With so many people playing guitar, or at least attempting to, the skill required for a stellar performance sometimes is lost on listeners.

Not so for Katie Doncourt, at least as far as her brother, Rob, is concerned.

“He’s really amazing at what he does, and I thought that would be an important thing to capture,” the Mt. Lebanon High School senior said.

For posterity and fulfilling an advanced-placement art assignment, Katie painted a portrait of Rob concentrating fully on extending his fingers in a spiderlike manner across the neck of a five-string bass guitar.

“That was pretty hard to do,” she recalled. “I remember with that piece, I was a little bit behind and I thought, oh, this will be like a quick, easy project to do. It wasn’t really quick, or easy.”

The work turned out to be worth it, as the portrait, “Robbie,” was part of the portfolio she submitted to be considered for the 2020 Mt. Lebanon Artists Market Scholarship. She and classmate Caitlin Harhai were selected as recipients of $1,000 each toward their higher-education pursuits in the world of art.

An essay is part of the application process, and in hers, Katie told about coming home from school one day to find her mother, Regina Niewodowski, in not such a great mood:

“Earlier in the day, my friend’s parent, whose house I had slept over at the previous night, had called to inform her that I had drawn, in permanent marker, a handful of dogs on their furniture.”

As a professional counselor whose services include art therapy, Gina decided to channel her daughter’s artistic enthusiasm into non-property-defacing pursuits such as using a pottery wheel and drawing proportionately correct people.

The past few years, Mom has joined with Jennifer Rodriguez, high school art teacher and school district fine arts chairperson, in pushing Katie toward realizing her creative ambitions.

“They really encourage me to try my best with it, and somehow I ended up here,” she said about the scholarship, which is awarded by Mt. Lebanon Partnership, a nonprofit with the mission of creating and maintaining a vibrant community. Money for the award comes from the organization’s annual artists market, which this year is scheduled for the first weekend of October.

Katie will attend Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., just around the corner from a certain house at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Contributing to her acceptance was a substantial portfolio she built following her choice in 11th grade to take AP art, “which required two hours of work every single night on top of the other stresses of junior year,” according to her scholarship essay. On top of that, she was working 20 hours a week while taking other AP and honors classes.

As an artist, her favorite category is portraiture.

“I find it interesting to take themes from everyday life and try to either exemplify a message I found in them, or maybe the beauty that I found in the themes,” she said.

Another of the pieces she submitted for the scholarship is “Rocking Chair,” a self-portrait that serves as a highly realistic portrayal of a certain state of mind.

“I painted it during a time when there was like a million things going on: school, senior year, college applications,” she said. “And it kind of reminded me of sitting down in my living room and just being able to decompress.”

Also featured is a bookcase full of family photos and memorabilia – her dad, Robert Doncourt, included – reflecting Katie’s message:

“Despite all the changes going on, I’m still thinking of them.”

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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