FALMOUTH — Julia Lee’s contemplative, engaging and finely drawn portrait of her sister is the winning submission in this year’s Congressional Art Competition for Maine’s 1st District.

Lee is a junior at Falmouth High School and her piece is entitled “Facet.”

The illustration, “shows us the depth of human feeling and emotion expertly drawn with delicate detail and impressive skill,” said Kelly Hrenko, one of the contest judges.

“Everything about her drawing is exquisite, from the perfectly blurred glass in the foreground to the incredibly detailed strands of hair in the background,” Hrenko added.

Falmouth High art teacher Susan Morse called winning the Congressional Art Competition a “rare and distinguished” honor; in the 36 years the contest has been offered, a Falmouth student has only won three times.

This time around though, two Falmouth students were selected. In addition to Lee, Katie Han earned the second runner-up award for her photograph entitled “Morning Reflection.”

For taking the top spot in the 1st District art contest, Lee will be given a chance to attend a June reception in Washington, D.C., along with the other winners from across the country. Her piece will also be included in a year-long show of student art in the Capitol.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, who represents Maine’s 1st District, said, “it’s always exciting to see the submissions that this competition produces every year, not just for their exceptional quality but for the perspectives these young artists offer of the world around them.”

Of Lee’s drawing, she said its many layers “are sure to make many people pause. My congratulations to her and all the top finishers of this year’s competition, clearly Maine’s legacy of artistic expression shows no signs of fading.”

“Julia’s piece is a masterful work of art on many levels,” said Beth Van Mierlo, another art contest judge. “Her drawing captured my attention immediately and took me on a delightful journey of exploration.”

Morse said 19 students from Falmouth High submitted artwork to the annual Scholastic Arts Awards, from which the Congressional Art Awards are chosen.

She agreed with the judges that Lee’s piece is “emotionally engaging (and) makes me wonder what the woman in the picture is feeling and thinking. I feel both peaceful and a little sad when I look at (it).”

Morse said she invites all of her students to enter a variety of different art competitions because they provide validation and give them “the confidence and encouragement to continue pursuing their passion. Competitions also provide an opportunity to celebrate the arts in a public space.”

She said the visual arts are critical because they “provide an opportunity to explore and discover through process learning,” including the skills of researching, sketching, creating, producing, presenting and reflecting.

Lee, 17, is unsure what career path she wants to pursue; her other passions include photography, painting, playing the violin and studying biology.

She takes photos “everywhere I go in order to capture anything that I might want to recreate on paper. One particular day my sister left a glass on the dinner table in a position where the lighting was perfectly reflecting on her face. I took a photo of her and just had to draw it.”

Lee said her interest in drawing developed over time.

“I grew up learning how to sew, knit and crochet from my grandma. When she realized that I had such nimble fingers for small details she suggested that I start drawing. My parents recognized my natural talent and encouraged me to continue evolving my skills.”

Now, Lee said, “I’ve realized the true joy of art. I’ve begun to fully understand the relationship I have with art. It’s helped me cope with difficult situations, visualize my inner thoughts and capture my best moments.”

Lee said winning the Congressional Art award “means so much to me. Not only has this inspired me to keep creating and doing what I love, but I also hope this can inspire other self-taught artists.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Julia Lee, a junior at Falmouth High School, has won the Congressional Art Competition for Maine’s 1st District with her drawing “Facet,” a portrait of her sister. The piece will hang in the Capitol in Washington, D.C.