The Washington Post

11-year-old’s winning Doodle comes to life

Audrey Zhang’s winning artwork, animated by Google artists, will be featured June 9 on the Google home page. The persistent 11-year-old entered the Doodle 4 Google contest for three straight years. (Google)

Audrey Zhang had a day of high-
powered meetings to get to. After being flown cross-country for this business trip, she had executives to greet and big decisions to make. An entire team of people was waiting to carry out her ideas on this project, which would be seen by millions. She had been paid a lot, and her wisdom was essential.

Oh, and Audrey — the visitor with the grand vision — is 11 years old.

Monday, you can see the results of her big trip.

Audrey, who is from New York state, is the winner of this year’s Doodle 4 Google student contest, in which thousands of young people from around the United States entered art designs centered on the theme of the environment.

Fifty state finalists were flown to Mountain View, California, last month for a ceremony at the headquarters of Google, a huge tech company. But it was Audrey who — as the big winner — got to stay an extra day so she could team up with Google’s artists.

Audrey, who is from of Levittown, New York, worked with Google animators in California to bring her drawing to life. (Andrew Federman)

Her finished creation was to be featured Monday on the home page of It’s an animated version of Audrey’s winning artwork, which shows her vision of a machine that helps clean polluted water.

The art is “so lush and so rich and so full and so complete,” says Ryan Germick, the leader of the Team Google Doodle artists. “Every leaf seemed to have life in it.”

This is the first time Google has animated the winning student doodle. Germick says his team did not realize what a big job that would be.

“We never imagined it would have 150 moving parts,” says Germick, noting that his team was excited to make Audrey’s art come to life.

Germick says he was impressed by Audrey’s “amazing” persistence, because she entered the contest for three years straight — each year getting closer to being named champion.

He also was impressed by the detail in her artwork, which was made with colored markers. “There are lightning bugs and little characters and dragons everywhere,” Germick says. “Her imagination is so advanced.”

Audrey played on Google’s computers as she told the team of 10 animators what she thought should move in her artwork, including the flickering lantern light and the wings of the water-cleaning machine.

Audrey won a $30,000 college scholarship from Google, which also gave a $50,000 tech grant to her school, Island Trees Middle School in Levittown, New York. Google also donated $20,000 in Audrey’s name to provide clean water and bathrooms at 10 schools in Bangladesh, a country in South Asia.

Germick says that Google was inspired by Audrey’s creation and that he sees a bright future for her as an artist. “It was a thrill to meet her,” he says. “That is just pure talent. She was born with something incredible.”

Audrey, who also makes sculptures and jewelry, likes to say, “If you don’t draw, then you can’t show anyone else what your ideas look like.”

Michael Cavna

Writer/artist/visual storyteller Michael Cavna is creator of the "Comic Riffs" column and graphic-novel reviewer for The Post's Book World. He relishes sharp-eyed satire in most any form.
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