Karimen Ambrocio began drawing on her artistic talents in the seventh grade. She was inspired by her older brother and his impressive sketchbook.
The young Hilton Head Island girl started doodling her own sketches and realized she liked creating art. She continued drawing in her spare time, and when she got to high school she decided to focus on another medium. She signed up for sculpture class and then branched out to painting.
Now a junior at Hilton Head Island High School, Ambrocio recently won first place in the University of South Carolina Beaufort's Emerging Artist Competition. Her painting, "Marbles Still Life," won her an annual art scholarship of $3,000.
"I was really surprised and excited," Ambrocio said.
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She said she knew she had made it to the top three but didn't think she would actually win first place. After all, this was her first oil painting.
"It's a fantastic piece," said Jon Goebel, USCB assistant professor of Studio Art and program coordinator. "She's really mastered the use of light in this painting. ... Her painting skills for a high school student are very impressive."
The competition was part of the second annual Celebrate the Arts festival held March 23 at USCB. Goebel said the competition was open to high school students across the country. The university received about 100 entries but only accepted about 40 of those for the exhibit. He said the greatest response was from local schools, but they did get entries from as far away as Pennsylvania. The pieces will be on display through April 20 at the school's Center for the Arts.
Kelsey Borden of Bluffton High School won second place and a $2,000 annual scholarship. Cameron Holsclaw, also of Bluffton High School, won third place and a $1,000 annual scholarship. The rest of the artists accepted into the exhibition will receive $500 annual art scholarship awards.
"There is some talent out there in these high schools," Goebel said. "And I think that's a testament to what the high school teachers are doing. ... The artwork was very impressive across the board."
Goebel said he wants to raise awareness about the university's studio art program.
"We have nearly a quarter of a million dollars in scholarships available for art majors," Goebel said. "We are a program that people don't have to leave the area for. ... It's really a great opportunity for the students because we have put so much money into the program."
Goebel encourages people interested in the school's studio art program to apply online.
As for Ambrocio, she is not sure where she wants to go to college, but USCB is an option. She said she was thinking about going into the business field, but now she's leaning more toward art. She doesn't know exactly what she wants to do for a living, but she is sure about one thing -- art will be a part of her career.