There are moments when you learn who you are, and that moment came in sixth grade for Karleigh Hambrick.
She was at summer camp with her best friend when she enrolled in a variety of classes, including art.
"It ended up, I wouldn't go to any of the other classes except art," said the Strom Thurmond High School senior, 18. "I would just sit in there and do all kinds of projects. And at the end of the week, I got the 'most creative' award."
Six years later, she still holds that title.
"People around school consider me the girl who can draw," she said. "I get asked to do things all the time.:
Strom Thurmond art teacher Beth Wade has seen it firsthand.
"Teachers will come to me and ask if they can get Karleigh to do some type of project," Ms. Wade said. "She's finding out people will ask her to do things and she likes doing it."
From designing murals, sets for plays, laying out yearbook pages to arranging the lettering on the senior stoles for graduation, Karleigh has helped with it all.
In her case, Karleigh said, art is as much about creating as it is about sharing.
She has entered and won several contests, including the statewide lunch program poster contest this past year. She also placed second in the South Carolina competition of the Junior Duck Stamp Art Contest.
"It's fun," she said. "I think art is supposed to be fun; and then you can win some things once in a while."
The modesty is there, but so is the talent, said her mom, Carol.
"Karleigh has always drawn," Mrs. Hambrick said. "From the time she was little, she'd draw everything she'd see."
While part of that came from her father, who also used to draw, more of it came from an eye for unseen beauty or a need to capture a less-than-obvious image.
"She'd see things in things, we didn't see," Mrs. Hambrick said. "I'm talking about the smallest detail a normal person would overlook. Things you wouldn't pay attention to."
With simple lines and bold colors - art need not be "deep," she said- Karleigh has captured everything from landscapes to diners, Disney characters to flowers.
Her favorite piece, a pencil rendering of a hibiscus flower on her porch, sits inside her home waiting to be displayed on a wall.
"We have a lot of my pictures waiting to go up," she said. "The only one hanging is in the kitchen."
It's a fitting place, because Karleigh does most of her work at the kitchen table.
"It's my studio," she said.
Away from home, Karleigh has focused her love of art into the school's art club. As president of the organization and one of the founders, she helps plan activities such as tours of museums, art projects and mural adoptions.
"Young people don't appreciate art, the visual arts especially, as much as they did or should. There's more (interest) for music," Karleigh said. "With the club, I wanted to make the arts more of something here than it was. I hope it makes it through after I'm gone.
If the club is anything like art, it should last, she said.
As for Karleigh, she's not looking to keep up her pace as an in-demand artist.
"I like art but not so much I want to pursue it as a career," she said.
Instead she's planning to attend the College of Charleston and major in political science.
"I like politics almost as much as art," Karleigh said, "but I feel that if you did what you love for a living, because you earned your salary from it, it'd be more chore than expression."
There's also the thought that artists in the traditional sense aren't the most financially comfortable people.
"I don't want to starve," she said with a chuckle. "Art just isn't as open for people to pursue careers in as opposed to music. Plus you don't really need a piece a paper to be an artist."
Karleigh's right about not needing a degree to be an artist but, Ms. Wade said, she might be wrong about the limits to art careers.
"I think she'll find she can use it a lot in even more places than she thinks," Ms. Wade said. "I know she's not planning to major in it but I hope she continues with it.
Even if she becomes a famous politician as opposed to a famous painter, Karleigh said, she won't stop creating art.
"Art is expression," she said "that's why I do it."
Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or email@example.com.
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