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Daily photo by Emily Saunders
Anna Kate Yeager, 17, with "Mama Rock Me," the picture that could win her a trip to New Zealand.

Finalist in worldwide art competition
Hartselle teen's watercolor among
top 10 entries from 168 countries

By Deangelo McDaniel 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Either she's one of the most modest teenagers in Hartselle or Anna Kate Yeager hasn't comprehended that she's one of the most talented student pastel painters in a world Rotary Club competition.

That's right. In the world.

Next month, the Hartselle High student will know if her painting of a mother and daughter is judged to be the best pastel.

The Rotary Club of Otorohanga in New Zealand has selected Yeager's painting titled "Mama Rock Me" as one of the top 10. She competed with entries from 168 countries.

Regardless of whether she wins, her painting will be displayed at the ASB Showgrounds in Auckland, New Zealand.

"That by itself is a huge accomplishment," said her mother, Cassandra Yeager

Speaking about the finalists, contest curator Barry Marx said: "The works are of an extremely high caliber and truly inspirational given the circumstances of some."

If Yeager, 17, wins the competition, she will get a three-week trip to New Zealand plus $750 in prize money.

The competition will auction her painting with 25 percent of the proceeds going to a children's charity.

"This really isn't happening," said Yeager. "I'm having a hard time grasping how big this is. I mean, I'm just a small-town girl."

Yeager has been interested in arts and crafts since she was an elementary student when her mother bought her a watercolor kit.

Initially, her mother was unsuccessful in getting Yeager to enroll in art classes. She was persistent, and it paid off when art teacher Michelle Wilson became the Yeagers' neighbor.

By then a teenager, she agreed to take art lessons from Wilson. She said Wilson showed her how to see shadows and blend colors to make paintings look real.

By 2005, the humble "small-town girl" could no longer deny her talents when her painting of a coyote won first place in the Alabama Wildlife Art Competition.

Yeager has won several more competitions and her paintings have sold for as much as $300.

With the encouragement of Wilson and Hartselle Rotary Club Treasurer David Burleson, she entered the international competition in New Zealand.

She e-mailed a digital image of "Mama Rock Me" to Marx and had almost forgotten about the competition until the curator called.

Yeager was visiting a neighbor when he called, and her parents were at Sparkman Park watching her brother play baseball.

"My mother heard the message first," Yeager said. "When I listened to it, I just couldn't believe what I was hearing. I had pushed this out of my mind and got the painting framed."

She is removing the frame and shipping what she considers her best painting to New Zealand.

The painter of about 20 pastels, she said this one is most interesting because the subject and colors are different.

"You usually don't do dark colors in pastels, but I selected a black person for this work," she explained.

The painting shows a mother comforting her child.

Yeager, a Hartselle High junior, has paintings pending in two other competitions.

"All of this is just completely too big for my mind to go around," the honor student said. "I don't like to think about it, because I don't want to seem overconfident. It's just fine saying I had a print in the top 10 in the world."

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