Jordan works on her submission for a rodeo art contest at her desk. The painting is based on a photograph showing onlookers at a rodeo watch a bull buck its rider. (Jordan Smajstrla)
Jordan works on her submission for a rodeo art contest at her desk. The painting is based on a photograph showing onlookers at a rodeo watch a bull buck its rider.

Jordan Smajstrla

Senior Awarded Full-Tuition Scholarship to Prestigious Art School

Jordan Smajstrla's painting, Puppeteer, pulled some strings granting her admission to Savannah College of Art and Design

April 14, 2021

Barrel Racer, another of Jordan’s pieces she created for a rodeo art contest. Done in acrylic paint, it won 5th place at the Austin rodeo. (Jordan Smajstrla)

Hours have passed since the sun set over the trees, but Jordan Smajstrla is still awake. A playlist, ranging from Sinatra to Rage Against the Machine, floats its way through the background. The only light in the house comes from her art studio, a former hot tub room she converted years ago. Papers and sketchbooks litter the studio, and various canvases lean against the walls. She’s been up all night, and school starts in a few short hours, but Jordan doesn’t mind—she has work to do.

After stopping for a moment to consult her reference photo, she returns to her painting: a rodeo contest entry featuring faces of people still blurry and unfinished as they watch a bull rider. This art and more makes up Jordan’s art portfolio, an expansive and detailed collection of her work showcasing her talent.

I cannot remember a single time in my life where I wasn’t doing art. I was always doodling something. I think with my hands. I was always drawing something, or creating a pattern, or creating different characters.

— Jordan Smajstrla

“I’ve been doing art since I could pick up a Crayola,” said Jordan Smajstrla. “I cannot remember a single time in my life where I wasn’t doing art. I was always doodling something. I think with my hands. I was always drawing something, or creating a pattern, or creating different characters.”

This passion for art earned her a full-ride scholarship to one of the most prestigious art universities in the country.

The Savannah College of Art and Design, SCAD, is one of the top-ranking art universities in the United States. Students from all across the world apply to this Georgia school for acceptance and scholarships, including the full-tuition Frances Larkin McCommon Scholarship. Only 5 out of 24,000 annual applicants are selected. This year, one of the five is Champion senior Jordan Smajstrla, whose gouache painting The Puppeteer ensured her award.

Puppeteer, the gouache and colored pen painting that won Jordan her scholarship. She created it during art class at Champion while focusing on the horror genre of art.

“I’m going to stay in a dorm there, so I have to pay for that and I have to pay for food, but pretty much everything else they cover,” said Jordan Smajstrla. “It also pays for a trip to France in junior or senior year to enjoy other cultures. At SCAD they’re all about enjoying other, different, unique things to expand your creativity.”
To qualify for the Frances Larkin McCommon Scholarship, students must “demonstrate superior artistic ability” by submitting an application and a single art piece. Finalists are then contacted for an interview and must show the rest of their portfolio. At first, Jordan didn’t even realize she was a finalist.
“I was sitting at my desk near the window, and I was doing a painting for the rodeo art and I got a call,” said Jordan. “I thought it was a scam call so I just let it go.”
The school left a voicemail and an email offering her an interview, where Jordan was questioned about everything from the piece she submitted to why she began pursuing art. SCAD contacted her again two weeks later, at the beginning of Boerne ISD’s spring break. Jordan’s mom picked up the phone early that morning while washing her face.
“So she goes and wakes me up, walks into my room, face still wet, and she’s like, ‘Jordan, wake up, get on the phone!’ I was like, ‘What?’” said Jordan. “He tells me that I am one of the five out of 24,000 kids around the world to have gotten this full-tuition scholarship to SCAD. I say ‘Thank you,’ because I can’t think of anything else to say.”
After the news, Jordan and her family spent spring break in Savannah, Georgia visiting the campus and touring the city. At first, she wasn’t sure if SCAD was right for her. She originally applied to the University of Texas and Texas A&M. However, after touring Savannah and learning more about the school, she feels that SCAD is the perfect place to pursue her lifelong passion for art.
“First we went to the theater, which was spectacular, and exactly like Boerne Community Theatre,” said Jordan. Jordan is an avid member of Boerne Community Theatre’s Teen Troupe, where she helps build and paint the set as well as create props and dress the stage. “I immediately felt like I was at home. It was incredible.”
Jordan and her family also visited the animation department.
“There were two different buildings for the animation: the warehouse and the actual building. The actual building was full of the latest technologies. They told us you get out of SCAD teaching people in the industry how to use the latest technology because they get it first before it’s rolled out to other places.”
Jordan felt awed by the campus.
“Everything was really cool,” she said. “I was just like, ‘Cool,’ the entire time.”
Jordan is still deciding what she will study because with her scholarship there is no pressure on her to study a specific field or degree.

“They really love it that you don’t know, because in their mind they can mould you like clay to help you figure out what you want to do and really push you toward that thing,” said Jordan.

Currently, she is deciding between animation, sequential arts, and illustration degrees. At Champion, she took several art and AP art classes and studied in the animation pathway where she pursued these three fields.
“[Animation] is mostly 3D—that’s why I’m leaning toward some other stuff,” said Jordan. “There’s also the 2D side of animation, which I absolutely love. I think it is fascinating to be able to draw what is going to move. And then there is sequential arts and illustration, and these two are kind of similar. All of them are storytelling through the medium of art.”
Whatever she decides, Jordan is looking forward to experiencing SCAD and life after high school.
“I’m really, honestly excited to do things in the future and be able to go to a school that is so incredibly focused on creative careers and art,” said Jordan. “Not a lot of schools, including high schools, do that. They always focus more on the academic side of it. And while that is important, to have knowledge, creativity is peak importance, I think, because it’s the creative people that solve big problems.”

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Hi there! I'm your editor, Amy Steward, and this is my fourth and final year with the newspaper. I've been doing journalism-type-things for as long as...

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