"Happy places" can be elusive on a stressful day, but Kevin Yang found his in art.

The Chinese-born Otago Boys’ High School pupil painted an artwork featuring his "happy place", which has been selected for the 2016 Otago Daily Times Secondary Scene Award for Excellence in Art.

Kevin (18) said his painting drew on his heritage and evoked memories of his Chinese past by referencing his grandfather and mentor, who is pictured standing beside the Yangtze River.

Although the painting is of an imaginary place, it was a "poignant" reminder of the challenges many international pupils faced negotiating cultural differences to succeed in New Zealand schools, he said.

"Being a secondary school student can be stressful at times.

"A lot of student life consists of studying and handling pressure from assignments.

"And at the end of the day, sometimes you just need to sit down and find a very quiet place to enjoy the finer things that you don’t get to see in day-to-day life.

"It’s a lot to do with just being able to find a place to relax.

"That place is with my granddad. I’ve always had a lot of respect for him since I was a kid.

"He still lives in China and I haven’t seen him for a really long time. He always has that place in my heart."

Surprisingly, Kevin plans to go to Auckland University  to study computer science rather than art.

"I plan to keep art as a hobby," he said.