Artistic Excellence 2014 | Meet the finalists

This story was featured in the December 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art December 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!

Rainbow Tse, 6:00 PM, watercolor, 22 x 30.

Rainbow Tse, 6:00 PM, watercolor, 22 x 30.

Each year we receive thousands of entries in our Artistic Excellence competition. After whittling them down to just three top winners and 10 honorable mentions, we are left with many more works and artists worthy of mention. Here we present a sampling of the 75 artists who made it to our final round this year.

Guatemalan painter Patricia Ann Barillas de González has always loved art. After earning her degree in art history, she dedicated herself to painting in her spare time. Lynn Wade is a signature member of the Society of Animal Artists and her avian art is inspired by her surroundings on the western coast of Florida, where seabirds are abundant.

Tammy Taylor is another artist with a passion for wildlife. Inspired by the beauty of all God’s creatures, she strives to create lifelike images of her subjects in their natural environments. Cris A. Horne feels a powerful connection to Earth’s creatures as well. “Animals are a constant in my work,” she says, adding, “Some bonds are just meant to be.”

Raised on a cattle ranch in California, Yvonne Bonacci enjoys painting people, horses, and other animals. She works in a variety of media, including oil, pastel, acrylic, and colored pencil. Another California-based artist, Daria Shachmut, has been drawing since early childhood. After years of raising a family, she is now a full-time painter who focuses on animals and the human figure as her subjects.

Though watercolorist Ally Benbrook didn’t begin painting until well after her 50th birthday, she has developed a unique style that resonates with the power of human connection to animals and nature. Ryan Jacque is a native of western Massachusetts who is known for his realistic, compelling, and contemplative pencil drawings of wildlife and nature, which are often mistaken for photographs.

Texas-based artist Shirley Gipson aims to capture the beauty of simplicity in her still-life paintings. She hopes her work will remind viewers of times when life was humbler and less chaotic. Another still-life artist is Arlene Steinberg, who creates vibrant works in colored pencil—a medium that she says helps her achieve accuracy “while allowing for saturated color, dramatic lighting, and a full range of values.”

Annette Randall, Out of the Gate, pencil, 16 x 22.

Annette Randall, Out of the Gate, pencil, 16 x 22.

Lindsey Bittner Graham has been drawing and painting horses since childhood. Today she is known for her western-themed works that use loose, spontaneous brushwork to immerse the viewer in the energy of the scene. Similarly, Utah native Annette Randall’s love for horses and the West is evident in her pencil drawings and oil paintings, which capture the spirit of western life with authenticity and accuracy.

Colorado watercolorist Israel Holloway also paints western scenes. “I hope my paintings express the beauty, resilience, and power of the West that still exists today,” he says. Another Colorado artist, Sheri Farabaugh, paints everything from landscapes to cityscapes and from figures to still lifes. Working in a realistic style, she strives to capture each subject “as it is.”

Doohong Min blends impressionism and realism in his figurative, landscape, and still-life works. He combines strong form and structure with interesting color, light, and texture. Rainbow Tse is a Hong Kong artist who paints cityscapes and landscapes in watercolor. “My work aims to express certain moods and atmospheres, drawing the audience into the painting,” she says.

Florida-based artist Suzie Seerey-Lester was a professional diver for more than 30 years. Today she travels all over the world to paint the natural environment and the creatures that inhabit it. Oregonian Craig Erickson finds endless inspiration in his own state’s diverse climate and terrain. His goal is to capture the interplay of light and line in a variety of settings.

Whether she’s painting the Denver Ballet, the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra, or the Fort Worth Rodeo, E. Melinda Morrison aims to capture the essence of a moment in her work. Some of Thalia Stratton’s favorite subject matter revolves around the fine art of dining. She is known for her elegant paintings of urban scenes in places like Paris and San Francisco, where she lives.

Cris A. Horne, Puppy Puzzle, pastel/monoprint, 8 x 10.

Cris A. Horne, Puppy Puzzle, pastel/monoprint, 8 x 10.

Mary Chiaramonte’s figurative paintings are often described as dreamlike or fablelike. Her artistic process involves building up multiple layers of acrylic paint on birch panels to create a smooth surface. Yael Maimon is an Israeli artist known for her impressionistic paintings of cats. She enjoys experimenting with color and working in a variety of media, including oil, pastel, and watercolor.

Whether she’s painting still lifes in her studio or landscapes en plein air, Stephanie Birdsall is “constantly inspired by the beauty of this world,” she says, and is committed to always painting from life. Similarly, plein-air painter Susan McCullough is captivated by the natural beauty of her surroundings. While she also produces studio works, she says that painting outdoors is “the ultimate artistic experience” for her.

Mary Scott creates oil and acrylic paintings of the natural world. Her works often feature flowers, landscapes, or animals that reflect the Texas environment and lifestyle that surrounds her every day. Also based in Texas, Jesse Tames often uses vivid, intense colors to paint the landscape. “My works represent a need for expressing the colors of nature,” the artist says.

California-based artist Cat Van Bergen seeks to portray figures and diverse urban environments around the world in her paintings, drawings, and lithographs. Another California artist, Charles Karp, paints landscape, figurative, and still-life works in oil. Whatever the subject may be, his goal is always the same: to evoke a deep emotional response in the viewer. 
—Lindsay Mitchell

Featured in the December 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
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