Art runs in the family of Craig elementary school student Evan Lay |

Art runs in the family of Craig elementary school student Evan Lay

Sandrock Elementary School student Evan Lay sits behind artwork that garnered him a blue ribbon from the Colorado Association of School Boards.
Sasha Nelson/staff

CRAIG — Family and faith are two themes underlying the work of young artist Evan Lay.

“It never matters what it looks like, as long as you have fun,” said the up and coming artist.

Evan is in fourth-grade at Sandrock Elementary School, and his work was among those selected by Moffat County art teachers — one from the elementary schools, another from the Moffat County High School and a third from Craig Middle School — to represent the district at the annual Colorado Association of School Boards art show, according to teacher Julie Whitecotton.

Whitecotton, who teaches at Sandrock and Ridgeview Elementary schools, nominated Evan’s work, which went on to earn a blue ribbon from CASB as one of the best student artworks in the state.

Evan used pastels and glue were used on black paper to demonstrate warm colors, top, and cool colors, bottom, in his award-winning drawing.


Evan learned of the win from a voicemail message.

“I was so excited. Then, I had to wait two weeks for the trip to Colorado Springs and a presentation before the school board,” he said.

As a 2018 blue ribbon winner, Evan received $50, a certificate, and photos, but the real prize is the positive impact the win has had on his education.

“I felt so confident about it. I felt more confident about doing everything else. It’s helped me in math, reading rotations, spelling … it’s helped me so much,” he said.

It’s also made school a joy for Evan and Evan a joy to teach.

Whitecotton set her pupils an exercise in cold and warm colors, which inspired Evan to create his award-winning pastel drawing.

Each student was given a piece of black paper and glue. They then used to glue to create a barrier that would resist color.

Evan chose to create wavy lines reminiscent of waves. Then, he used cold colors — turquoise, light green, dark purple — pastel sticks to color the lower part of his drawing. He chose to create spirals and rays, like the sun, and used warm colors, such as orange, red, and yellow, on the upper portion of the artwork.

Whitecotton said Evan had “a little bit of a rough start” to school.

“Evan has had a lot of changes and is maturing this year,” said his mother, Andrea Lay. “We lost my mom, his grandma, and my grandmother, his great-grandmother in 2018.”

It wasn’t easy to engage Evan at first, but Whitecotton said his behavior noticeably changed with the project that resulted in his winning artwork.

Evan Lay follows instructions given to him by art teacher Julie Whitecotton to create the illusion of a three-dimensional drawing.

“When he started this project and saw what he could accomplish, it was a switch that turned on,” she said. “Evan was quiet the whole time. He focused. He followed the directions and the technique, and it’s important to do those things and to work hard.”

For his part, Evan said his imagination was captured by “… the interesting drawings and how amazing and bazaar they can be …,” adding that the different colors made the project “interesting.”

“Now, when I teach him technique, he picks up on it, and he helps,” Whitecotton said. “I try to help them understand that art is useful in other subjects, and other subjects are helpful in art.”

When her class cuts paper for a project, Whitecotton demonstrates how to “use math to know how many pieces we can get from a sheet of paper.”

She also requires her students to practice public speaking, as each artist is faced with critics, and their peers learn how to give both compliments and constructive advice for improvement.

“It’s part of learning how to express yourself,” Whitecotton said.

Evan has also been impressed to learn that “all kinds of people,” from rock star and artist Jon Bon Jovi to students in his classroom, all “make art,” he said.

Two of the artists he most admires are his mother, who has also studied with Whitecotton, and his departed great-grandmother.

Andrea and Evan Lay compare their artwork. Artistic talent runs in the family.

“I like making art with Mom,” he said.

He and his mother live in a humble house, Evan said, and before Christmas, the pair used horseshoe nails to create a nativity scene they painted with nail polish.

“We love doing freehand and not worrying about being messy,” Lay said. “He has great creativity. I enjoy the possibilities that he has right now …”

She saves their art as she would treasure.

“We became closer,” Lay said.

At home, Lay has encouraged Evan to expand his art.

“We are going to be getting out fabric and the sewing machine. He’s not afraid of working the sewing machine,” she said.

It makes Evan humble, as he shared that, “They (his mom and teacher) have been supporting me. My Nanna supported me. She said that I would be like her someday.”

A certificate and a blue ribbon were awarded Evan Lay by the Colorado Association of School Boards, but he says the biggest reward has been the confidence he knows has in the classroom. Also pictured is Evan’s mother Andrea Lay.


With a slight catch in her voice, Lay said, “His grandma was so proud.”

Another of Evan’s pieces —a three-dimensional pop-up origami — has been selected by Whitecotton to appear alongside more than 120 pieces of art to be displayed during the Connections4Kids children’s art show at the Center of Craig during the downtown Art Walk in February.

“I want to be an artist when I grow up,” Evan said.

An art show, a blue ribbon, and the belief of his teacher and family are all proof that Evan is well on his way to achieving that aspiration.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or


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