Published 12:00 am Friday, September 13, 2013

CHINA GROVE — When Jordan VanVoorhis was asked to paint the new senior mural at Jesse C. Carson High School, she came up with a better idea.
VanVoorhis said she was honored by the request from Assistant Principal Catherine Hinson. But she knew the end of summer would be busy for her, because volleyball was starting soon.
Painting a mural would take a lot of time. But designing one on the computer wouldn’t.
VanVoorhis had just attended a graphic arts camp at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College earlier in the summer, so she asked if she could try creating a graphic instead.
Hinson said she was surprised by VanVoorhis’ idea and loved it.
“It just blew me out of the water,” Hinson said.
Each year, seniors try to create something that represents their class, Hinson said. For the past few years, they have not chosen to change the mural of a cougar’s pawprint on the wall. The numbered year was simply repainted annually.
She said when this year’s seniors wanted to change it, Hinson and Principal Kelly Withers thought immediately of VanVoorhis, a standout student in the fine arts program.
“We’re very, very pleased with her work,” Hinson said. “The students love it. They came in and said, ‘Oh my gosh, who did this?’ ”
The mural shows a cougar — the school’s mascot — as it appears to rip through the wall with its claws. The animal’s snarling head is breaking through the center of an orange letter “C” for Carson. White stars below it represent the three schools that feed into the high school.
Surrounding the center of the graphic, over a blue and orange background, are several semi-transparent images — a winged shoe, an atom, a stack of books, a saxophone, a pair of theater masks, a painter’s palette and a musical staff.
Jordan said she wanted to include elements that represented all aspects of the school and its seniors, including academics, athletics and especially art.
The word “Seniors” is written at the top, and at the bottom, a banner reads, “Class of 2014.”
The mural can be changed easily to match the year of the current graduating class. Unless one of the future senior classes decides to do something different, VanVoorhis’ artwork will probably stay on the wall for the next few years.
“I just feel like Carson is such a loving school, and I just wanted to leave a little piece of me behind,” VanVoorhis said. “I’m fortunate enough and honored that I was able to given that opportunity.”
She didn’t want to cover the previous mural, so school staff painted over it to create a clean, orange slate.
To create the mural, VanVoorhis first drew a sketch of her design and got it approved by school officials. Then, she started working with the images in Adobe Photoshop, making a few changes along the way as school officials suggested them.
Finally, she sent the finished design to Chapman Custom Signs in Salisbury for printing. A few days before school started, Justin Overcash and Jason Hinson from Wrap It Up in China Grove applied the roughly 6-foot-by-6-foot decal to the wall using a blowtorch.
From a distance, the mural looks like it was painted. Close-up, the pockets and grooves in the textured cinderblock wall are still visible under the decal.
The process took about 15 hours of her time over a few weeks, she said. Painting would have likely taken double that, VanVoorhis said.
Along the way, VanVoorhis used many of the skills she had learned at camp at Rowan-Cabarrus. She said her teacher, Eric Tucker, “did an amazing job with the class.”
“He said what we would learn in four days is what he would teach over a semester-long course in college,” VanVoorhis said.
She said she learned “the ins and outs of Photoshop and how to take images and alter them — make them come to life.”
It was her first graphic arts class, and she said she loved it.
“I fell in love with it, and it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life,” VanVoorhis said.
She said she would love to study mixed media production at Savannah School of the Arts.
“I would love to go into animation, get picked up by Disney and Pixar, go to California and work for them,” VanVoorhis said. “That’s my dream.”
Dr. Scott Nason, chair of the Rowan-Cabarrus Web Technologies program, said the graphics camp was one of five programs the college offered this past summer. There were also three game development camps (each at a different level) and a mobile app camp. Nason said the college is looking at adding a number of camps next spring, including one dealing with robotics.
Graphic design students, he said, worked on individual projects with the help of the instructor, an assistant and each other.
VanVoorhis’ mother, Sandra Ketchie, said parents were invited back on the last day to see what their children had accomplished.
“Jordan was excited all week and brought her projects home to work on them in the evenings because it was so challenging,” Ketchie said. “I was very impressed with all the techniques they learned and how many projects they completed within that short of period of time.”
She said she’s proud of her daughter, who gets to leave a legacy at her school as she prepares to graduate.
VanVoorhis has suggested to Hinson that all the seniors sign their names around the decal, so they, too, can leave their mark on Carson High School.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.