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Totally East Texas: East Texas teen inspires through her art

A Hawkins High School Junior turns family snapshots into art and expresses herself through abstract award-winning pieces.

HAWKINS, Texas — Inspiration is all around us in East Texas. It's not just in the larger cities, but there's so much talent in our small towns. We found a Hawkins artist whose works are turning heads and getting statewide recognition. This week The Morning Loop's Dana Hughey introduces you to Hayley Jasper in Totally East Texas.

Showing her sketches, Hayley Jasper explains, "They are all memories I have."

Like many people, Hayley Jasper uses family photos to help preserve precious memories, both epic and ordinary, but then she takes it a step further.

"And I can probably tell you where each one was taken," Hayley said.

The Hawkins High School junior takes those snapshots in time and turns them into one of a kind art pieces.

"The beginning of my Sophomore year, something just clicked and I started doing photo-realistic work which is what the majority of my pieces are," Hayley told us. "Everything started going up hill."

Hayley says that creative momentum came from being adopted by her step-dad and finding a deeper connection with God.

"I started doing more and more pieces. They started being better and better and I kept improving.  I started going to competitions and I started winning competitions," Hayley explained.

Hayley's family is often the object of her inspiration. "Experiences I have been through. I do a lot of pieces on my dad. because he is an awesome guy. He is my angel in the skies. He really helped me through a lot of dark times. The picture of my mom because she is my best friend. My siblings of course, because while we fight sometimes, I still love them to death. The more abstract pieces are just a way for me to express myself," said Hayley. 

The people she loves and her experiences help her find the artist within. "I have had her since middle school. She was always been very gung ho and worked very very hard," says her art teacher. Trudy Atteberry.

Her art teacher is Trudy Atteberry. 

"It did kind of click last year. It's like she kind of got this confidence thing going on.. and suddenly she was like bam, bam, bam... wow," said Atteberry. "Before she was a good art student, but now she is going from good to excellent. I think one of the things that helps her is the amount of time she spends on it, but she is also very willing to take constructive criticism. That's kind of hard sometimes for kids because they take things very personally." 

Art is a very personal expression and so putting it out there for others to judge can be a risk. It's one the Hawkins Art Department decided to take. They entered into the high profile Fort Worth Stock Show art contest along with hundreds of others.

"I thought we will put a few in and see how it goes. Get our feet wet," said Atteberry. We didn't even place."

"Last year was the first year I ever did it and I did a small 9X12 of my little brothers in his little cowboy outfit. I didn't place, but it was a fun experience," Hayley explained.

So this year, Hayley entered something bigger and more creative, pop art, which is quite a departure from her traditional sketches. 

"I did the big cow portrait that went to Fort Worth," said Hayley. 

'This year they had over 1600 entries," Mrs. Atteberry explained. "Then they narrow it down to 281 and then they display them. Not only was she in the 281, she was in the top finalists. I thought how many finalistd are there and she was like the top 6. I had a cow." 

Speaking of cows, Hayley's took first place behind the reserve and grand champions, earning her a $2,000 scholarship and another $1,400 at auction, but the experience was priceless.

"This has given me an outlet to really express myself and gain that confidence I always wanted," Hayley told us. That means a lot to her teacher, Mrs. Atteberry. "The art is great, but I want them to develop confidence and the work skills probably more than anything. That's probably what makes me happiest is when I see them gaining confidence in class and giving them an outlet and a way to shine. That's the reward right there," said Atteberry.

Mrs. Atteberry is quite inspiring herself. She went back to college at 44 to pursue her own dreams of becoming an art teacher. Art was something she hadn't really done since high school. She says becoming an art teacher is one of the best decisions of her life.

As for Hayley, she plans to keep art in her future. Not only does she want to be a medical examiner one day, she's thinking about police sketch work on the side.