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Festival of Whales logo contest highlights student artwork, both old school and digital

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By Andrea Swayne

When Sarah Holen’s art teacher announced the Dana Point Festival of Whales logo design contest, the creatively talented and naturally competitive student’s interest was piqued.

Holen, a Dana Hills High School senior at the time, said the prospect of having her artwork chosen to represent the 2014 festival was as attractive as the thrill of competing.

“Growing up with seven siblings in my family, everything seems to turn into a friendly competition,” said the 2013 graduate. “My sister was a sophomore at the time and in the same class, so we also had a competition going on between the two of us. I really just wanted to go for it.”

Early on in Holen’s design process, she noticed previous years’ entries included only digital graphics. She decided to freshen things up and went “old school” with her design.

“I wanted to go back to basics, back to pencil and paper and away from the digital age. I just felt like doing something different, something not digital. I wanted to create art by hand,” Holen said.

Dana Hills High School graduate Sarah Holen’s logo design was chosen by Dana Point Festival of Whales organizers as the face of the 43rd annual event. Here, Holen displays her design on a whale watching trip aimed to inspire students for next year’s logo contest. Photo by Andrea Papagianis
Dana Hills High School graduate Sarah Holen’s logo design was chosen by Dana Point Festival of Whales organizers to represent the 43rd annual event. Photo by Andrea Papagianis

She came up with a basic idea, made a sketch and then consulted another one of her sisters, a biology teacher, for advice on making her design scientifically correct. After submitting the final product Holen turned her attention to her upcoming graduation and planning for college.

Months later, when she received word she won the contest, Holen was stunned.

“I was literally ecstatic. I’ve never won anything this big before. It’s kind of a big deal. I can get my name out there, put it on my resume, tell my kids someday,” she said. “There was definitely a lot of talent in my class, so it was an honor to be chosen from among my peers.”

Holen said she is especially excited because having a logo in a long-running event such as the Festival of Whales makes her part of Dana Point’s history. She is also grateful to be included among the long list of past logo designers, which includes well-known artists like Wyland and John Van Hamersveld.

“I love that the festival committee brings the youth into this event. It gives kids an amazing opportunity to show the community their talent and artistic style,” Holen said. “Who knows, it may spark a future career in art or help discover a talent someone didn’t know they have. That’s how it was for me. I didn’t know I was good at logo design but apparently I’m decent at it. You don’t know until you get the chance to try.”

Holen is now in her second semester at Saddleback College, where she plans to finish two years and then transfer to a four-year college out of state. Although she has yet to make a final decision on her course of study, she is interested in business marketing, the automotive industry and art.

In addition to having her design grace signs, festival merchandise and Orange County Transportation Authority buses, Holen’s prizes include $100 cash, whale watching tickets and her choice of merchandise. She will also be signing posters on Sunday, March 9 at the festival’s Art in the Park.

“The entire event is an opportunity for the community to be reminded of and to recognize what a special place we live in,” Holen said. “It brings us together to appreciate and admire our natural surroundings, wildlife and each others talents.”

Holen’s logo artwork along with those of the four other Festival of Whales logo finalists will be on display at the Dana Point Community Center, located at 34052 Del Obispo Street, from February 1 through 26. They will also be featured in the Festival of Whales program in the February 21 issue of the Dana Point Times.

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