and understanding allowed him to continue drawing the intricate design. He said the work would not have been finished had it not been for Smith’s support.

When Ponder was asked if he chose the Adams photo from a calendar because it looked like a place he’d like to visit, he replied, “No, not really. It was because it gets me right here,” he said, pointing to his heart.

He said his lessons with Smith have also been therapeutic for him.

Other entry winners in the exhibition included Adisha Verna, “Best in Show,” teen category, for “Napoleon’s Dome,” and Ralph Protano, “Best in Show,” adult category, for “Still Life for the Right Brain,” which Smith called “outside-of-the-box thinking.”