Contests & Me: A Brief History

The other night I spied this AWESOME drawing contest Google is hosting for youngsters, and I thought, “Oh boy, I would have been A-L-L  O-V-E-R that back in the day.” If only I could Peter Pan myself and I’d be able to meet the age requirement.

Because if you didn’t know by now, I’m one step short of foaming at the mouth when there’s an art contest afoot.

Clearly it’s hardwired because I’ve had a desire to compete since I was a wee tot. Who knows why, I’ll leave that to the professionals to decide. What I can tell you is that I’ve always, always loved a challenge. I couldn’t care if nobody else entered or, in the words of The Bub, “60-hundred” people were also competing; for me any opportunity to brainstorm a puzzle and have a platform to creatively execute my ideas was the stuff that made (okay fine, makes) me tick.

Oh, not convinced I was bitten by this bugs eons ago? Well, let’s review just a tiny sampling of SammyK contest design highlights over the years, shall we?


Exhibit A: From 1981. I was all of 10 and as the article states, “We know her well at ‘Gulf News’ – she invariably bags a prize at our Junior News painting competitions!”

How’s that piece of evidence, Your Honor? Guilty as charged for unabashedly loving competitions! Muahahaha.

Go ahead and ignore the article (hello, embarrassing documentation of a 10-yr old’s ramblings); let’s focus on that spiffy dress


Exhibit B: The “Cleanasaurus.” A grand creature I concocted for a citywide search for the best glamorization of a trash-sucking MadVac machine used in downtown Louisville, KY. If memory serves, this was around 1995.


I won the contest and got to suck up my prize money on live local television (yes, there’s a video and no, I’m not showing you).

After the win, I was asked if I’d create the actual beast myself. I remember it being completely unchartered territory (and a tad unnerving), as I had to keep in mind that this thing would be dragged through all kinds of nasty who-knows-what trash all day and it needed to be able to live to tell about it. Painting the vehicle body and making the neck cover were fairly straight forward things to sort out. The head was a bit more complex.

I constructed the head armature out of dense foam, and covered/reinforced it with heavy-duty marine grade coated canvas. I also made it easily removable from the nozzle neck by way of a huge garden clamp. This way, all parts could be deep cleaned with easy access to every nook and cranny. I finished off the details with durable paint (I don’t remember what kind exactly), fabric spot patches and plexiglass eyes.

It lasted a good long time, until a few years later when I was sent the now frayed around the mouth and permanently dirtied head for a complete cranial makeover. Fresh canvas, spots and paint, and the Cleanasaurus was soon back in business sucking up trash like it was nobody’s business. 


Exhibit C: From 2004, here’s another public art contribution, this time a New York City mural, called “Heartbeat Brooklyn.” This is one of two huge panels I illustrated, showing highlights of the great borough of Brooklyn.


And here’s the other panel with someone walking by it, which gives you a better sense of how big it is. If you’re ever cruising through the Gowanus Canal area of town, you can see it in all its glory by the Lowe’s Home Improvement.

So there we have it, folks. Yes, there more examples (oh, puh-leese, don’t bother acting surprised) of my addiction to art contests, but I’ll stop with three that span a good range of my life so far. Seeings how I don’t plan to stop entering them anytime soon, there’ll surely be more to share down the road. I’m shameless.

In the meantime, since I’m clearly the poster child for such things, I implore you to share the Google design contest with any young creative minds you know. Because let me assure you, if they’re anything like me, they’ll L-O-O-O-O-O-V-E it! (plus there are AWESOME prizes to boot!)