Portfolio | The Jurors’ Choice

This story was featured in the January 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  January 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Last month we introduced you to the winners of our Artistic Excellence competition. This month we bring you winners and finalists in five categories from the 33rd Annual Art Competition recently conducted by The Artist’s Magazine, our sister publication. Enjoy the diverse works of these artists.

Gang Tan | Finalist

Gang Tan, Drafting, acrylic, 23 x 43.

Gang Tan, Drafting, acrylic, 23 x 43.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? This is the first painting in my series entitled Blue Fantasy. It is a picture of multiple and complex combinations: symbolic sky backdrop, symbolic ocean wave approaching and attacking, and an old house symbolized by a fatigued boat. The foreground shows a scene from my memory, while in the back is a building under construction. These cannot exist in the same time, but it exists in my heart. I am very nostalgic; I couldn’t help myself to give up the past, but I long for development—I need both of them. This piece demonstrates my contradictory thoughts.
What inspired you to create this painting? One day I was idling in a street and was staring at a new building located in the so-called slum-dwellers district, where I was born 50 years ago. Those old houses have disappeared, and my roots are gone. Yet my childhood feelings and emotions are always with me. When I was gazing at the glass of the building’s exterior walls, gleaming under the sunshine, I saw a picture: I saw my friends and relatives. This inspired me to create the painting.
What is your creative process? For DRAFTING, I collected the raw material for several years and repeatedly redesigned it. I used Photoshop to help with the design, and finally, I painted it.
Where can collectors find your work? www.pinterest.com/tanxiaoyue.

Glenn Harren | Finalist

Glenn Harren, The Thompsons, oil, 60 x 50.

Glenn Harren, The Thompsons, oil, 60 x 50.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? Beauty! If your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt. I try to stay quiet and let people tell me about my painting because it has to exist on its own once it is finished.
What is your creative process? For me, 99 percent is just showing up. “Just paint” is a motto of mine. You don’t wait to feel good or inspired to paint. I generally work all morning, then I go swim a mile, and I come back to my studio and sit and bear witness to what I painted. Reconnoitering is just as important as painting. I spend many days looking for compositions to paint, and I generally use a sketchbook and photographs for reference, but I’m more concerned about the end result. I’ll start with an oil sketch and move on from there. I love riding my motorcycle when scouting for landscape paintings because it provides so many more possibilities than driving in a car.
What makes your work unique? It’s how I see the world and my interpretation of colors, shapes, and beauty around us. I’m just in awe every day, and I’m grateful to capture that on canvas.
What do you like best about being an artist? Breathing. The older I get, the more I have to paint. I make it a priority.
Where can collectors find your work? www.harrenfineart.com.

Ellen Taylor | Finalist

Ellen Taylor, Twenty Bucks, oil, 24 x 24.

Ellen Taylor, Twenty Bucks, oil, 24 x 24.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? Happiness is fleeting but possible for everyone. This man rewarded me with his shy smile, and I just wanted to capture it forever.
What is your creative process? I spend a lot of time watching the subject before I pick up a brush. I wait for that special spark. All of the time that I am laying out the painting, splashing in the background, blocking in the shadows, I am thinking back on that flash of emotion and how to get it on the canvas.
What makes your work unique? My work is unique because I show you what I see. It’s filtered by technique and paint, but basically it’s my vision I’m sharing with you. For me, it’s all about the face. I try not to let anything distract the viewer from that.
What do you like best about being an artist? I like that being an artist, for me, is not a choice. Whether it’s through music or painting, I actually need to create something. I’m addicted to the sense of well-being that comes from making something that was not there earlier. It’s an extension, a legacy, proof that I was here.
Where can collectors find your work? www.ellentaylorfineart.com.

William Schneider | Finalist

William Schneider, The Long Goodbye, oil, 12 x 12.

William Schneider, The Long Goodbye, oil, 12 x 12.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? I envisioned the composition as a still from a noir detective film. The dramatic, cool up-lighting and the model’s penetrating gaze seem to indicate some intense yet guarded emotion. I kept asking myself, “What is her role in this story?”
What is your creative process? I try to work from life as much as possible. Sometimes when I set up the model I’ll have a definite idea in mind. But more often, I’ll set up some sort of environment on my model stand, like a colored backdrop and maybe a few props. As the model moves around, a gesture or expression will catch my eye, and I’ll suddenly start to imagine him or her as a character in a novel or movie. At that point, I’ll adjust my “stage” setup to enhance the story line.
What makes your work unique? I try to be honest in depicting my subject and to paint what interests me, rather than trying to “have a style” or painting what I think will sell. In fact, this piece began as an experiment.
What do you like best about being an artist? It’s the most interesting pursuit possible. No matter how much you learn, there’s always room for improvement. There’s always the option of ever-greater nuance of expression and observation.
What galleries represent your work? Lee Youngman Galleries, Calistoga, CA; Total Arts Gallery, Taos, NM; New Masters Gallery, Carmel, CA; Eisele Gallery of Fine Art, Cincinnati, OH; Reinert Fine Art, Charleston, SC; River’s End Gallery, Elm Grove, WI; www.schneiderart.com.

