Traverse City Record-Eagle

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March 31, 2014

Artist draws way to scholarship

TRAVERSE CITY — Five months of hard work earned Dakota Lee $10,000.

At least that’s the way Ram Lee thinks of his son’s scholarship award to attend Kendall College of Art and Design.

Lee, a senior at Traverse City West Senior High School, was among 130 high school seniors from across the country to attend the college’s annual Art Day Competition this month.

Each student brought their three best pieces to Kendall College in Grand Rapids in hopes of making an impression.

Lee submitted a pen-and-ink comic storyboard, a black and white drawing of a monster looming in a cave and a blue and green watercolor painting of a diver being pulled down by long, tangled tentacles. But he didn’t think he had a shot at a scholarship after seeing art submitted by his peers.

“There was some ridiculous work there,” he said. “I was looking at it thinking, ‘This is nuts. This is so good.’”

Lee works mostly in pen and ink or watercolor. When he isn’t drawing on paper he uses skin as his canvas. He apprentices with his father, a tattoo artist.

Judges deliberated while the prospective students toured the campus, met with faculty and learned about the college’s programs.

Twenty students were awarded scholarships ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 at the end of the day. Lee was shocked when the judges announced his name.

“They said ‘Dakota,’ and I thought, ‘Well, there’s probably another Dakota here’,” he said. “And then they said my last name.”

Lee has been drawing for almost as long as he can remember. He was born with a rare birth defect, congenital coxa vara, which caused the ball joints between his femurs and hip to grow incorrectly.

He underwent surgery after surgery until he was 13 and spent a lot of time at home recovering. He couldn’t do much during that time, but he could draw.

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