Alek Gideon, at left, a Freeport High School sophomore, is the winner of Maine’s 1st District in the 2020 Congressional Art Competition. He submitted his portrait of his friend Gus Wing, at right. Courtesy Alek Gideon

FREEPORT — Putting graphite and charcoal to paper to draw a portrait of his friend Gus Wing, Alek Gideon strove to create a piece that would not only reflect Gus’s distinctive character, but also draw immediate attention from the many sets of eyes perusing his work.

The finished product, “Gus,” did what it was meant to achieve. Gideon, a Freeport High School sophomore, is the winner of Maine’s 1st District in the 2020 Congressional Art Competition. Carolyn Adams of Lewiston High School won in the 2nd District, and both her and Gideon’s pieces are being displayed this spring at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

A panel of jurors chosen by the Maine Arts Commission and Maine College of Art ranked Gideon piece tops among 39 submissions in District 1, according to Ryan Leighton, marketing and communications director with the Maine Arts Commission. District 1 includes Cumberland, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc and York counties, as well as most of Kennebec County.

“Gus” is Alek Gideon’s award-winning portrait of his friend Gus Wing.

Jurors Beth Wilber Van Mierlo and Lin Lisberger, who represented District 1, said in a news release that Gideon’s portrait contains a “delicateness to it that is exquisite,” and “a willingness to go ‘outside’ the frame that shows great artistic courage.”

Having his work receive that kind of praise justifies the amount of time and attention to detail he puts in, Gideon said: “It really pays off, and it encourages you to keep doing it, and keep making, and keep creating.”

“Alek is a tremendous artist and works very hard on all of his pieces,” Wing said. “For him to draw me is a very special feeling and I am happy that his hard work is being noticed. For this drawing to be put up in the Capitol is a pretty cool feeling.”

Graphite and charcoal against gray paper is Gideon’s go-to method for drawing portraits, which comprise most of his works. “That way I can use dark values, but also I can use light values, so I can go in with white charcoal and bring out a lot of highlights, which widens the range of values and adds more depth.”

Gideon, the son of Ben Gideon and Maine Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, a Democrat running against Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, said he has always loved drawing, and how it makes him feel.

“You’re making a 3D form on a 2D paper, and it’s a really, really amazing feeling when you step back and see the finished drawing, and see how it all comes together to form the 3D shape,” Gideon said.

He spent about 20 hours making that happen with his picture of Wing.

“Whenever you’re drawing a portrait of somebody, it always comes out better when you know them,” Gideon said. “When you know their personality, the personality always shines through when you draw.”

And with his works being displayed alongside those of other artists, he recognizes the importance of having his offering stand out.

“I try and make it dramatic so that people will stop and look at it; people will actually feel something when they look at it,” Gideon said.

Dedicating so much time to a piece can be tedious, and requires some patience, he acknowledged: “It takes a lot of time, and a lot of consistency to really see your work improve.”

At just 15, college and a career are still on the far horizon. But art will no doubt continue to enrich Gideon’s life.

“I’m not exactly sure what my path is going to look like at all, but I’m sure that whatever I do, I’ll keep drawing,” he said. “It’ll definitely be in my future.”

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