Senior qualifies twice for VASE state competition

Elisa Arbaiza reflects on accomplishments, future in the art world


Janette Church for Elisa Arbaiza

Senior Elisa Arbaiza’s says she received inspiration for this state-qualifying piece, “Golden Frames,” by walking through an art museum. Looking through the lens of someone else walking the exhibit, Arbaiza wants to show her life from a different point of view. “With this piece, I wanted to show how I’ve held onto past good memories and successes, comparing my present self to my past, Arbaiza said. “The images are memories from my past, and I also emphasize the empty frames, representing the future. I have always referenced past good experiences and how they made me more scared of getting older and facing adulthood. With this painting, I wanted to show a personal struggle I have dealt with while allowing others to find relatability in my artwork.”

By Gracie Archibeque, Prosper High School

As she walked the halls of the regional VASE art competition with months of dedication held in each hand, senior Elisa Arbaiza prepared for her creations to be judged by advanced artists. Her work claimed two spots of the 40,000 entries submitted this year. By the end of the day, Arbaiza could celebrate qualifying for state – for both of her art pieces.

Accomplishing the rare possibility of advancing to the state VASE competition, Arbaiza beat the odds twice in one competition. Her piece “Making a Face” got a perfect score of four as well as her second piece, “Golden Frames.” Both of Arbaiza’s art pieces qualified for the state competition, which will be held Saturday, April 29.

“I was shocked,” Arbaiza said. “It’s rare someone gets qualified for two entries. It was such a great opportunity, and I was emotional that they liked my two pieces out of hundreds of entries.”

Arbaiza has entered contests via her basic-to-advanced art classes throughout her high school career.

“She’s literally won every state and national award and title possible,” instructor Janette Church said. “She went all the way, year after year.”

Each year, VASE has about 40,000 entries with less than 10% qualifying for state. Out of that 10%, only 250 will receive the top award, a Gold Seal. A perfect score adds up to a total of 60 points. An overall average score ranges from one to four, four being a perfect score.

Displayed in the halls, Prosper’s state-advanced artist senior Elisa Arbaiza receives the gold seal award after the state VASE competition in 2021. This piece marked the beginning of back-to-back state qualifying pieces for Arbaiza.  (Janette Church)

“Elisa has always been exceptionally talented,” art teacher Judy Seay said. “As she has matured both mentally and artistically, she has begun to experiment and to take chances that a less-experienced artist will not take.”

From drawing as a child with her sister to winning state-wide competitions in high school, Arbaiza has always had a love for art. Dabbling in a handful of art forms, she mainly focuses on realistic acrylic, which is featured in all her winning pieces.

“I mainly got into art at a very young age when my sister and I would draw for fun. I enjoyed making art early on. It has been a part of my life since then,” Arbaiza said. “I started making drawings with colored pencils, but I later got invested in painting with acrylic.”

Not only have other artists recognized her work, but Arbaiza also has received accolades from instructors. Both Janette Church, her art instructor, and Seay, who had Arbaiza in class freshman through junior year, expressed how proud they are of Arbaiza’s success.

“Elisa’s artwork is of the highest caliber,” Seay said. “She is one of the best artists that I have ever had the opportunity to teach. She is truly one the best artists in the entire state. I am so proud of Elisa.  She is one of those students that I will always remember.”

According to Arbaiza, Seay inspired her from the beginning of her freshman year. While helping Arbaiza – and her work – get more exposure, Seay made certain the pieces had the opportunity to be showcased in multiple exhibitions, including the Bullock Museum in Austin.

“I looked up to Mrs. Seay, my junior year teacher, who retired this year. She taught me different acrylic paint techniques and shared her experiences through her art,” Arbaiza said. “I’ve always looked up to her, and she always believed in me.”

Inspired by Andy Warhol, senior Elisa Arbaiza uses a structure technique first shown by the well-known pop artist. Arbaiza tells a story of her childhood with this art piece. “Growing up, I was told to act a certain way and what was right and wrong in schools and at home. Over time, I got more and more experience with the types of expectations and appealing to other people’s wants,” Arbaiza said. “Using sock puppets clarifies my experiences since sock puppets are impersonations of characters.” (Janette Church)

Andy Warhol provided inspiration for Arbaiza’s sock-puppet piece. A structure he used often included creating four or more components, while keeping similarities to tie them together. In Arbaiza’s piece, she kept the realistic painting style with a wood color staying the same throughout, and the subjects stay identical.

“With this piece, I wanted to take a shot at illustrating growing up and learning to appeal to others. Growing up, I was told to act a certain way and what was right and wrong in school and at home,” Arbaiza said. “Over time, I got more and more experience with the types of expectations and appealing to other people’s wants. Using sock puppets clarifies my experiences since sock puppets are impersonations of characters.”

Arbaiza plans to continue her art career throughout her life. Although she does not plan on attending college for art, she intends to minor in drawing and painting at the University of North Texas, on top of majoring in business.

“In the future, I hope to use my business major to either create my own art business company or have a position in a business that cares about people’s creativity and aspirations,” Arbaiza said. “Art, in general, can help someone get through hardships and is a way of expressing yourself.”

This story was originally published on Eagle Nation Online on March 28, 2023.