Middlesboro student honors athletes with her art

Published 8:21 am Wednesday, February 15, 2023



Shelby Vaughn, a student at Middlesboro High School, was recently chosen by Rise Up Sports Media to draw female Athletes for National Women in Sports Day.

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Tonia Witt is owner of Rise Up Sports Media and Tonia Witt Photography, shooting reality, high school, college and professional sports. Her passion to cover female athletes sparked her creation of Rise Up Sports media, which uniquely highlights women. She is a self-taught photographer, covering local athletes as well as covering UK women’s basketball in addition to other Kentucky athletics, BIG3 basketball and WNBA.

A few months ago, Witt contacted Vaughn after she first saw some of her other artwork on social media.

“I was chosen to draw for Rise Up Media by Tonia,” said Vaughn. “She’s friends with my dad, and she saw him posting my work on Facebook, and asked him actually first. Dad sent her my contact information.”

Vaughn has had an interest in drawing since she was young, and an interest in various different media, constantly working to improve her work.

“I’ve been drawing for as long as I remember. I have work dated from 2012,” said Vaughn. “So since I was 6 years old. I’m in the process of redrawing some of my earlier stuff, just to compare then, and now.”

Vaughn compared working with digital media with working with more traditional mediums, saying she started digital art about two years ago, and it’s more than 75% of what she does now, but she is a bit more familIar with working with more traditional mediums.

“I draw more digitally now. It’s not easier, but I almost always have a tablet with me,” said Vaughn. “I still love pencil and paper though. I love acrylic, canvas, and watercolors–My dad recently bought me an Airbrush, but I’ve not tried that out yet.”

Witt and Vaughn worked together to choose the athletes that Vaughn drew.

“I look up to them, even though I’ve never met them. One day I will though!”

Vaughn is an athlete herself, giving her a better understanding of women in sports, as a cheerleader at Middlesboro Independent High School.

“I cheer, and I realize the long hours we put into it, that the public never really sees. I look up to my coaches, they’ve always been nothing but supportive of me, and pushed me to do my best.”

The Middlesboro High School cheerleaders competed at Walt Disney World last weekend. Vaughn was unable to participate in the competition because of a recent heart surgery she underwent in November.

“I want so bad to be on that mat with my sisters, but due to my recent surgery, I can’t be. I’m here supporting all of them though,” said Vaughn. “I’m so thankful for those coaches, Carlena Carter, Jenn Green, Jennifer Lambert, Shea Yoakum and my mom, Charlotte Vaughn.”

Vaughn said she believes with Witt’s ideas and her work, together they might draw more attention to female athletes across the state.

“As long as I can remember I’ve had a love of sports. Growing up I can recall there not being many options for girls to play. So, I had to make my mark in a league of boys being the only girl at the time to play Little League baseball,” According to Witt on riseupsportsmedia.com.  “As I grew older there were more opportunities for girls/females but still not the same advantages as boys/males in the same sports. Even today girls/female sports don’t hold the same weight.”

With the start Rise Up Sports Media Witt’s goal is to shine a spotlight on women in sports.