Sports are a big deal for John Vradenburg. So is his artwork.
Those two interests have provided a winning combination for the Hudson High School senior. He recently won Best Overall in the 9th Congressional District's annual Artistic Discovery competition sponsored by U.S. Rep. Mike Bilirakis and the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center.
Until last week, John's pencil-drawn portrait of basketball star Michael Jordan was on display at the center along with about 100 other student entries. Now his work is headed for Washington, D.C., where it will hang in the Capitol building for a year.
John said he has been drawing "ever since I could pick up a pencil." His mother, who studied at the Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio, would often work in a small room in the cellar of her home. "I was about 4 years old when I remember watching her paint," he said.
It was also back in Ohio where John developed an interest in his favorite baseball team, the New York Yankees. "Their farm team, the Clippers, played there," he said, "so I became a fan."
John had some talent for drawing faces, and he blossomed under the instruction of Hudson High art teacher Clay Verge.
Two of his drawings of basketball stars, a father-son portrait of Michael Jordan and his dad and another of Scottie Pippen, hang in the art room at Hudson High.
Those types of portraits have won him some acclaim, both in and out of school.
Last year he started selling some of his work to students who wanted portraits of their favorite rappers, rock stars and athletes.
"I sell them for about $85," he said. "Last year I sold five; this year I've sold two so far."
John recently completed a portrait for Cardinals starting pitcher Todd Stottlemyre in exchange for an autographed baseball from the team.
"I'm waiting on a picture from Mark McGwire," he said, "then I'll be doing one for him."
Most of John's off hours are spent working at the Sports Authority store in Port Richey. He hopes to get his foot in the door in their graphic design department at their home office in Fort Lauderdale.
"I could work and go to school at the Fort Lauderdale Art Institute," John said. "Now that would be perfect."
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Other award winners from Pasco County: Award of Merit _ Anthony Chaumont, Land O'Lakes High. Honorable Mention _ Jennifer Morris, Ridgewood High, and Cherie Laiviere, Land O'Lakes High.
Photographs also are on display at the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center. The winners were: Best of Show _ Mike Hughbanks, Gulf High. Honorable Mention _ Joy Park, Ridgewood High.