Lakewood Ranch High School graduate heads to the U.S. Capitol to see her art displayed.
Even as a toddler, Morgan Mulholland knew she was different than her peers when it came to being an artist.
“I was not drawing stick figures like everyone else was,” said Mulholland, who now is 18 and a new Lakewood Ranch High School graduate. “I was building things with Popsicle sticks.”
Because of her eagerness to look at things differently, Mulholland’s talent stood out, even in her preschool class.
“I didn’t play with my dolls as much as I would build things for them,” Mulholland said. “I would build them homes and playgrounds with wooden blocks, Legos and cereal boxes.”
Her parents, Leta and Mike Mulholland, were advised to keep her interested in art. That never was a problem.
As she gets ready to embark on her college career, Mulholland’s art is on display in some impressive places.
Visitors to the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport can see work that earned her Best of Show at the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority’s 2016 student artwork contest.
Even more impressive is that Mulholland’s painting of a Dalmatian titled “Maybelline” earned first place in the 2017 Congressional Art Competition and is being displayed at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
Mulholland completed the painting during her junior year at Lakewood Ranch High. She rushed through “Maybelline” because she wanted to fill out her portfolio. “I chose to name the Dalmatian piece Maybelline because the colors under her eye reminded me of running mascara,” Mulholland said.
She eventually decided to enter the painting in the Congressional Art Competition. Entries from students in Sarasota, Manatee and Hillsborough counties were judged by Chris Jones, the Ringling Museum associate curator of photography and special exhibitions, along with artists Keith Crowley and Libby Bennett.
On May 11, Mulholland attended a ceremony to name the winners at the Ringling Museum of Art.
“As we walked into the award ceremony, there was a painting in front with a sheet over it, and I did not recognize it,” Mulholland said. “(Lakewood Ranch art teacher Terry Thompson) asked me if the frame looked familiar, but I was completely clueless.”
It was her painting, the winning entry.
As the first-place winner, Mulholland, her parents and Thompson will travel to Washington, D.C., on June 29 to see “Maybelline” hanging in a corridor between the Capitol and the Cannon House Office Building.
Although Mulholland’s success as an artist is impressive, she will not be pursing an art degree in college. Instead, she will study architecture at the University of Florida.
“Architecture is a combination of both art and math, and I love art and I love math,” Mulholland said. “I like to have control over what I’m painting.”
Abby Kolesa, an arts teacher at Lakewood Ranch High who had Mulholland as a student for three years, said she told Mulholland’s parents she has the talent to make art “more than just a hobby.” However, Kolesa said she knows Mulholland can do anything she sets her mind to.
“I had her in my illustration and ceramics classes,” Kolesa said.”I left her to herself because she always knew what to do. She has a natural talent of knowing how to work the aesthetics.”
Mulholland said she prefers watercolor painting and drawing with charcoal.
“I like watercolors because I can get messy with it and I do not have to be so detail-oriented with it. The medium just does its own thing when I get lazy,” she said. “Charcoal I like, too. It is black and white and I only use a pencil. I guess I like the simplicity of it.”
Kolesa praised Mulholland’s style.
“She is phenomenal with watercolor,” Kolesa said. “She always has a lot of detail and focus right up front for the viewer to see, and everything blends into the background, creating a more abstract look. She understands how to bring charisma into her art — it has a lot of personality.”
Still, Mulholland said she will follow her own path.
“I did not set out to win all of these awards, but I did,” Mulholland said. “I did not go into this thinking I would someday be an artist. It was just a hobby that sort of happened on the side.”