Picasso, Rodin, Michelangelo … Charles Danna?

Senior’s 3D Art sells for $47K at Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo live auction


photo courtesy of Melanie Leslie

On exhibit in a glass case throughout the entire Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, senior Charles Danna’s entry placed 1st Overall in the 3D Art Division and brought in $47 thousand that Danna says he plans to use to enter an art institute.

Walking into the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, senior Charles Danna didn’t expect that he’d place in the art competition. He never had in his former years of entries. As the announcer called out the top 72 winners of 30,000 entries, he anxiously waited in his seat as numbers went down.

At last, “Charles Danna” was announced for Lot No. 7. In a state of disbelief, he climbs on stage to accept his reward. Looking down at his certificate, he realizes his sculpture “Head Back Yonder” also won 1st Class Champion in 3D Art.

“I’ve had a horrible past with rodeo. I’ve never won any medals before, and it was always finals,” Danna said. “Since elementary school, my stuff always stank, but take that, rodeo! I got number seven!”

The sculpture was auctioned along with other winning pieces on March 10, at which Danna and painting and drawing teacher Melanie Leslie attended. Though the starting bid for Danna’s piece started at $2000, the price tag quickly rose to the $10,000s until the piece finally sold for $47,000. However, only $7500 goes directly to Danna while the rest of the winnings are distributed through the scholarship fund. Danna plans to use his winnings towards an art college in his pursuit of digital design as a career.

“I expected $5,500, maybe the max of $75,000,” Danna said. “Art colleges are insanely pricey. It’s like on average $30-40 thousand dollars a year. I’m thinking about going into LoneStar for maybe one, two years and then going to a state school. I have more options with it [scholarship money]. It’s definitely going to school though.”

The winning 3D piece has been five months in the making. When coming up with a western-themed piece, Danna knew he wanted to utilize his strength in drawing and painting portraits into something three-dimensional, the best thing he knows. So Danna got to work right away under the guidance of ceramics and sculpture teacher Ann Brunson.

“You can’t just pour in your passion and put in a bunch of work,” Danna said. “You have to get your information from the right sources.”

It was a really good weekend.

— Charles Danna

Inspired by Leslie’s picture of a hardened rodeo lady working as an extra, he got to work with several sketches to create a dynamic caricature. He started by crafting the literal skeleton of the piece using wire to construct the ribs, skull, and hands followed by a tin foil covering. Finally, the body of the cowboy was shaped with oil-based clay and cast in bronze for the auction sale.

“He is a sensational, sensational student,” Brunson said. “He works hard, he stays on task, he’s talented, he takes corrections well. He’s the ideal art student.”

That same weekend of his rodeo win, Danna had been notified that he advanced to state for the Visual Arts Scholastic Event (VASE) competition for his oil painting as well as a recipient for the $5000 scholarship for his Scholastic Arts and Writing Gold Key award.

“It was a really good weekend,” Danna said.

Danna is no stranger to the arts. His mother and artist siblings have offered their support and guidance to his projects. When it comes to art styles, he’s tackled courses in digital drawing, painting, sculpture and more. His strength? The fundamentals.

“I feel like everyone glosses over it. I haven’t sculpted since middle school, that’s why I wasn’t expecting auction or it going to Class Champion for the sculpture. Because I haven’t touched this stuff in forever,” Danna said. “The reason I was able to get that far was because I have the art fundamentals. Perspective, anatomy, color theory, form and if you have the fundamentals down
you can do anything in art.”