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The coverage of a wonderful event took us to the town of Samokov! Here, in the impressive lyceum, we met a bunch of enthusiasts. They all had one common task – “unpack,” “sort out,” “write down!”

“Unpack” large envelopes filled with dozens, even hundreds of children’s drawings!

“Sort them out” all over the place. Distribute them according to their addresses of the distant corners of the world!

“Write down” each detail, related to the little artists and their drawings arriving in Bulgaria thanks to the World Competition of Children’s Drawings. We had the opportunity to interview Penka Boyanova – an artist and facilitator of the event. Five years ago, with the help of Ivan Ivanov – the manager of the “Little Zograff” Foundation, they managed to organize and launch this remarkable competition. Penka herself is an honorary president of the “Little Zograff” Foundation, which is the main coordinator of the World Competition of Children’s Drawings.

– Penka, could you answer a few questions from a children’s lexicon? What’s your favorite slogan?  

Do what you must, come what may! It sounds very trivial, familiar, but I think one should do a good job no matter what happens.

– What do you value most in friendship? 

Mutual respect. People must be tolerable and respectful to one another. Thus positive results are guaranteed.

– What do you do in your leisure time?  

It turns out I do not have one. There’s not much time left for leisure activities. But I do like travelling, reading books, spending enjoyable time in my garden, admiring the flowers.

– Where did the idea of ​​a World Children’s Drawing Competition come from?

I’ve gone through the entire system of art education in my early childhood years – it started in drawing academies in the city of Kazanlak, after that I graduated the Art School and my Higher education. I kept living as an artist. The circumstances lead me to became a teacher. I spend most of my time with talented children. I would not call this a “teaching” work, because I believe it is my vocation to work with children and it is a pleasurable experience.

I am currently living in the city of Samokov. I work with children and their development in the field of Fine Arts. They are very talented and intelligent, and they work prudently. They need constant support, without being too rigorous, because if you are – things would just cease to work out. Throughout the experience I’ve gained while working with children and participating in various competitions, I’ve come to realize that these talented children deserve that we gift them a World Children’s Drawing Competition. Thus we could bring the art of talented children from all over the world to Bulgaria. And that’s the way we can grant them confidence and courage to develop their talents. It was impossible for me to do it on my own. Ivan Ivanov – the Foundation’s manager, who was involved in the events facilitation, was next to me. He gave me courage. He said, “Let’s do it, we’ll make it!”

The realization of the competition was very difficult. We knew that there would be a lot of work, it would be hard to find funds and our capabilities would be limited. We continued according to my motto – we’ve already started it, come what may.

– Do you have an unrealized goal, a dream to make come true? If so, what do you wish to happen in the future?

There are many things we have not achieved yet. But a lot of funds will be needed. We all know that money is not the most important thing but it is significant. However, we have managed to keep the competition for five years. We went through all sorts of difficulties. For the second consecutive year, the “XIII Century Bulgaria” Fund helped us. Thanks to them, we’d made several guest exhibitions (in Vidin, National Art Gallery, Tryavna, Rousse …) with the best drawings from the past 4 years. This is how more children were able to see what their peers do. Our main dream and goal is to make a World Children’s Art Museum, presenting the best drawings from all these years!

– How do you motivate the children to join your competition?

I don’t support big cash prizes. In my personal life, while working with children, I like to give them my personal example. Children learn when the people around them are supportive and it is important that we show them the right path. We direct them, but we do not change their own artistic style. The Competition serves us as a mediator between the children – to bring the art of the most talented children and let them compare with each other’s works of art. That’s how they can gain self-confidence. At that age children have their dreams and look for ways to make them come true.

-What kind of life lesson would you teach the children, the participants who have targeted a profession like yours?

I’m re-reading Michelangelo’s story right now. It says that we shouldn’t rely on the talent solely, everyone has a talent for something. The essence of this talent is to be developed, one should have strong will and character, and be a hard-worker, too. If you are a weak person and you do not work hard, you will not be able to develop your talent and achieve your dreams.

– What are the challenges you have faced over the years concerning the implementation of this project?

The greatest challenge is to raise funds in order to keep the competition alive. After the first year the Municipality of Bansko supported us and made the first edition of the catalog, that keeps the best drawings from the competition, as well as some statistics. Unfortunately, this support was one-off. It seems humiliating to me that we have been visiting foundations to ask for sponsorship in order to be able to buy the medals and continue publishing the catalogs. We have brought children from over 50 countries to participate. But fortunately, we now have more support and we manage to do it easily.

The interest has increased. It is a significant achievement that you’re also reaching out to us. We won’t give up no matter what. We worked very hard – it is not easy to bring the world together to Bulgaria. The catalogs we print each year are sent to all participants (absolutely free of charge, they are not to be sold, they are just being given away), they travel all the way to their countries, and show them the Bulgarian participants’ art. This is a great advertisement! It is important for us that all of these amazing pictures enter the catalog. We give away about 200 awards, of which 86-90 are medals, distributed for each age group, with participants from 4 to 18 years old. We grant incentives, certificates and our catalogs.

If the judges give an assessment that in any age group there are a greater number of valuable pictures than the medals’ number, then we increase the number of medals. We also want to increase the number of the prizes, to start giving away different painting tools, we’ll need additional funds for that, of course. But it is not enough for everyone. Therefore, sometimes loss is a greater motivation for the child. We do not try to overwhelm them with cash prizes and give them 100 percent confidence, on the contrary, we want them to continue to develop their talent.

– If you were a jury representative, what are the preferable qualities you would suggest necessary for a future winner?

As a teacher of the participants and a president of the Foundation, I am a fair impartial judge. But as an artist, I have my own opinion. These drawings are not to scale – you can’t suggest that one weighs more and another less. The judges are standing upon a rock. It is essential and very important for children not to replicate or copy anything. They have to come and see what other children do. The great artists have been taught by other great artists, they have not redrawn the Disney characters from books.

During the competition, upon the arrangement of the pictures, it becomes obvious if a particular drawing is copied and this is not to be stimulated. We encourage the creativity skills in children. It is important for a picture to make you feel excited, and to be unique, too. One of my lecturers said, “If you want to be an artist, you have to go a little mad.” I agree. I’ve always loved bizarre children. I don’t like the fact that there’s been an intentional unification in schools recently: “Draw the vase as it is!” We have to let them paint what they want, and just push them to open their imagination up wide.

-With this expansive organization and preparation, tell us of the moment you feel most excited about?

The most exciting moment is at the prizes awards. I see the little sweethearts, girls with cute dresses and many happy children. Unfortunately, not everyone can come. I hope that in the future we will find a way to bear the travel costs. We’d love to have greater support from people in our circles, from the people that love children!