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Zeyno Aksit, a sixth-grader at Potomac Elementary School, won the King George County school district's holiday card contest with her monochromatic painting of a wreath.
Eleven-year-old Zeyno Aksit spends most of her free time drawing in sketchbooks.
When there's no more room in her books, she moves on to scraps of paper and then napkins in her family's restaurant, Uncle Dave's Jr., in King George, where she goes after school nearly every afternoon.
It's that tireless commitment to practice that won Zeyno the holiday card art contest at King George schools.
The shy sixth-grader at Potomac Elementary submitted a blue monochromatic painting of a wreath that was chosen over submissions from the three elementary schools and the middle school in King George.
The card with her artwork on the cover will be sent to all local businesses, including Uncle Dave's Jr., from the school system.
"I was really happy when I heard, but at the same time really anxious," she said. "Everyone's going to see it."
Rosan Hunter, who teaches art at Potomac Elementary, has been Zeyno's teacher since preschool.
"Even then, I knew she was going to be exceptional," she said. "She would back up, examine her work and correct or add to it. She has always had an excellent eye."
Zeyno said it was Hunter's influence that kept her interested in art and made her want to be an art teacher when she grows up.
She said she wants to see all different kinds of art when she goes to college.
Hunter said she's not surprised that Zeyno's work was chosen.
"It had a really nice texture," she said. "She didn't overwork the paint and maintained her monochromatic palette," Hunter said,
Even though it was a painting that won, Zeyno said paint is not her favorite medium. She is currently most interested in drawing portraits, and sketches customers at Uncle Dave's Jr. when she isn't helping her mother.
"I haven't taught them shadowing yet," said Hunter while looking at Zeyno's portraits. "That's all her talent."
Her mother, Ayla Aksit, said, "I'm so proud. We have a tough lifestyle, working such long hours [in the restaurant]. Everything is for my kids' education."
She said that even when Zeyno was small, she preferred paper and crayons to playing with dolls.
Next year, Zeyno will attend King George Middle School and she said that while the new school is daunting and she worries about making new friends, she's excited about taking biology.
"It will help with art," she said. "Especially learning about muscles with the human body."
Zeyno said she'll miss Hunter next year, though.
"Maybe I'll be back teaching art at Potomac one day," Zeyno said. "Or maybe I'll teach at a lot of schools."
Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976