If you are the best artist in a room, go to a different room.

Amy Foos of Edgemoor, South Carolina, the winner of the 2020 Congressional Art Competition for the state’s 5th Congressional District, received that advice from the curator of the Mazza Museum at the University of Findlay. It’s the kind of advice that moves an artist to improve her skills continuously. Amy strives to do that. 

“Whenever I am creating art, I try to push myself to be the best I can,” she said.

Indeed, her experience with the Congressional Art Competition itself is a testament to her perseverance and her drive to improve. She entered the competition in 2019, though another student received the top award. 

“But then then next year, I told myself that I would push myself as much as I could so I could win,” Amy said.

Her efforts paid off, as she won for her colored pencil drawing Lady of the Lake. During the coronavirus quarantine, her art teacher called to tell her she won. She was astounded. 

“I felt so proud of myself because I worked so hard and put so much effort into my drawing,” she said.

Each year the Congressional Institute sponsors the Congressional Art Competition for the U.S. House of Representatives. Every Member of the House may hold an art competition for high school students in their districts. The winning artworks are displayed for a year in an exhibit in the Cannon Tunnel, which connects the House of Representatives office buildings to the U.S. Capitol. Members of Congress, congressional staff and thousands upon thousands of visitors view the exhibit each year as they pass between the buildings.

The Congressional Art Competition was first held in 1982 and the Congressional Institute has sponsored since 2009. The Congressional Institute is a not-for-profit organization that helps Members of Congress better serve their constituents and helps constituents better understand the operations of the national legislature.

Merideth Hill, Amy’ art instructor at the Lewisville High School in Richburg, South Carolina, can testify to her student’s commitment to improving her art. “Her work is always thoughtful, well crafted, and imaginative, and she is always devoted to taking her artwork to the highest level of refinement,” Hill said. 

Just as she pushes herself to be the best artist she can be, Amy also strives to incorporate different kinds of influences into her work. She says that Leigh Ellexson, Arleesha Yetzer and Hieu Nguyen, who goes by the professional name Kelogsloops, inspire her the most. But these artists “all have very different styles,” she said.

In addition to inspiration from different artists, music is a muse. “I listen to music that has the same feeling I want to convey in my artwork,” she said.

She also says that she does her best work with colored pencils but most enjoys working with oil paints. She enjoys trying new mediums and has recently branched out into jewelry making, focusing primarily on earrings.

When she’s not creating art, she enjoys watching anime, a genre which encompasses her current favorite film Spirited Away. “I just love the story and the beauty of the art,” Amy said.

She also enjoys playing the video games Animal Crossing and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

In the future, Amy hopes to be a professional artist. “I always imagined myself owning my own studio and selling originals and prints of my work,” she said.

According to Amy’s art teacher, she can succeed as a professional artist.

“Amy has brought so much joy to my classroom over the years,” Hill said, adding that there is “no doubt” that Amy will accomplish “incredible things” going forward.

Doubtless until then—and for as long as she’s creating art—Amy will keep moving from room to room, always in pursuit of artistic excellence.