Sean Poppleton art t-shirt design

BHS senior Sean Poppleton shows his design that won him $500.

Belgrade High School senior Sean Poppleton’s lifelong fascination with skeletons has paid off handsomely with a $500 award for his winning entry in Bridger Orthopedic’s “Skellie Art Contest.”

For as long as he can remember, Poppleton says, two particular subjects that have inspired his artistic endeavors – spiders and skeletons. When Bridger Orthopedic announced it was holding a contest for skeleton-themed T-shirt art, Poppleton says his friends told him, “This is perfect for you.”

They were right. Bridger Orthopedic Dr. Marin Gelbke said Poppleton’s drawing of a skeleton running a race was the standout among several “top-level” submissions from high school students from around the valley. Judges were particularly impressed by Poppleton’s attention to detail, he said.

Poppleton’s mother Kara said her son showed interest in skeletal anatomy from a very early age. When he was as young as 2 or 3, he aspired to draw sketches of skeletons he saw in medical books belonging to his parents, and he loved to visit family friends who had operating room models in their home.

Gelbke admitted that Bridger Orthopedic judges initially were puzzled by the bib number 206 worn by the running skeleton in Poppleton’s drawing, probably because Montana’s area code 406 appears so often in local slogans, stickers and logos.

When Poppleton pointed out that 206 is the number of bones in the human body, Gelbke said, “We felt really dumb. We didn’t realize what that was.”

Gelbke said Bridger Orthopedic has always given T-shirts featuring skeletons to its patients, but this year decided to do a little something to find new art featuring skeletons participating in sports, playing a musical instrument, or partaking in other activities.

“We do musculoskeletal care, so it’s about getting patients back to doing what they like to do,” Gelbke said. He said Bridger Orthopedic plans to make the contest an annual event.

As for his future plans, Poppleton, who takes AP art and graphic design classes and plays guitar in the Belgrade High Jazz Band, said he intends to study Fine Arts in college after serving a two-year church mission following graduation.