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A Brush with Success

Whether designing an ad campaign, recreating a breathtaking nature scene, or painting a child’s portrait, Pensacola Christian College visual arts grads take principles learned in the classroom and apply them to their work. Chair of Visual Arts Shawn Thayer said, “We focus on developing aesthetic sensibility to traditional design principles through instruction and practice, and we work to keep students aware of current trends and professional expectations in the design field.”

This year, a number of alumni participated in the 2017 Quayside Art Show in Pensacola, the largest co-op gallery in the Southeast, sweeping up a variety of awards. One of the winners, Christian Hemme (Commercial Art ’10), is an artist who knows the deep passion and commitment needed to complete a work that speaks to an audience. “Surrender is a beautiful, sweet word,” he said. “My proudest moment as an artist was learning to trust God and put my whole hope and confidence in Him alone, and not on any form of worldly success or accolades.”

Hemme won the Award of Excellence for his painting Olympic Boa, part of a series featuring the industrial ships that dock in Pensacola. “From my experience in the fine art field, it takes far more than just being a good painter to make it. You have to be relatively good at social media, business, accounting, tax and copyright law, advertising, web design, photography, and more,” he said. “The undergrad program gave me the basic skills to launch a career with confidence.”


Andrew Nguyen (Studio Art ’15) received the Jackson’s Starving Artist Award (given by a premier restaurant in the area) for his painting Riverbend. He got his inspiration for the piece while walking through a national park. “There was something very intriguing and refreshing about how the water wrapped around the cattails and how the light reflected off the water,” he said. “The blues and greens of the water and the cattail bushes go hand in hand to create a harmonious painting.”

“Art is not easy. Art education is never ending,” Andrew acknowledged. “You never reach the end of learning. There were so many times that I thought I could not make it. Yet, with God’s strength, I was able to overcome the obstacles and improve as an artist.”


At the 2017 regional ADDY Awards this spring, James Scott (Graphic Design’17) won a gold ADDY for his Arrow Outdoor Adventures ad campaign. His campaign went on to win a silver ADDY at the national ADDY Awards in New Orleans this summer. He said, “It’s crazy to think that I actually made it to the top tier. Pushing the bar of what you recognize or accept as your best can really open up new possibilities. I’d like to give a big shout out to Mr. [Aaron] Ebert, my teacher. He pushed me to work harder, and I accepted the challenge. Regardless, I still think it’s wild that I made it to the national competition; it’s for sure a God thing.”


One alumnus and fine art painter, Adam Clague (Commercial Art ’06, M.F.A. ’09), received two prestigious awards in two different states this year—both on the same night. In New York at the Art Renewal Center (ARC) International Salon, Adam’s painting Knitter’s Gift won a purchase award. Later this year, it will travel to the European Museum of Modern Art in Barcelona, Spain for further display. At the same time, his painting Book Club received a top award—which included a $20,000 cash prize—at the Oil Painters of America (OPA) National Exhibition in Ohio. The painting held special meaning for Adam. “When I was a kid, my parents would sometimes come into my room in the morning and find me unconscious on the floor, surrounded by piles of books. I had stayed up all night reading! Memories like these sparked my inspiration for Book Club,” he said.

For Adam, painting is “the thrill and challenge of capturing the beauty of God’s creation, and dedicating oneself to technical excellence, practicing good marketing, and trusting in the Lord for His faithful direction and provision,” he said. “For almost every artist, ‘making it’ is a gradual process. From PCC’s art program, I gained not only a solid foundation of technical instruction, but also a clearer perspective on how to use my God-given abilities for His glory.”

Though 2017 was an incredible year for these visual arts graduates, their brush with success only makes them more determined to keep refining their craft. Adam echoes the sentiment of many of his fellow alumni: “The longer God enables me to pursue what He has called me to do, the greater confirmation I have that He will continue to do so,” he said.