*This post is part of a series of blog posts highlighting award winning contributors and supporters of Scribendi.

Hello Scribendi enthusiasts, the time has come to meet this year’s Western Regional Honors Council (WRHC) award winner in the visual art category, Aarya Engineer. His piece Self-Portrait (I Like Turtles) was chosen by a panel of WRHC judges to win this year’s award, but it’s not the only piece Aarya has published in this year’s edition of Scribendi—you can also find his oil painting Dimethyltryptamine featured in the magazine.

Aarya is a University of New Mexico mechanical engineering student who is minoring in drawing and painting. He said that Self-Portrait (I Like Turtles) was originally created as an assignment for a drawing class, but decided to submit it to Scribendi after hearing about the opportunity in one of his honors classes.

“The assignment was to draw a self-portrait, but I wanted to do something different and I wanted it to look weird. Animals come up a lot in what I do, and drawing myself as a turtle settled with me the best. I also felt that compositionally it would be something I could accomplish.”

Using colored pencils and charcoal on a piece of scrap cardboard, Aarya created a self-portrait fused with the face of a turtle, a humble and endangered creature.

“As I started drawing more themes and ideas emerged. I thought about how turtles are a creature that is threatened and how that includes a political and ecological message. They also live for hundreds of years.”

When asked about being published in Scribendi, Aarya said he was “extremely flattered.”

“It feels non deserving, but it does help to sort of validate my artwork. Being published in Scribendi and winning this award makes me feel like even though I’m an engineering student, art is potentially still something that I could do.”

Aarya also talked positively about Scribendi as an important collection of literature, art, and music.

“It’s a good showcase of literature and art in the community and especially in the entire WRHC. It’s not often that you get to experience all these things in one place. I think it’s really important to have all these creative works on record somewhere so we can look back and reflect upon them.”