Buzz Summer Camp Directory

Works of Rodeo Art

Talented students honored for their art pieces

Click the Buzz Me button to receive email notifications when this writer publishes a new article or a new article in this column is published.
Suzanne Shelby

HOLD YOUR HORSES Suzanne Shelby, a sixth grader at the time, poses with her Best of Show trophy for Horse in a Pasture with a Windmill in 1982.

Back in 1982, when she was a sixth grader at Eagle Lake Middle School, Bellaire resident Suzanne Shelby entered a submission into the Houston Rodeo School Art Contest. Her piece, Horse in a Pasture with a Windmill, earned Best of Show. “I remember that it was a big deal. We were invited to attend the awards ceremony in Houston,” Suzanne reminisces. “I was so excited to wear my ‘Bum Phillips style’ cowboy hat and I am fairly certain my mom made the fancy vest I wore with my Wranglers and Ropers. I won a giant HLSR trophy. My love of art was born from that experience and it’s why I decided to study architecture and continue to work on creative projects to this day.”

Over the past five decades, hundreds of thousands of Houston-area students, pre-kindergarten through high school, have entered the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo’s (HLSR) School Art Contest. Winning entries earn the privilege of being displayed during the Rodeo.

“We are one of the older committees in HLSR and have come a long way from 1969 when School Art was named an official committee after spending years as a poster contest. Now we offer four competitions: 2D, 3D, Quick Draw, and the Graphic Arts Contest,” shared Alicia Smith, HLSR School Art Committee Chairman. This year, more than 30,000 students participated at the district and private-school level, supporting 97 public districts and 54 private schools within a 125-mile radius of Houston, she said. The 2D categories include colored drawing, mixed medium, monochromatic, and painting.

The students’ art is judged by a panel of 30 professional and working artists. The artwork is divided into three categories: elementary, junior high, and high school. Outstanding pieces receive the highest awards: Best of Show, Gold Medal, and Special Merit. Seventy-two of the top pieces go to auction, which in 2023 alone raised over two million dollars for scholarships. A portion of the scholarship money supports a grant that provides students the opportunity to attend the Western Art Academy Master Class Program at Schreiner University as well as classes at The Glassell School of Art. 

Here, some talented Buzz-area student artists share their extraordinary Western-themed works of art. These students all placed in the 2024 Rodeo School Art Contest. 

What Lies Ahead

What Lies Ahead by Carol Wang, sophomore at DeBakey High School for Health Professions, received a Gold Medal.  

What Lies Ahead – Gold Medal

Carol Wang, 10th grade, DeBakey High School for Health Professions, Art Teacher: Neda Khan

“I wanted to accurately express the man’s expressions and make him stand out in my painting. I was very nervous about having a human figure as my subject. I had only focused on scenery oil paintings before. Throughout the process, I learned many new techniques and painted the work layer by layer, adding more detail as I continued. It took me around two to three months to complete, and I worked on it weekly while balancing my personal and work lifestyle.”

Saddle Up

Saddle Up by Chloe Ni, junior at Memorial High School, won Best of Show.

Saddle Up – Best of Show 

Chloe Ni, 11th grade, Memorial High School, Art Teacher: Elisa Barry

“I thought the reference photo was beautiful. I loved how detailed the saddle looked, with the stitching and flowers, so I chose this subject to allow myself to focus on the intricacy. It took a while, maybe 70 or 80 hours. I listened to a lot of podcasts and music, particularly during the slower and more tedious sections.”

Josiah Wu

Setting Son by Josiah Wu, a junior at Houston Christian High School, won Best of Show.

Setting Son – Best of Show

Josiah Wu, 11th grade, Houston Christian High School, Art Teacher: Charlotte Stuart

“I wanted to continue a theme I started freshman year centering on a Native American man and his journey. The inspiration for this piece came from a pow wow my sister and I attended at Trader's Village. I took a photo of a dancer at the end of his performance, and I tried to capture the beauty and vibrancy of his garment in my artwork. The process took around 20 hours to complete, and I mainly used watercolor for the medium with white ink and charcoal for the highlights and shadows.” 

