“Get out of your head. Art is often full of imperfections, and it is hard to be happy with your art if all you can see are the mistakes.”

That’s the best advice Hannah Brewster, the winner of the 2020 Congressional Art Competition for the 10th Congressional District of Michigan, received.

Recognizing one’s own imperfections requires some degree of humility, and Hannah demonstrated that when she learned that she had won the Congressional Art Competition. 

“I was extremely surprised that I had won,” she said. “I had seen the art hanging on the walls of the Capitol in previous years, and I had never imagined mine would also one day hang there.”

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.

Hannah won the Congressional Art Competition for her artwork Battleship Row, a depiction of a rock formation at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, a National Park located on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Established by an act of Congress in 1966, Pictured Rocks covers over 73,000 acres and is marked by various cliffs—like those depicted in Hannah’s art—which stand as high as 200 feet above Lake Superior.

One of the best ways to see the rocky cliffs is by boat. That’s what Hannah wanted to evoke in Battleship Row.

“I really wanted to get a perspective that you could get from the local boat rides in Munising, Michigan,” Hannah said.

Portraying a perspective like she did in her winning piece was new for her. “It was a learning experience!” she said.

Like many other students, the lockdowns of coronavirus pandemic afforded her the opportunity to focus on her art. She expanded her understanding of art and tried new artforms. The Congressional Art Competition was part of this process, too.

“The Congressional Art Competition seemed like a fun way to get my art out there and leave my comfort zone,” she said.

Recreating the rock formations for her submission was a challenge for Hannah since she says there were many different hues she had to depict. “It took a decent amount of time to mix these colors and try to replicate the true beauty of Battleship Row,” she said.

True to form for one who gets out of her comfort zone, she said her favorite artistic medium constantly changes. Today, though, she’s especially fond of pens and markers. These let her “create a messy masterpiece with pops of color.”

In saying she likes to draw “a messy masterpiece with pops of color,” she evokes the art of her favorite artist, Vincent van Gogh, a Post-Impressionist noted for the often vivid colors and bold, almost-hurried-seeming brushstrokes. “His art truly has so many layers and interpretations to it that there can never be a real background or explanation for it,” she said.

Hannah is not content to stay focused on the visual arts. She’s also an accomplished musician and can play both the piano and baritone horn. Her skill playing the baritone has earned her the distinction of being one of the top-seated high school players in Upper Michigan.

When Hannah is not creating art or music, she enjoys playing Minecraft. She might also be reading (her favorite book is The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin) or listening to music (her favorite musician is Corbin).