Photo by Heather Middleton
By Johnny Jackson
Students were awestruck by the whimsical likeness of their classmates, drawn on large blocks of paper by caricaturist, Vernon Smith.
Smith, also a painter and sculptor from Decatur, was an invited guest to Hampton Elementary School's recent fine arts showcase, which introduces students to different art forms and ways of expressing art.
The 40-year-old caricaturist recalled being inspired to pursue art on a professional level as a young child taking part in a similar event.
"I was at an art fair when I was 11," Smith recounted. "And I saw a potter. He took my hands and made a pot, using my hands as his tools."
Smith said he began working in caricature art as a college student. He has been doing it for 20 years now, in addition to teaching art at Abernathy Art Center in Sandy Springs, Ga.
The artist spends part of his time encouraging young people to consider how they, too, can pursue the arts. The exaggerated expression of caricature art, he said, keeps students' interest and allows him to produce works for them in a short amount of time.
"When I started doing them [caricatures], I looked at faces totally different," Smith said. "I think of it as a bit of a passion now."
Smith was one of dozens of presenters taking part in Hampton Elementary School's 10th Annual Arts Alive, held April 1.
Fourth-grader Samuel Murphy said he was first inspired to draw after seeing the drawing talent of his cousin. The 10-year-old said he realized he had a talent in the arts as well. He said he wants to be a cartoonist, drawing upon Japanese-style animation.
"It's creative, and it's fun," said Murphy, who also has aspirations of playing drums in a rock band one day.
Murphy said he most enjoyed the event's exhibit featuring Devon Taylor, senior at Hope Christian Academy of Jonesboro. Taylor, a drummer and keyboardist, demonstrated his craft in playing a full set of drums for students.
Other students appeared impressed by the harmonic sounds of the Bible Baptist "Bells of Praise."
Lynn Borton, director of the bell choir from Bible Baptist Church and Bible Baptist Christian School in Hampton, spoke to young students about how each bell plays a role in creating a full concerted sound.
"We're demonstrating, through playing the pieces, different techniques for playing the bells," said Borton, noting ten of the choir program's 55 members were on hand for this year's event.
Elsewhere, former Hampton student, Chelsie Boyd, performed tunes for students who danced to her vocal styling. Meanwhile, an ante-bellum period-clad Ashleigh Roell interacted with students with classical ante-bellum dances.
Mary Frances Daniels conducted introductory instruction on violin, and Ron Biffle took a corner classroom playing tunes on his brass instruments.
"The children love it," said Theresa Burge, a first-grade teacher at Hampton. "They've been excited for weeks. It's wonderful. It exposes the children to so much, as well as the teachers."
Hampton Assistant Principal David Barber said he was pleased with the art community's support and the school community's response to the annual fine arts event.
"I've been here since it began," Barber said. "Every year, we've tried to keep it fresh and exciting for the kids. The kids have a blast, and they're learning something too."