An Unspoken Bond

An Unspoken Bond by Sophie Zhou, a sophomore at The Kinkaid School, won Best of Show.

An Unspoken Bond – Best of Show 

Sophie Zhou, 10th grade, The Kinkaid School, Art Teacher: Nancy McMillan

“I wanted to paint something different from the typically seen Rodeo pieces. I’ve noticed a lot of pieces with people riding on horses or on bulls with an emphasis on the shot being in mid-action. In this painting, I tried to take a step away from that, and instead, I focused on the details of the horse along with use of lighting and an anonymous hand to still tell a story but in a different way. The piece allows the viewer to explore their own interpretation, maybe focusing on the horse’s thoughts, the mysterious hand, and who it belongs to, etc., which was the ultimate goal.”

Zoe Villalobos

Cowgirl and Champion by Zoe Villalobos, a junior at Lamar High School, received a Gold Medal.

Cowgirl and Champion – Gold Medal

Zoe Villalobos, 11th grade, Lamar High School, Art Teacher: Benji Stiles

“The ‘Cowgirl’ is my godmother (and my mom's best friend). The photo was taken at a family friend’s ranch one afternoon. I loved the composition and feel of it. It was fun to see my godmother’s reaction when she saw herself in the painting. She was so thrilled and surprised.” 

Zoe also received a Special Merit last year for her painting, Sweet Pea. “Both paintings from ’23 and ’24 were done in oil on canvas – which I learned for the first time at the Western Art Academy at Shreiner University on scholarship funded by the Rodeo. Overall, it has been an amazing, positive experience.”

Wild West Waltz

Wild West Waltz by Alina Du, a senior at Memorial High School, won Best of Show.

Wild West Waltz – Best of Show 

Alina Du, 12th grade, Memorial High School, Art Teacher: Elisa Barry

“I've always thought bull riding was super cool. When I went to the Rodeo last year, I got to witness bull-riding in real life. The intensity of the moment and the fast-paced action inspired me to create my sculpture. From watching the event, I wanted to create the same effect of the cowboy flying off the bull. The day I had to bring my sculpture to school, I was really scared and paranoid that I would somehow drop the sculpture. So, I got my entire lunch table to help me carry it to the art room, and they got really scared too. It was funny to have a whole group of people terrified for the fate of my sculpture. Luckily, we got it there without any bad things happening.” 


Cowboy by Jacob Chung, a freshman at Memorial High School, received a Gold Medal.

Cowboy – Gold Medal 

Jacob Chung, 9th grade, Memorial High School, Art Teacher: Marilyn Guerinot

“I chose to draw this photo because it displayed the cowboy's relaxed mood. Taken at the Houston Rodeo in 2022, the image shows a cowboy resting on a cow, depicting a scene that is peaceful and serene. I used softer pencil techniques for the background to emphasize the quiet environment. This artwork took me around five months to finish.”

5 O’clock Shadow

5 O’clock Shadow by Jasper Ma, a freshman at MHS, won a Gold Medal.

5 O’clock Shadow – Gold Medal

Jasper Ma, 9th grade, Memorial High School, Art Teacher: Elisa Barry

“I liked the way the light of the sun hit the cow’s fur, illuminating one eye and casting the other one in shadow. I painted the piece in small parts. It didn’t take terribly long because I like painting. I think colored pencil takes me longer.”

At the End of the Day

At the End of the Day by Hyeonwoo Yang, an eighth grader at Memorial Middle School, won Best of Show.

At the End of the Day – Best of Show

Hyeonwoo Yang, 8th grade, Memorial Middle School, Art Teacher: Allison Koenig

“The motivation for my picture was that the reference photo showed the whole picture of the farm, cattle, and the jobs carried out by the people there. I chose this picture because it was not just one animal or one subject but a moment. This photo was taken a few years ago when I went to a ranch with my family. I was panicking when I accidentally ripped the corner of my paper, but my teacher told me I will be fine since it will be covered by the frame.”

