Since he was old enough to hold a crayon in his hand, art has been an everyday part of Skye Ocaranza’s life. From drawing dinosaurs and creating his own Pokémon at age three to entering his illustrations in the Stanislaus County Fair’s annual art exhibits throughout his school career, the recent Pitman High School graduate is no stranger to creating masterful works of art – so masterful, in fact, that a recent piece has earned him a trip to Washington, D.C., as the winner of the Congressional Art Competition for California’s 10th District.
Skye earned first place in the competition, hosted by Congressman Jeff Denham, with his drawing titled “Ramephant,” which was illustrated using pen and ink. The drawing features a ram-elephant hybrid, complete with a set of ram horns on its head, two sets of terrifyingly sharp tusks and two pairs of eyes.
“He has always been self-motivated to draw, and that’s how he has always spent his free time,” said Skye’s mother, Vicki Ocaranza. “I just feel very proud that he’s getting some recognition for his efforts and his talent, because he deserves it.”
Skye’s drawing will represent the 10th District in the Cannon Tunnel, which leads visitors to the U.S. Capitol Building, and will hang alongside the winning entries from every congressional district in the country for the next year. As the overall winner of the competition, Skye will travel to Washington, D.C., next week to be honored at a reception for winning students at the Capitol, where the national winner will also be announced.
“When I submitted the work, I wasn’t even thinking about the Washington, D.C., thing. I was just submitting it to see if I could win,” said Skye. “I was surprised because I didn’t think I would win at all.”
Skye’s fellow AP Studio Art classmates Nairobi Mello and Michelle Serena Doo placed second and third, respectively, in the competition as well, and he credits their instructor, Larry DeTomasi, with much of their success.
When Skye began his concentration in AP Studio Art, which was the task of combining different animals and drawing them as one (he liked “Ramephant” so much, he decided to submit it into the Congressional Art Competition), it was often DeTomasi who would give him different ideas of creatures to illustrate. Skye and his classmates were also encouraged to practice daily in sketchbooks given to them by DeTomasi – something that has helped Skye hone his abilities since he began taking art during his sophomore year of high school. It was also DeTomasi that encouraged Skye to enter his work into the Congressional Art Competition.
“For some of the animals I draw, it’s both of our ideas combined and those are the best ones, I think,” said Skye. “I thank Mr. DeTomasi for all of the teaching and all of the support he’s given me. A good teacher is always great to have.”
During his time at PHS, Skye made time for art in between his participation in the school’s band and his stellar academic performance. After missing the art competition’s first, local awards ceremony in Modesto due to a band concert, he’s excited to attend the larger celebration in the nation’s capital and do some sightseeing along the way.
“I’m really excited for the Smithsonian,” said Skye. “My high school band will actually be at the Capitol next year, so I’ll have to ask them to go look at my art hanging in the tunnel.”
In the fall, Skye will head to San Jose State University, where he was accepted into the school’s esteemed Animation/Illustration Program. His love for creating characters drew him to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in the subject, he said.
“It’s a pretty intense program, and it will be my first time working with animation,” said Skye.
The program receives 500 to 600 applications annually, but is only able to accept 100. The program also connects its students to local entertainment powerhouses like Pixar and Disney.
“It’s a tough program just to get into, so that in itself is something to be very proud of,” said Vicki. “It’s a competitive field, but he’s got the work ethic and the talent. He’s a really hard-working kid that has always loved art and is really humble about it.”