By JEFF WILKIN
NISKAYUNA — Maya Healey has never seen the northern lights.
But she believes Santa Claus has noticed shimmering greens and purples during his celestial travels. That’s why she included the sky colors in her entry for The Daily Gazette’s 2014 Christmas Coloring Contest.
Maya’s imagination and ingenuity has won her the top prize in this year’s competition. Judges chose her holiday artwork over 332 other submissions.
This year’s contest asked youngsters 12 and under to use crayons, markers and colored pencils to give Santa — his sled full of toys and lifted by two reindeer — holiday hues. The black-and-white outline filled almost one full Gazette page, and appeared in the newspaper several times after Thanksgiving.
Maya, 9, the daughter of Theresa and Steve Healey of Niskayuna, will receive four tickets to see the musical “Annie” at Proctors in March. Twenty four other artists will receive movie tickets.
“I was happy and excited,” said Maya, a hazel-eyed, brown-haired fourth-grader at Hillside Elementary School. “I never won the contest before.”
Maya’s rendition includes a smiling little girl skating on a blue ice pond in the countryside below Mr. Claus. All color work was done in pencil — Maya said markers bleed through the paper, and she’s just not a fan of crayons.
She did some research on the Internet to make sure green and purple were within the northern lights’ color spectrum. And she decided to make Santa’s sled green during her five-hour creative process. “Santa was red, if I made the sled red, it would be too much red,” she said. “And I don’t like the color black.”
One of the reindeer has a red nose, a nod to Rudolph. Many other artists had the same idea.
“I’m excited for her,” said Theresa Healey. “It was a surprise. She’s entered the last few years, I know she worked really hard on it. It was nice she was recognized for it this year.”
Other kids showed creative spark. Emily de Suyza, also 9 and a Niskayuna resident, put red, blue, green and purple swirls in her night sky, so it looks like Santa is flying through a fireworks display. Latham artists Megan and Alyssa Camilli, ages 10 and 8, respectively, connected some of the yellow stars beneath Santa to spell out “Annie.” And Sophie Sperling, 11, of Saratoga Springs, submitted her lightly-colored piece with bright streaks and circles of light purple — and an explanation. “I am very sorry there is purple streaks, my brother did it,” she wrote. “Please do not count it! I worked very hard.”
All four of the colorists will receive movie tickets.
Besides coloring, Maya enjoys cycling, skiing and volleyball. She’s already thinking about careers — she might become a teacher, might become a waitress. The winning artist offered some advice for kids who will be coloring in The Gazette’s 2015 contest:
“Don’t just color the picture,” she said. “Put a lot of creativity into it.”
As for “Annie,” Maya may take the whole family — brother James, 7, would complete the foursome. But there might be a change in plans.
“Who knows if my husband will want to go,” said Theresa. “But anything at Proctors is always special.”
See the full gallery of the runners-up in The Gazette’s Christmas Coloring Contest here.