Pine River art teacher encourages students through own art LEROY \u2014 Scott Buckmaster believes to effectively teach, one must \u201cpractice what you preach.\u201d So when the Pine River High School and Middle School art teacher saw an opportunity to enter the world\u2019s largest art competition, he showed his students what it takes to pursue an artistic dream. Competing for over a half a million dollars in cash prizes, Buckmaster created \u201cJokers,\u201d three 80-inch portraits composed of 2,307 playing cards arranged to create human faces. He submitted the piece ArtPrize, a competition held from Sept. 19 to Oct. 7 in downtown Grand Rapids. The artwork, which created somewhat of an optical illusion, was best viewed through a camera, by squinting or by standing far away from the artwork. \u201cIt was hilarious. So many people were right in front of it and didn\u2019t understand it,\u201d Buckmaster said. \u201cThen there would be a wave of understanding and they would run and get their friends and drag them to come look at it.\u201d Pine River School District superintendent Jim Ganger made the trip to Grand Rapids to view Buckmaster\u2019s art and said he was amazed at the teacher\u2019s creativity. \u201cIt was fascinating \u2014the fact that you had to use a cell phone to put it into focus. How do you think of this stuff?\u201d Ganger said. The idea for \u201cJokers\u201d came when Buckmaster\u2019s wife, Kelly, who serves as the principal of LeRoy Elementary, had extra materials from an elementary family night. \u201cWe had a bunch of extra cards left over so I said, \u2018Can you do anything with these?\u2019\u201d Kelly said. Her husband took the challenge. \u201cI took one of the decks out and I just started shuffling it, when I realized there was a value scale,\u201d Scott said. \u201cOnce I realized that, I wanted to figure out how I could control that.\u201d He soon realized that overlapping the rectangular cards formed a square, which could be used as a pixel, or dot, to make up a large piece of art, similar to the way pixels of various scales make up photographs. \u201cIf I just put the pixels in the right order, I can create anything,\u201d Scott said. Before he decided to pursue the card project, he researched past ArtPrize submissions to make sure his idea was unique. \u201cI knew that if I was going to enter ArtPrize, I wanted to do something that no one had ever done before,\u201d Scott said. Using reference photos of himself and two of his friends, he divided the photographs with a grid pattern and assigned each space values, which corresponded with the value of the cards. The first piece took him nearly three months to complete, and he worked on the piece in his classroom. \u201cOne of the fortunate things of being an art teacher is I can involve my students in my life outside of school in an artistic way,\u201d he said. \u201cWhenever they\u2019re working on something, I\u2019m working on something too. As a teacher, I find great value in doing that because my students see me practicing what I preach.\u201d After working all day at the school, Scott would drive to Grand Rapids to showcase his art to ArtPrize viewers, who had the chance to vote for his art by texting, online or by using a smartphone app. Though he doesn\u2019t know how many votes his art collected, he handed out more than 5,000 cards to remind viewers of his voting number. \u201cI came in every day and my students would want an update,\u201d Scott said. \u201cIt was neat being able to share that with them.\u201d Along with his ArtPrize entry, working on art outside of class is not unusual for the teacher. He spends his summers as a guest artist at the St. Ignace Car Show drawing cars and has many pieces of art around his house. Some items include more peculiar pieces, such as a chair in a tree and an orange door on the shore of a nearby body of water. Kelly, who serves as Scott\u2019s \u201conly honest critic,\u201d said art has been a big part of his life since she first met him. \u201cI think his art is awesome, and I know he\u2019s honored to get to teach something he\u2019s so passionate about,\u201d Kelly said. \u201cHe\u2019ll finish a watercolor (painting) and people will say, \u2018Wow, that\u2019s amazing,\u2019 and he\u2019ll say, \u2018Oh, it\u2019s just an example for class.\u2019\u201d Along with motivating students with his work, Ganger said the art teacher inspires other staff members as well. \u201cI think Scott does a great job opening up our minds,\u201d Ganger said. \u201cScott is an engineer with an art degree. He can do anything. When I look at something, I see an orange or a cell phone, but he sees so much more.\u201d Scott\u2019s Pine River fans are not the only ones who admire his talent. After the ArtPrize competition, Ripley\u2019s Believe It Or Not purchased the playing card piece for display in a museum in Florida. He plans to enter the competition again with another card project to carry on the success. \u201cScott is a very gifted individual who realizes that there is more to art than just drawing,\u201d Ganger said. \u201cHe instills in our students the (realization) that art is all around us. He\u2019s a great role model for them.\u201d Those interested in viewing more of Scott\u2019s art can visit http:\/\/scottbuckmaster.com\/1.html.