Yhuri Barksdale remembers being young and seeing the drawings his older brother Devin had done, and wishing that he had the same ability.
Now a senior at Ewing High, Barksdale is coming to realize the extent to which artistic talent runs in the family. Devin, a graduate of Hamilton High West, is a talented illustrator whose works have been published in Mercer County Community College’s Aspirations, among other places. Now it is Yhuri’s time to shine: he came away from the recent Phillips’ Mill Youth Art Exhibition with a Best in Show prize for his charcoal drawing, “Love and Death.”
Phillips’ Mill Community Association, in New Hope, Pennsylvania, has been holding annual art exhibitions since 1929. Four years ago they added a youth art exhibition to the calendar, inviting students from area schools to participate. This year’s exhibition ran from Jan. 22 to Feb. 12, and students from 19 schools submitted works for this year’s show, including Ewing, which art teacher Lisa Daidone says has participated in every year.
“It’s very stiff competition,” she said in a phone interview. “It’s really an outstanding example of high school artwork in the area.”
Schools are allowed to submit six two-dimensional and two three-dimensional pieces per show, and a judge gives out awards in a number of categories, including photography, sculpture and painting. A Ewing student has won an award every year in the show, but Barksdale is the first to win Best of Show.
Barksdale has taken a number of classes with Daidone, starting in his junior year. In the first half of this year, he took her drawing and painting class. It was during this class that he worked on the artwork that went on to win the award at Phillips’ Mill. Daidone found it interesting that Barksdale chose to work with white charcoal — a proprietary medium that is sort of a cross between charcoal and chalk, but is neither — which he’d never worked with before.
For “Love and Death,” Barksdale drew a skull and a flower on black canvas. He composed, lighted and photographed his subjects before illustrating them. “The first concept that came to my mind was light and dark, life versus death,” Barksdale said by phone. “We had to use props, and I saw a skull lying around (in the classroom) and I saw flowers and I just went with it.”
Barksdale said he had to really sit down and look at the way the light shone on the skull and flowers and see how white to make the highlights and how dark to make the shadows. The drawing took him longer to complete than he’d expected, but he got it in under the deadline.
He said after seeing all the works in the exhibition, he felt a little outmatched. When Phillips’ Mill told him he had won best in show, he was surprised.
“It made me really humble, and also made me look at myself like I can take my art to a higher level than I thought before,” he said.
Barksdale said he’s been drawing since kindergarten. “I always loved art because my brother drew. I always looked at his art and thought, ‘I wish that’s something I could do,’” he said. “So I dabbled here and there. I was bad at first, but I kept progressing.”
Barksdale’s mother, Nichelle Barksdale, works for the state. His father, James Holton, Jr., is working toward getting his commercial driver’s license.
As for the future, he plans to continue his art training in college, possibly as an animator, or perhaps working in the field of fashion design.
“I can also see myself doing logos,” he said. “Anything that can challenge my art skills.”