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Best in Show winner from Stockley Gardens graduating with two degrees from TCC

Brandon Umberger enrolled at Tidewater Community College to get a handful of basic college credits out of the way. 

Then his art teacher recommended he check out the Visual Arts Center

“Amazing,” is how Umberger describes the Olde Towne, Portsmouth space renowned for its faculty of working professionals and dynamic, innovative curriculum. 

“I liked it so much I stayed for four years,” said Umberger, who will graduate on Dec. 16 with associate degrees in studio arts and photography

Umberger’s award-winning art from the 2019 Stockley Gardens Fall Art Show.

He’s found early success with animals and landscapes, his two favorite subjects. Umberger won the Best in Show Futures Award at the Stockley Gardens Fall Art Show. His pieces include a watercolor of a distinguished rooster, a portrait of a lion done in vibrant infused watercolor and a third watercolor of Blue City Alley in Morocco. 

“This piece is special from it being my first watercolor and soft pastel painting and my first architectural piece,” Umberger said. The Visual Arts Center student awards recognized that painting earlier this year for its use of color. 

Umberger became serious about art at age 16 after realizing how well it calmed his mind. His initial work, a soft pastel master copy of Monet’s “Poppies,” caught the eye of his art teacher. When she let him work with her soft set of pastel colors – all 800 of them – his eyes grew big. 

“It took me 30 minutes just to pick colors,” he said. 

Umberger added to his skill set at the VAC, where he’s enjoyed all the classes, particularly Printmaking and Drawing IV. After wanting better references for his artwork, he decided to hone his photography skills and realized with just five more classes, he could earn a second associate degree. 

He learns from the critiques at the VAC and the collaboration that comes from engaging with the creative minds there whose specialties range from glassblowing to graphic design. 

A peer of his is adept at drawing zentangles, structured patterned designs that combine spots, lines and simple curves. Umberger enjoys layering and plans to experiment with a watercolor over her zentangle. 

“There’s all kinds of ways to get inspired here,” he said. 

Blue City Alley won the VAC student award for use of color.

After graduation, Umberger will study under local artist Tom Barnes. His plan is to be a studio artist who supplements his income with photography. One day, he’d like to teach. 

VAC honors the best in art and design at annual awards

The Painting II assignment called for staging and photographing a person interacting with an object and applying it to a canvas. Tidewater Community College student Alison Miller knew she wanted a creation that combined the mysterious with the unique. She considered replicating her son, Kaine, playing his viola, but it didn’t translate well into a painting. On a whim, she told him to grab his PlayStation, her inspiration for Player One, Ready!, winner of the Visual Arts Center Purchase Award.

Miller’s painting was one of several recognized at the 49th Annual Student Art & Design Exhibition at the VAC.

“When the judge described my painting during the ceremony, she commented on the details and the emotion that I hoped was captured, giving me a boost in my confidence toward my work,” said the Navy wife, who will graduate in May with associate degrees in Studio Arts and Pre-Art Therapy.

Melinda Watson’s photograph Red Pepper Flakes, winner of the President’s Award, was inspired by photographer Corinna Gissemann’s use of contrasting light,

“When I am creating my pieces, I strive to make them look live, enough that they could just be picked up and eaten,” said Watson, who graduated in December with an Associate of Applied Arts in Studio Arts with a Specialization in Photographic Media Arts. “The level of detail seen in my image was done with the use of a macro lens. I like getting lost in the tiny details of my subjects by getting up close and personal to them.”

All winners listed below:

VAC Purchase Award (Dr. Deborah M. DiCroce)

Alison Miller • Player One, Ready! • oil on canvas

President’s Award (Dr. Gregory DeCinque)

Melinda Watson • Red Pepper Flakes • photograph

Provost’s Award (Dr. Michelle Woodhouse, Portsmouth Campus)

Cynthia Jones • Drifter • engraving

Ruth Jones Judge’s Choice Award: Jessica Clampet • Childhood Encapsulated • oil on canvas

John and Karen Kise Award of Excellence for Graphic

Design (in memory of Dr. and Mrs. Mearl A. Kise): Armani Phoutasen • Battle Cry • video

Award of Excellence for Painting: Hope Drew • Tea Time • oil on canvas

Director’s Award of Excellence for Glass: Kevin Chigos-White • Blue Balance • glass

Michael R. Gluse Award of Excellence for Drawing (in memory of Barbara L. Gluse): Andrew Howald • Troubled Guy • charcoal, pastel

Ed Gibbs Award of Excellence for Photography: Monika Chuchro • Untitled • photograph

 Shelley Brooks Award of Excellence for Sculpture: Suzanne Luna • Spring is in the Air • metal, PVC pipe

Darrell & Sally Craig Award of Excellence for Drawing: Cynthia Hymon • Zoe • scratchboard

The Coffee Shoppe & Chrysler Museum of Art

Award of Excellence in an Open Category: Rebecca Smith • 1200 XLC Carburetor • oil on panel

Lynne Hundley Award of Excellence for Mixed Media: Michaela Bly • Austin • mixed media

Vice President’s Award (Dr. Corey McCray): Grace Martin • Untitled • oil on panel

Provost’s Award (Dr. Michael Summers, Virginia Beach Campus): Melyssa Rolon-Hansen • Dew Drop • computer generated

Provost’s Award (Dr. James Edwards, Chesapeake Campus): Sharla Cotton • Bourdelou • clay

Provost’s Award (Dr. Emanuel Chestnut, Norfolk Campus): Andy McKay • Untitled • glass

Hartung Gallery Award for Color: Brandon Umberger • Blue City Alley • watercolor, soft pastel