Two Portales students ready for takeoff

Mike Linn

Two local students will get an aerial tour of Portales at 9 a.m. today, thanks to some drawings they sketched documenting a time line of air travel — from the Wright brothers to NASA’s atmosphere-penetrating space shuttles.
Sunny Liu, 13, and recent Portales High graduate Monica Best won the state’s National Aviation Art Competition in their respective divisions.
The artists’ reward is a plane ride where they catch an overhead view of the city, including their homes and schools.
Liu said he likes drawing because he progresses and gets better over time.
“When you draw things and they look good and you feel proud about yourself; and then like two or three years later you look back at that drawing you think ‘hey I can draw it better,’ so you draw it again but you draw it better this time and you feel even better,” Liu said.
Liu, whose hobbies include playing tennis and the violin at church, said he learned how to draw when he was 2 or 3 with his dad, Zhiming Liu, who was his first teacher.
“He’s a very gifted student,” said Zhiming, who noted his son will sometimes try to put off dinner to complete his drawings.
The drawing that earned Liu the top prize included a Wright brothers’ plane, an F-16 jet and a space shuttle flying over an open field outlined by a cloud-speckled sky.
Similar to Liu’s drawing, Best’s picture portrayed the Wright brothers’ plane and the space shuttle Columbia, with a silhouette of the Wright brothers.
Best, who will attend Eastern New Mexico University this fall, said she will be actually flying the plane — with the help of a main pilot of course — and is a bit nervous.
“I don’t get nervous when I fly as a passenger, but actually being in control of the plane is a little different,” Best said.
Best and Liu were recognized at the state’s aviation banquet in Albuquerque in mid-June. Both hope to continue drawing in the future.
But today they will not be creating their own art, but appreciating the science of flight, something they’re both excited about.
“I’m looking forward to passing over friends’ houses and calling them later and asking if they saw me up above, or heard an airplane flying by,” Liu said.