BRIGHT FUTURES — J’Dynne Illa’s painting to be displayed in U.S. Congressman’s office

Published 12:30 am Tuesday, May 16, 2023

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PORT NECHES — J’Dynne Illa isn’t much on self-portraits, but that didn’t stop her work, “Starving Artist,” from earning second place in the 2023 Congressional Art Competition for Texas’ 14th District.

U.S. Rep. Randy Weber’s office recently announced the names of the winners, and Illa, a Port Neches-Groves High School senior, is one of the winners.

Her work and that of several other finalists will be displayed in Rep. Weber’s district offices.

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Illa said the drawing was an assignment from art teacher Seida Bryan in which students were asked to create a portrait using colored pencil — a medium Illa had not worked with previously.

The drawing is from a photo of Illa taken of her during Galveston’s Dickens on the Strand event. She and others were dressed as beggars to raise money for the local theater, she said.

After she was finished, her teacher asked if she wanted to turn that work in for contests. She said “yes.”

“J’Dynne has a natural gift for art. Not only is her skill incredible, but she is very creative as well,” Bryan said.  “She is the kind of student you can give a prompt, and she can go with it. J’Dynne is every art teacher’s dream.”

Illa and other art students are working on surrealism, and for that assignment she chose a blend of the Mona Lisa and a goldfish.

It’s not just art teachers that gush at her talent and work ethic.

Melissa Eyles, theater director and teacher at Port Neches-Groves High School, has worked with Illa since her freshman year.

On a busy Monday theater students were taking down the set from their most recent production and in one area were some of the backdrops and artwork painted by the Illa.

“I’m able to give J’Dynne any type of assignment for a show, and she’s able to turn the work around quickly with something unexpected and beautiful,” Eyles said.

Illa doesn’t remember exactly when she realized art would be her path but guesses it happened when people started telling her she was good at it.

That was nice to hear so she kept doing it.

With graduation just around the corner, Illa has been hard at work making her graduation cap a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. A peek at a photo of the work showed portraits of her and friends.

After graduation Illa plans to take some time off and prepare a portfolio of her work then head to college, possibly at Lamar University or an art school.

Illa is also studying photography and shoots photos for the NDN Press.

She has won a number of awards and mentions for her paintings, including being named a finalist in the annual Law Day Art Contest held at the Jack Brooks Courthouse in Beaumont. She was also one of the winners of the Provost Umphrey Law Firm’s Southeast Texas Courthouses Photo Competition and won a first place in the Association of Texas Photography Instructors Fall Photography Competition, among other honors.