Olga Nielsen | Finalist

Olga Nielsen, Kailey, pastel, 16 x 12.

Olga Nielsen, Kailey, pastel, 16 x 12.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? The focus is on capturing the grace, vitality, and vulnerability of my young model. By the subtle play of light and shadows on her face and body, I tried to convey the mix of strength and fragility that is universal to all of us.
What is your creative process? This pastel was done from life. I started by working out the composition and proportions, blocking out the forms. Then I covered all the light areas with a bright-green underpainting. Next, I started layering warm tones. The details were finished with soft pastel pencils.
What makes your work unique? Most of my sculptures, paintings, and drawings focus on the female figure. Portraying women lets me address my own experiences as a woman and lets me reflect on the beauty of everyday moments in our lives. Many of my drawings are preliminary studies for sculptures.
What do you like best about being an artist? Art lets me share my fascination with the timeless beauty of the human form. It allows me to reflect on universal meanings and share its poetry. This connection between the artist and the viewer is the purpose of my art.
What galleries represent your work? Hardcastle Galleries, Wilmington, DE; Talleyville Frame Shoppe & Gallery, Wilmington, DE; Chadds Ford Gallery, Chadds Ford, PA; Mala Galleria, Kennett Square, PA; www.olganielsenart.com.

Sam Knecht | Finalist

Sam Knecht, La Passarella a Venezia, egg tempera, 24 x 30.

Sam Knecht, La Passarella a Venezia, egg tempera, 24 x 30.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? The aim of this work was to generate several kinds of strong contrasts. It juxtaposes a classical portrait against a space cluttered with tattered posters and torn photographs. Labyrinthine alleyways in Venice, Italy, inspired the painting. Thematically, it suggests a life passage, particularly making one’s way from chaos to calm.
What is your creative process? For the background of this work, I photographed various walls in Venice during a recent trip. In addition, I printed some canal views, tore them somewhat randomly and collaged them to a master print of the background.
What makes your work unique? Perhaps what makes my work unique is my dedication to intense observation and willingness to continually push myself in different directions to increase my painting powers. This involves rotating between egg tempera, oil, and watercolor and shifting from tight, sustained work to single-session work where I must capture essentials in a more dynamic way.
What do you like best about being an artist? I love a life immersed in making beautiful things inspired by nature and all kinds of people. From my youngest years, I have been blessed with a family that loved painting, drawing, and craftsmanship of all sorts. It is a privilege to work within that family culture.
What galleries represent your work? ArtPrize, Grand Rapids, MI; Perception Gallery, Grand Rapids, MI; Deluxe Frame Shop, Toledo, OH; www.knechtstudio.com.

Ricky Mujica | Finalist

Ricky Mujica, Mother’s Courage, oil, 36 x 48.

Ricky Mujica, Mother’s Courage, oil, 36 x 48.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? The bond between a mother and child who breast-feeds is so beautiful. I was riding home on the subway one day. There was a young mother with a baby that wouldn’t stop crying. Finally, looking exhausted, she pulled out her breast in front of everyone, without even trying to hide it. She began to feed the baby. Instantly the baby stopped crying, and the people on the train applauded.
What is your creative process? I like to let my paintings evolve as I go, and I always leave room for thinking on the canvas. I prefer to think of goals rather than rules. The first goal is “make the painting interesting.” I’m happy to work from photos or from life, and very often I work from both. In this case, it’s mostly from life, with a few supplemental snapshots here and there.
What makes your work unique? My work is very personal. I consider myself a colorist and always consider the color of the painting as a whole. I want my paintings to have empathy, and I like to talk about the human condition. I’m never looking for a generic situation, but a specific moment and place, or time.
What do you like best about being an artist? I love the freedom. I love being in business for myself. And I love the performance aspect of it.
Where can collectors find your work? www.rickymujica.com.

Carol Loeb | Finalist

Carol Loeb, Rooftops II, Prague, acrylic, 36 x 48.

Carol Loeb, Rooftops II, Prague, acrylic, 36 x 48.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? I want to convey the stark isolation that may be felt in a city, even though it is teeming with life.
What is your creative process? I begin by concentrating on one or two aspects, such as color, shape, contrast, or texture, as the primary focus within the composition. I emphasize these aspects within the image, altering the size or location of elements if necessary to achieve the desired expressive effect. I block in the basic color areas on the canvas and then build the image in layers, using a variety of techniques such as negative painting, glazes, and incorporation of textural materials. I react to the image as it appears on the canvas, altering it—sometimes wholesale—to reflect my emotional response to the subject. I allow the image to evolve, sometimes leading in unanticipated directions.
What makes your work unique? Although my brushwork is expressive and distinct, I use a variety of approaches, techniques, and styles to keep myself mentally engaged and challenged in my work. As a result, my work is constantly changing and reflecting my personal focus and emotions at the moment of creation.
What do you like best about being an artist? The creative process allows me to attain balance and is almost therapeutic in nature.
What galleries represent your work? Arta Gallery, Ontario, Canada; carolloeb.weebly.com.

