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Over the past nine years Joyce Rawson has seen her share of fangs and winged beasts and floating eyeballs. When you've run the Utah State High School Fantasy Art Competition for that long, you've seen enough castles and disembodied arms and helpless princesses to fill a month of Saturday morning cartoons.

Even so, Rawson is always surprised each year by the creative oddities that the fantasy art competition brings.This year's competition, held last week at Taylorsville High School, proved once again that, as Rawson says, "fantasy is what would happen if this was the way it was instead of that."

More than 120 students from 26 Utah high schools participated in the competition, concocting enchanted worlds, imaginary humanoids, magical machines and mythical animals.

The results included all manner of devouring demons and fiery universes but few clues about what inspires a fantasy artist to draw, for example, a work titled "The Battle in Jell-O City." The creative process, hard to describe under the best of circumstances, gets even more elusive when the subject matter isn't something you'd normally find in a still life or a landscape.

"I don't know," offered Stewart Gray, a Taylorsville junior, trying to unearth the origins of his drawing of a spaceship flying out of a spider web.

Or, as Logan High junior Holly Stokes explained about her sculpture: "I don't know."

Holly's clay fantasy featured a humanoid with eyes that looked like pitted olives and a body composed of two hands and a foot. The creature's foot was in its mouth; so far in, in fact, that its toes stuck out its ears.

Although they have a hard time pinpointing the exact source of their inspiration, many of the students are obviously influenced by movies, comic books, cartoons and Dungeons and Dragons.

Like many of the students who participate in the fantasy art competition each year, Skyview students Joey Taylor, Clancy Dalebout and Alan Grover are fantasy art devotees. Alan was inspired at an early age by all the fairy tales his parents read him.

Murray Triplett, a junior at Clearfield High School, likes fantasy drawings because there are fewer boundaries. "With reality," he explains, "you have your limitations to what you can draw."

In Murray's version of reality, women wearing next to nothing are captured by dragons, who live in something resembling the Acropolis, and are saved by strong men with swords.

Although they can come armed with an idea and a sketch, the students are also asked each year to improvise by adding an "unknown element" of the judges' choice. Last year they had to include a horn (animal or musical) somewhere in their entry; this year they were asked to change the texture of Some part of the piece.

For Bear River senior Jan Taylor that meant changing the spires that jutted from her mythical forest into something resembling carrots. The change gave the finished work more of a Gary Larson look.

The tendency with fantasy art, notes West High art teacher Steve Case, is to be trite. What the judges look for, he says, is something fresh.

This year's winners were Travis Nokes (best-in-show); Holly Stokes (most fantastic); Justin Gallegos (enchanted worlds); Murray Triplett (mythical animals); Andrew Pace (magical machines); and Matt McFarland (imaginary humanoids).