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Recreating a famous face

Eileen JoyceSeventh-graders Michael Burt and Maden McAnar (left and center) and eighth-grader Jordan Dixon pose with the painting of the famous National Geographic photo they helped worked on at the Lyman Gilmore After School Program. A group of 60 students worked on the painting.
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For those who passed through the junior exhibits at the Nevada County Fair this year, it was hard to miss a large painting of a face made famous by National Geographic magazine. It is the face of a 12-year-old Afghan girl, from a photograph taken in 1983.

The painting won first prize, Best of Show and Best of the Best at the fair, and will be exhibited at the California State Fair in 2003.

It was created by a group of 60 students led by Tana Ferguson, who attends art school in Boston. The students, fourth- to eighth-graders, all participate in the Lyman Gilmore After School Program – or GASP – a program funded by a federal grant that gives students a chance to take part in activities ranging from rock climbing to paintball. The program provides a great opportunity for students who need an after-school activity to get involved in, said program director Kendra Williams.



“It took six weeks of painting, two hours a day, four days a week, to complete it,” Williams said of the painting. The photograph of the girl was graphed into small squares, which were transferred as large squares onto the canvas. Using this technique, students could work on a single square at a time.

Besides learning how to graph the painting, the students also learned to mix colors. They were only allowed to use red, yellow and blue to create all the colors they needed.




Michael Burt, a seventh-grader, first got involved with GASP in sixth grade.

“I’m in (GASP) to help my grades,” he said. “When I saw the finished painting, I thought it looked just like the picture.”

Burt’s fellow seventh-grader Matt Sakaguchi also worked on the painting.

“When I first heard about the project, I thought it was a really good idea. It wasn’t that tough at all – just paint a few squares and fill them in,” Sakaguchi said.

Eighth-grader Jordan Dixon said he’s in GASP because he wants something to do after school. He said he had a hard time figuring out how to paint when he began, but as he progressed, it got easier.

“When we finished, I thought it was terrific,” Dixon said of the painting.

Another painter, Derek Hanson, said, “I thought it would be kind of fun to paint something that’s pretty big, because I’ve never done that before.”

Hanson is in seventh grade. Friend Maden McAnar said he was proud of the painting.

“It was really cool,” seventh-grader McAnar said. “My parents saw it and complimented me. I did the eyes. We had to paint the colors we saw, and not what it looked like. That was hard.”

Williams and other GASP leaders have been in contact with National Geographic, and hope to persuade the magazine to publish an article about the painting.

Jeff Miller, 16, lives in Grass Valley and is a junior at Nevada Union High School. Write him in care of Youth Page, The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945, or at


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