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West County student meets Weatherbird

Ten-year-old Ava Clifton has always enjoyed art. The aspiring artist, who is a fourth grader at West County Elementary School, has shown her creativity since she was a toddler. From coloring to painting to crafting, she has always delighted in making one-of-a-kind creations with unique twists.

When Clifton recently found out that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was hosting a special coloring contest, she couldn’t wait to enter.

The contest – to celebrate Post-Dispatch Weatherbird’s cartoonist Dan Martin’s 30th year drawing the cartoon – was something Clifton knew she had to enter. She carefully colored her Weatherbird entry, using vibrant, festive colors and adding creative weather-related details around the title. She finished her entry with metallic swirls of glitter paint to emulate movement of the snowflakes in the winter scene.

The budding artist’s creation – titled Ava’s Winter Weatherbird – was selected as the winner of the 9-11 age group. Clifton, along with the other winners, were notified and invited to meet Weatherbird and Martin at the Post-Dispatch office.

The group gathered on Feb. 16 at the Post-Dispatch office where winners were greeted by Martin himself. He met winners and their families in the lobby of the downtown newspaper office. He visited with the kids, smiled for photos and even autographed Clifton’s winning entry.

The group was then treated to a special visit with Weatherbird himself, followed by a newsroom tour and question-and-answer session. When Clifton asked Martin what his favorite Weatherbird was that he had created, he laughed and replied, “Tomorrow’s Weatherbird.” He added that he simply couldn’t decide on a favorite, he loved them all.

After the tour, Martin invited guests to the conference room to watch him draw Weatherbird on large chart paper, explaining the different steps along the way of how he made the well-known bird’s special features from start to finish. Afterward, he drew Weatherbird for the next day’s Post issue and explained the process of how he would complete the drawing to get it press-ready. Martin then passed out special personalized Weatherbird drawings that he had autographed for each winner. Elaine Vydra, digital marketing manager, gave out gifts to each winner that included a plush Weatherbird, special 100th anniversary book and erasers in a Post-Dispatch tote bag.

“This was the best day of my life,” Clifton said as she left the Post-Dispatch. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” She loved meeting a real-life artist and seeing others hard at work at their craft in the newsroom. “Now I want to try to draw Weatherbird.”

Ava Clifton, 10, meets the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Weatherbird’s cartoonist Dan Martin after winning a coloring contest.

Ava Clifton, 10, meets the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Weatherbird’s cartoonist Dan Martin after winning a coloring contest.

Ava Clinton had the opportunity to tour the St. Louis Post-Dispatch building after meeting Weatherbird and cartoonist Dan Martin.

Ava Clinton had the opportunity to tour the St. Louis Post-Dispatch building after meeting Weatherbird and cartoonist Dan Martin.

Cartoonist Dan Martin shows young aspiring artists how he draws the newspaper's Weatherbird.

Cartoonist Dan Martin shows young aspiring artists how he draws the newspaper’s Weatherbird.

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