FORT SAM HOUSTON, TEXAS (October 24, 2016) -- The stressors of military life can take a toll on families. For some family members, creating art helps them cope with the fast-paced, military lifestyle.

The U.S. Army Installation Management Command's G9 Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Directorate recently recognized the talents of the military community in the annual Army Arts and Crafts Contest.

Nicole Linzey, a spouse currently located at U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, entered the contest for the first time as a novice artist after seeing it advertised in the garrison newspaper. She won first place in the drawings category for her piece entitled "Sisters." The drawing features her two daughters playing with alphabet blocks. Linzey was inspired to create the piece after seeing a friend's drawing of their children.

"I always wanted to try drawing my girls, but people are a stretch and a totally unexplored area for me so I've always been nervous to try," she said. "When this contest came around, I decided it was time."

Growing up, Linzey took art classes as a kid but claimed she hated it. She ended up picking up a paintbrush again when her husband and she were expecting their first daughter.

To Linzey, art helped her overcome challenges she faced in military life.

"Challenging ourselves to improve in character and situation makes for a much smoother and fulfilled life in the military," she said. "Once I complete a work of art, it sits on my wall, constantly reminding me that I can overcome challenges and create something beautiful. That is what my art is to me."

Another novice who received first place is Stephanie Shimerdla, a spouse located at U.S. Army Garrison Italy (Vicenza). Shimerdla's fantasy piece "Ocypete," which depicts a half-woman and half-bird creature from Greek mythology, topped the competition in the digital arts category. She entered the contest before, but this is her first year placing in the top three. She also placed third in the same category for her piece "Daisy" and received an honorable mention for a piece entitled "In Tranquil Dreams."

Although she was in the novice category, Shimerdla fell in love with art since high school. As she got older, she said art fell by the wayside and was forgotten. Her love was then reignited while she and her husband were stationed at their first overseas assignment in South Korea.

"I felt a bit of a disconnect from my family being so far away. I was looking for an outlet for some of those feelings, and digital art was what I turned to," she said. "I taught myself how to use Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter, the programs I use to paint in. Eventually, I got myself a drawing tablet, as well, which works like an artist's canvas and paint brush."

She is now pursuing a career as an illustrator. She added how important art is to her and other members in the community.

"Art can help us express feelings that we're unable to put into words. It can help overcome emotional obstacles," she said. "It can help create a sense of community between people and bring together those of similar mindsets and tastes, and even those of different backgrounds and cultures. All of that fits so well into the military lifestyles, in so many ways."

Accomplished artists also competed in the contest. Laura Irick, a spouse now located at Fort Eustis, Virginia, placed first in the 2D mixed media category for her piece "Europe Series -- Looking for Sarah in Alsace." She also placed second in the drawing category for a piece called "Europe Series -- Elias in an Oberammergau Café" and honorable mention in the 2D mixed media category for a piece called "Europe Series -- Number Eight in Alsace." She has competed in this contest since 2008.

Irick learned about the contest through an employee at the Wiesbaden Arts and Crafts Center. Her children Sarah and Elias have also entered and placed in the contest.

A former active-duty Soldier, Irick planned to major in fine art at Western Kentucky University 33 years ago. She served from 1988 to 1995, and her husband is still serving. The family's military journey has spanned 38 years and resulted in 31 moves.

Now, she is finally pursuing the degree she always wanted.

"In August 2016, I presented the art I have been doing on my own at home while supporting my husband and raising and homeschooling our children, and was given the gracious opportunity to take a college art class this semester," she said. "For the first time in my life, I am a fine art major."