Phoebe Phan

A Cowgirl’s Crown by Phoebe Phan, an eighth grader at MMS, received a Gold Medal.

A Cowgirl’s Crown – Gold Medal

Phoebe Phan, 8th Grade, Memorial Middle School, Art Teacher: Allison Koenig

“The story behind my reference photo was that I took my mom’s old cowboy hat and a bundle of fake flowers that were left over from making a wreath and I took a photo of them in my backyard. When my grandma found out that I had won, she told me she thought I had just weaved a hat and taken a photo of it.” 

Squak Bach

Squak Bach by Macie Simecek, a seventh grader at Meyerland Performing and Visual Arts Middle School, received a Gold Medal.

Squak Bach – Gold Medal

Macie Simecek, 7th grade, Meyerland Performing & Visual Arts Middle School, Art Teacher: Christina Gonzalez

“I chose to do this piece because a friend of my mom’s has chickens, and she sent us a picture of them. I loved the photo so much that I decided to paint them. When I was working on the picture, the chickens started looking like old men, and now it changed my perception of the way chickens look.”


Freedom by Locke Beavers, a seventh grader at MPVA, won Best of Show.

Freedom – Best of Show

Locke Beavers, 7th grade, Meyerland Performing and Visual Arts Middle School, Art Teacher: Christina Gonzalez

“I knew I wanted to do a horse running free because I wanted to represent the free spirit of a horse in the wild. I worked on it for about 14 hours.”

Ready to Rodeo

Ready to Rodeo by Shriya Vinoth, a second grader at Rummel Creek Elementary School, received a Gold Medal.

Ready to Rodeo – Gold Medal

Shriya Vinoth, 2nd Grade, Rummel Creek Elementary School, Art Teacher: Barbie Koy 

“I saw a clown at a Disney theme park that motivated me to draw this picture. Clowns always make others happy even when they have struggles inside. My inspiration was my brother. We draw together and have lots of fun moments scribbling, watching YouTube art and drawing. That experience helped me achieve this award.”

Cows Galore

Cows Galore by Lucy Brown, an eighth grader at Second Baptist School, received a Gold Medal.

Cows Galore – Gold Medal

Lucy Brown, 8th grade, Second Baptist School, Art Teacher: Kevin Gamas

“I chose to draw cows for my Rodeo art project because they are cute and are one of the animals in the Rodeo. I used graphite pencils, and it took three to four weeks in art class. I liked creating a picture that represented Texas. I was born in Texas and have lived here my whole life, so it was cool to make a drawing that represents a place that means a lot to me.”

Steer Clear by Sammy Quintero, a fifth grader at Rummel Creek Elementary School, won Best of Show.

Steer Clear – Best in Show

Sammy Quintero, 5th grade, Rummel Creek Elementary School, Art Teacher: Barbie Koy

“The idea for my painting just popped into my brain. I wanted to draw a western animal, so I chose the bull. I used oil pastels which are great because the colors blend together. When we found out that I won Best in Show, my family and I went to celebrate at my favorite Italian restaurant.”

2023 Rodeo School Art Honorees 

Below are some Buzz-area students who were honored in the 2023 Rodeo School Art Contest. 

Claire Senftleber

Rodeo Star – Best of Show, Claire Senftleber, 7th Grade, Meyerland Performing and Visual Arts Middle School

Rodeo Star – Best of Show

Claire Senftleber, 7th Grade, Meyerland Performing and Visual Arts Middle School, Art Teacher: Christina Gonzalez

“I liked that the contest pushed me to think outside of the box to create something unique. Winning Best of Show and representing Houston ISD for the Art Contest last year was a surreal experience. I never thought I would have my art on display for thousands of people. The Rodeo has always been a huge event to me, so being a part of it through my art, one of the things that matters most to me, was an incredible feeling.”

