Most artists will tell you their painting, portrait, or sculpture has a muse, and Kate Wignall’s winning design for this year’s Ag Fair poster contest is no different. The wooly sheep with a winning smile is inspired by Island love, family ties, and an Australian shepherd named Piper.
“I really wanted to do it as a surprise for my mom,” Ms. Wignall said in an interview with The Times. “I’ve been going to the Island every summer since I was little. My mom has a house in the Campground now, and I thought it’d be fun to enter this year.”
She wanted to mimic the lettering of town signs on the Vineyard, and to contrast with the simple, clinical text, she thought it’d be fun to draw a portrait of a sheep.
“The look of the sheep was inspired by our Australian shepherd, Piper,” she said. “My husband and I got married about a year ago, and her making that face was the logo of the wedding.”
The painting itself was done with acrylics and scanned onto her computer. The rest of the design was digital. Ms. Wignall paid attention to posters from previous years, to try and veer toward styles that haven’t been done in a while.
“There was something about the simplicity and the expression,” Eleanor Neubert, Ag Fair director, said. “And the fact that we haven’t had a sheep on our poster in a long time. I think it’s been since 2003.”
According to Ms. Neubert, a winning poster is easy to read, includes the dates, the year, the Ag Society, and needs to be adaptable to printing on a T shirt, bag, or apron, which are sold at the Ag Fair every year.
Most fairs in other places come up with a theme, and artists submit according to that theme. The Ag Society has done it the other way around for the past 20 years or so. This year’s theme is — wait for it — See Ewe at the Fair!
“The poster contests didn’t start until we moved to the new fairgrounds,” Ms. Neubert said. “Before that, we’d just pick the poster, or someone would come to us and ask if they could design it.”
The contest brings in an overwhelming number of submissions, and the committee uses the process of elimination to get those numbers down to a final three. After making a decision and getting in touch with the winner, Ms. Neubert calls all contest participants and gives them constructive feedback on what they can do better for next year’s submissions.
“Those are hard phone calls to make. Every artist puts so much work into their poster,” Ms. Neubert said.
Ms. Wignall is a full-time artist and sculptor in New York City. She has a studio in Brooklyn Navy Yard, and attended undergraduate and graduate school for art and visual design. She’s looking forward to coming back for the week, and seeing her poster all over the Island.
“So far, I’ve heard nothing but positive comments,” Ms. Neubert said. “I think it’s going to be a really popular poster.”
The 156th annual Agricultural Fair runs from August 17 through August 20. For more information, visit marthasvineyardagriculturalsociety.org.