Plains H.S. student teams up with local artist

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Plains artist Dave Williams and his protege Haylee Steinebach, a Plains High sophomore, display their painting in the Plains High library. (Chuck Bandel/Valley Press)

When an aspiring, talented young artist joins forces with a talented, experienced artist good things can happen.

That is the case with local artist Dave Williams and his “adopted” protégé Haylee Steinebach, a 10th grade honor student at Plains High School.

Together they have spent the past year creating an 8-by-6 foot painting of a blue horse that will soon adorn the walls of the Veterans Administration office in Helena.

Williams, who is president of Joint Operations Mariposa, a pro-veterans advocacy group based in Plains, and Steinebach, a member of the National Honor Society, plan to present the artwork to representatives of the VA in Helena Feb. 20.

The majestic blue horse will be donated to the VA as part of a NHS program which encourages honor students to participate in noteworthy community goodwill projects.

“The horse is actually a recreation of a page from a coloring book,” said Williams, who has known Steinebach since she was four years old. The two first free-lined the coloring book horse onto the large canvas, then began the meticulous, time-consuming effort to bring their colored version to fruition.

“We have worked on this for over a year,” Williams said. “Because we used the outline from the coloring book, it must be donated only and not sold.”

Brightening the hallways of the VA seemed to be a good fit for both artists.

“We both worked hard on this project,” Steinbach said. “Over the course of our work we went through at least a half-gallon of paint.”

Other Plains High students have also participated in the project, including the school’s woodshop class where students are working on a frame for the 48-square foot painting.

Both Williams and Steinebach have signed the painting and both will attend the presentation ceremonies and speak about their work while in Helena.

Creating artwork horses is nothing new to Williams, who has created an estimated 1.400 pieces of art now displayed throughout schools and other parts of the region. He is the artist behind the horses that have adorned the fence along Plains’ Highway 200 park and has created many artworks for veterans and others throughout the area.

As for Steinebach, whose latest project is a pencil drawing of Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte, she said she has always had a love of drawing but is not ready to say it will be her chosen career.

“I could possibly pursue art but I haven’t made that decision yet,” she said. “I’m only a sophomore.”

Her current rendition of Gianforte is part of a nationwide contest for aspiring artists. Winners of the competitions have had their artwork placed on display in the nation’s capital.

“I wanted to do something involving Congress,” Steinebach said. “If it wins at the national level it could be hung in DC.”

Steinebach’s works have already allowed her to meet Gianforte, Sen. Steve Daines and other elected state and federal officials through various social functions. She recently completed a portrait of President Trump that is on display at Clark Fork Valley Hospital in Plains as part of their Art on the Walls program that showcases the work of young artists throughout Sanders County.

When asked what it takes to become a good artist, Steinebach pointed to several factors.

“I’ve always liked art,” she said. “It’s really just a matter of practice. I guess I’m kind of a perfectionist when it comes to art.”

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