LEWISTON — When meeting Anna Smedley for the first time, chances are she’s sizing up your face, especially if you have a unique nose, interesting brows or wrinkles.

Smedley, a 17-year-old artist, loves to draw and paint faces.

That love paid off.

Smedley, a Lewiston High School senior, has won the 2010 Congressional High School Art Competition for painting her own face, a self-portrait in oil. She came in first for an art competition in U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud’s 2nd Congressional District.

Her painting, which was in her room, will soon be on display at the Blaine House in Augusta, then at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

First runner-up in the contest is Matthew McKeown of Oak Hill High School; second runner-up is Rebecca Spilecki of Lewiston High. Honorable mentions are Siobhan McCarthy and Tristan Herbold, both of Bangor High.

Smedley said she’s always been interested in drawing and painting.

She has vivid memories of finger painting as a preschooler. She liked the feel, the smell of paint on her fingers. Growing up “we always had project stuff around,” she said. Her mother draws, her father plays the guitar, her aunt does pottery.

As a Pettingill Elementary School student she had art every other week, which wasn’t enough. “Weeks we had art classes I’d be so excited.”

Between art classes “I would draw all the time.” And she doodled, on everything and everywhere, school papers, homework, in class.

“I got in trouble with my ninth-grade history teacher for drawing in class,” Smedley said with a smile. As the teacher lectured, “I was listening” but she was drawing. “I never put my head up.”

She used to draw made-up people.

Her art world expanded in middle school where art lessons were more regular, and she began taking private lessons from Mercedes Gastonguay.

When her class was assigned to create a self-portrait, “I remember how excited I was.”

Art got even better in high school with more classes, more choices. “I tried to take an art class every semester at least. Often times I took two.”

For three years she’s studied under Nathaniel Meyer. She’s learned much, she said, about color, oil painting techniques, observational drawing and painting. Her teacher frowns on painting from a picture, instead instructs students to paint from real life. “He thinks it’s cheating,” Smedley said.

She’s also learned to focus on what she likes to draw and paint: people.

During an early college class at the University of Southern Maine Lewiston-Auburn College, “I drew my macro-economics teacher. He had such an interesting face.”

The professor was in his 70s. “I liked that he had big, interesting creases from all the expressions he’s made over his lifetime.”

Another of her favorite faces is a friend who has huge brown eyes and a striking profile. Still another, but one she’s yet to draw or paint (“I don’t know him”) is a man she sees at Bates College. It’s his nose. “I really like big, angular noses. They’re so cool.”

Many consider portraits hard, but Smedley said she understands the face. “I’ve spent the most time looking at the human face.”

Next year she’ll go to college. Accepted at four, she’ll soon decide on an arts or liberal arts college.

One of her goals is to create an illustrated novel. There are serious stories to be told in images, she said. “I want to make that a more valued art form. … I want to tell stories through art.”

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