After painting only for 5 years, artist takes Best of Show

By Kalea Hall


Liz Skeels smiles when she thinks about the people walking past the painting of her daughter, Jocelyn.

Skeels sees people stand back and point in positivity and she can do nothing but smile, knowing that her painting evoked that reaction.

“I love it,” Skeels said. “It’s so exciting.”

Skeels won Best of Show in professional art at the Canfield Fair for her emotion-filled oil painting titled “Everything She Doesn’t Know” after only painting for five years.

Skeels, a mother of three and Youngstown State University art student, began painting after she took a break from work.

“I think that while not working, I had all of this creativity I wasn’t doing anything with,” she said.

She used watercolors to get her creativity out. She wrote a fairy tale story for her children and illustrated it.

“My family loved it,” she said.

Her family gave her encouragement to keep up her creativity.

In 2011, she took her first art class at the Davis Family YMCA with YMCA arts and humanities coordinator Suzanne Bort Gray.

“I could tell that she was someone I could really learn from,” Skeels said of Bort Gray. “She just had all of this knowledge and she has this passion. It’s nice to be around people with passion because I think it’s contagious.”

Bort Gray taught Skeels the technical aspects of painting, but more than that, she taught her to see potential in herself as an artist. Bort Gray noticed a potential in Skeels to make art and not just pretty pictures.

“We could tell she was really interested in art,” said Bort Gray, who also works in the Fine Arts building at the fair.

Bort Gray encouraged Skeels to take her talent to the next level.

“She told me that I had a lot of potential, and she would love to see me go to college,” Skeels said.

Today, Skeels is working her way to earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree as a sophomore at YSU.

“It’s fulfilling,” she said. “It’s helped me become better. I am starting to understand more now who I am as an artist, and I am kind of developing my own ideas.”

Skeels’ Best of Show professional art piece came to be through a class at YSU that required her to enter into a show. She entered the painting along with two other pieces of art into the women’s art show at the YWCA.

The painting of her daughter Jocelyn at age 5 took her six to eight weeks to complete. She chose to paint it because of the beautiful lighting in the picture that captured Jocelyn in a unique way.

“It was her expression,” she said. “It captured me. She almost looks sad, but then she doesn’t. I was hoping I could capture that.”

The Canfield Fair Fine Arts judges must have thought so and gave her the big purple ribbon.

“It’s so realistic,” Bort Gray said. “It’s so spot-on as far as looking exactly like it was.”

In fact, visitors to the Fine Arts building on Austintown Drive have found it so realistic that they want to touch it.

It’s huge for Skeels to take home a Best of Show ribbon, Bort Gray said – especially since she thought moving up from the amateur level to professional this year would result in no ribbon awards.

“Many people paint for years and years and never accomplish that,” Bort Gray said. “It was so thrilling for me to see that’s who won.”

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