Fish Out of Water

How does this artist find inspiration in her subconscious?

Sophia Ammann, 18, Gold Medal, Digital Art. Images courtesy of the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers and the Scholastic Art & Writing Award Winners of 2022.

What does Sophia add to this scene by using five-point perspective?

Sophia Ammann thinks like a movie director when she makes art. Sophia, 18, considers how to best express her ideas—from color and unusual angles to perspectives. A 2022 graduate of Boulder High School in Boulder, Colorado, Sophia is taking a gap year in Switzerland before applying to art school.

Sophia Ammann

What inspired this award-winning digital artwork?

When I made it, I was struggling with insomnia and experiencing vivid nightmares. In one dream, there was a person in a boat and there were gigantic fish swimming above. The fish made me think of a fish-eye camera lens, which provides a distorted, surreal image. In another dream, I was falling. One of scariest places I could think of falling would be off a city skyscraper. Cities are human-made, and there’s no way fish belong there. These elements played into the idea of dreams and surrealism perfectly.

What did you want the viewer to see in your work?

I wasn't focused on how people would respond. I was most focused on what made sense to me and my experiences. But anyone could look at the image and relate to it. Even if people haven’t had a falling dream, people know that falling dreams exist and anyone can relate to the feeling of falling. I really wanted to explore how dreams play with reality.

What was the biggest challenge you faced? 

My biggest challenge was working in five-point perspective. It’s a fish-eye camera lens effect basically, where things appear straight in the middle, but as you go out to the edge the lines become warped in a circular way. I had never worked with this perspective before, and I had to be extremely precise in how I placed my lines in order to get that effect.

What advice do you have for aspiring artists like yourself?

A lot of people talk about how someone is born with artistic talent. That isn’t true. It’s about the amount of work you are willing to put in. It is a journey, and through hard work, you get better.

Sophia Ammann won a Gold Medal for her artwork in the 2022 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. 

To learn more about this program, visit