Young Banner Artists with a Bright Future


By Ron Sandstead

Creating art seems to satisfy an artist’s inner need. The feeling comes whether an artist is a hobbyist or a professional. As an observer of art and artists, I have always wondered about this inner need. It seems to compel them to create. Artists often can’t explain why they create other than to say that it brings them peace. I understand this. There does not need to be any other reason. Peace is good enough.

The two artists I am writing about today are young. They are at the beginning of their lives and are learning many new things. In a way, they are like young birds in a nest thinking about joining the rest of us in flight. They are just starting to stretch their wings and preparing for the journey ahead. They might not know where they are going yet — but they do know that art will be a part of their adventure.

I first met Jenna Rodrigues over a year ago when she and her mother came to our Banner Art Auction. We were selling the previous year’s banner artwork to raise money for the continuation of the Main Street Banner Art project. They wanted to know if Jenna could create a painting for a banner. I told them “absolutely” and asked Jenna if she had any drawings she could show me. She immediately pulled out her sketch pad from her backpack. I was impressed that she was so eager to join us. And her sketches were really good!

Jenna was 11 when she painted her “Pelican on a Dock.” Then, because of the Covid shutdown, it took us almost a year to get her banner displayed. It was on Main Street for four months and is now hanging at the Community Center.

Jenna is now 12 and going into 7th grade at Ruckel Middle School in Niceville. She enjoys school and participates with her school band. She plays the alto saxophone and is also learning to play the bass guitar. For sports, she likes playing volleyball and soccer. Still unsure about what she wants to do for a profession, she does know that she loves sketching and expects to be creating art for the rest of her life.

Jenna’s favorite artist is Jackson Pollock even though her personal art style is quite different. She likes painting flowers and nature scenes. She created her pelican painting using alcohol markers, but is now experimenting with water colors. She likes the way water color looks on her sketches. She carries everything in her backpack so she can draw or paint whenever she has a chance.

Trey MacDonald was only 10 when he painted his “Sea Turtle” swimming in the Gulf. Like Jenna, Trey used alcohol markers to paint his turtle. Trey’s banner is currently displayed on Main Street. It is the first one you will see as you travel north from Hwy. 98. During his summer break, Trey has been practicing his sketching every day. His favorite subjects are boats and football players. After being shown a picture of one of his boat sketches, I asked him to paint a boat for his next banner.

Trey is now going into 6th grade at Valparaiso STEM School. He loves sports and enjoys playing basketball, Lacrosse, football and golf. When I asked him what he wants to be when he grows up he didn’t hesitate. He wants to be a basketball player. There goes his art career.

Besides sports and art, Trey loves the piano, has been playing for over three years and is quite accomplished. According to his piano teacher, Brandon Boutwell, he has advanced beyond his peers.

In talking to both of these young people, I am struck by the balance they have in their lives. They are pursuing a variety of interests. Yet, art seems to be that one thing they do to relax and feel good about themselves. Good for them!

Their flight — and future — awaits.