Julia Melendez

Ink Valleys – Best of Show, Julia Melendez, 7th grade, Duchesne Academy

Ink Valleys – Best of Show

Julia Melendez, 7th grade, Duchesne Academy, Art Teacher: Andria Nguyen

Duchesne Academy alumni and friends, Meryl Lee Gregory (’87), Jennifer Young Beck (’87), Aimee Brennig Dodson (’89), and Kathryn Lorton Spring (’97), share their time and talents with the Rodeo School Art Committee. Meryl commented, “I love volunteering for the committee because I love the Rodeo and have always enjoyed looking at the school art. I was a teacher and I know how many hours and how much work it takes, not just the student working on the art pieces, but the teacher and admin as well. I love seeing the range of talent.”

The Duchesne ladies were especially thrilled in 2023 when Julia Melendez, then a seventh grader, won Best of Show for her drawing, Ink Valleys

Julia shared, “This was Duchesne’s first time participating in the Houston Rodeo Art Show. I am so grateful I was able to honor my school and put my talents to work.”

Brynn Sitta

Cheetah Chicken – Best of Show, Brynn Sitta, 10th grade, Houston Christian School

Cheetah Chicken – Best of Show

Brynn Sitta, 10th grade, Houston Christian School, Art Teacher: Charlotte Stuart

“I truly love being able to share my artwork with the Houston community along with many other talented artists. It’s such an honor to have my art displayed in the gallery. This year I used pastels and drew baby chickens.” Note: In addition to winning Best of Show in 2023, Brynn won a Special Merit Award in 2024 as a junior for her piece, Seven Peeps.

Lady on the Horse

Lady on the Horse – Best of Show, Kevin Fu, 7th grade, The Kinkaid School

Lady on the Horse – Best of Show

Kevin Fu, 7th grade, The Kinkaid School, Art Teacher: Luiza Grandchamp

Kevin Fu’s Lady on the Horse was inspired by a photo of his mom riding a horse on the beach. “I was using color pencil, making it an extremely meticulous process and I sometimes spent hours just drawing very small amounts. I think it took me six weeks to finish it.”

Kayla Jun

Cow Skull and Artifacts on Display – Gold Medal, Kayla Jun, 7th grade, Memorial Middle School

Cow Skull and Artifacts on Display – Gold Medal

Kayla Jun, 7th grade, Memorial Middle School, Art Teacher: Felicia Marshall

“The skull photo that the drawing was based on stuck out to me from other average horse or cowboy photos, and everything matched an old and vintage vibe. I was not only overwhelmed with joy because of the award and honor, but also because I finally got to see just how far I’ve come in my art journey.”

Kendal Lippy

Missing Charlotte – Best of Show, Kendal Lippy, 5th grade, Second Baptist School

Missing Charlotte – Best of Show

Kendal Lippy, 5th grade, Second Baptist School, Art Teacher: Sarah McKeon

“I have always loved creating art. I appreciate the many teachers who have taught me different art techniques over the years.”

Houston is lucky to have the Rodeo School Art Committee and Contest to showcase the many talented, often beyond-their-years, artists in the greater Houston area, including some in our own Buzz backyards.

View more of the 2024 winning entries in NRG Center’s Hayloft Gallery, located on the first floor between the two escalators and against the windows. The gallery is open to the public during the Rodeo, Feb. 27-March 17, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. The Student Art Auction takes place March 10, 11 a.m. in the Sales Arena, and is open to the public. Additionally, view student winners on the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo website here.   

Editor’s note: HLSR takes place Feb. 27-March 17, 2024. Read more about the School Art Program here. Find the full lineup here. Also in this issue, read about taking the little ones to Rodeo in this month’s Buzz Baby by Annie McQueen and, for the 21+ crowd, read about the Rodeo Wine Garden by Dai Huynh.

To leave a comment, please log in or create an account with The Buzz Magazines, Disqus, Facebook, or Twitter. Or you may post as a guest.