Mark White | Finalist

Mark White, High Country Meadow, oil, 30 x 40.

Mark White, High Country Meadow, oil, 30 x 40.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? My intent is to achieve a primal connection to a location in the natural world. This painting is part of a series of works that are date- and location-specific.
What inspired the series? Each work in the series (with few exceptions) was painted in the span of a day or two, which I think gives them a spontaneity and also, I hope, acts as a means of capturing an otherwise fleeting moment for both myself and the viewer. Plein-air painting allows me to focus on my surroundings, and for me it is something of a respite from the world of structure and fixed spaces.
What is your creative process? I try to reduce my preconceptions of the world and allow myself to respond more directly to all of the influences as I experience them. I try to achieve a state of mind that is prelinguistic and meditative.
What makes your work unique? This is a large-scale painting by plein-air standards. I developed an extra-strong easel to hold large canvases in the wind. The larger scale helps me respond to the larger world that I’m immersed in.
What do you like best about being an artist? Being an artist allows me to be as unusual as I may well be.
What galleries represent your work? Mark White Fine Art in Santa Fe, NM, exclusively carries my fine-art paintings. I have partner galleries that display and sell my kinetic wind sculptures.

Ruixiang William Tan | Finalist

Ruixiang William Tan, Surging Forward, oil, 29 x 40.

Ruixiang William Tan, Surging Forward, oil, 29 x 40.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? The painting captures the unique cityscape view of the Singapore River, which the nation grew around. It has developed to become a vibrant center of trade, commerce, and finance today.
What is your creative process? The scene strikes a chord in my heart, and my mind visualizes what I will sketch. I then work on the painting in my home studio. By recomposing the landscape through modifications of pictorial elements, I seek to infuse some humanity into this scene of a path to nation-building.
What makes your work unique? The juxtaposition of the historical buildings against the backdrop of the modern skyscrapers is brought to life through my lively brush strokes and attention to details that attempt to bring the meaningful essence of this area to life.
What do you like best about being an artist? Being an artist means being able to strike a connection with the viewer via a piece of artwork. I like that I have the opportunity to bring scenes to life and weave stories within the paintings.
Where can collectors find your work? www.williamtanstudio.com.

Anne Abgott | Finalist

Anne Abgott, Off Broadway 1, watercolor, 22 x 30.

Anne Abgott, Off Broadway 1, watercolor, 22 x 30.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? I was trying to capture the electricity of an early morning scene in New York City. I was at the American Watercolor Society show and took the opportunity to sneak out early from the hotel and take photographs. My intent was to use color, shadow, and value to capture the motion I saw in my photograph.
What is your creative process? I start with my own photography; then, using Adobe Photoshop, I play with color contrast and different filters to get an image that makes me say, “Wow!” I use a digital projector and transfer the image to my watercolor paper. I paint and plan my colors as I go. Most importantly I simplify, changing shapes and making those shapes move into each other.
What makes your work unique? I have been told that my color makes my paintings unique. For several years I was a totally transparent watercolorist. Now I am mixing and tinting my own opaque paints.
What do you like best about being an artist? I am never bored; I have a mission every day! I love to stay home all day with my paints and my books on tape and the wine at 5 o’clock. The people I meet teaching all over this country are the best part.
What galleries represent your work? The Artists’ Guild of Anna Maria Island, Holmes Beach, FL; The Studio at Gulf and Pine, Anna Maria, FL; www.anneabgott.com.

Garry Kaye | Finalist

Garry Kaye, SaltSpring Fall, acrylic, 30 x 40.

Garry Kaye, SaltSpring Fall, acrylic, 30 x 40.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? I am trying to portray a feeling of approaching winter with the sea mist creeping through the trees. The apple tree with its few remaining leaves and apples indicates the seasonal change. I am trying to paint this landscape so that the viewer will be able to share in the feelings that were important to me at that time.
What is your creative process? When my image is decided, I put it into Photoshop and make any adjustments that I need. To help with the amount of detail in the image, I use a 6-inch cardboard grid divided into 1-inch squares with thread placed on the canvas. I also print the image at full size and cut it into strips to hang next to where I am painting as further reference.
What makes your work unique? I focus on the detail in the structure of what I paint and in the colors used in the painting. I paint what I see and feel so that every square inch is a painting, and when put together, the outcome gives a different realism. When viewed in its original size there is an abstraction to the painting. It also takes on a photorealism when reduced in size.
What do you like best about being an artist? I like the freedom to observe, and it satisfies my curiosity. If the painting goes as I hope it will, it gives me a huge feeling of well-being.
What galleries represent your work? Steffich Fine Art, British Columbia, Canada; www.garrykaye.com.

Sabrina Stiles | Finalist

Sabrina Stiles, This Old Barn, pastel, 12 x 16.

Sabrina Stiles, This Old Barn, pastel, 12 x 16.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? It’s always my goal to capture the feeling of a place. The original study was painted on a bright Colorado morning, and I was struck by the light on the grass and the old barn in the field. Late autumn is one of my favorite times of year to paint. I suppose it’s the color palette—the mauves of the bare trees and those golden grasses—as well as the lingering long shadows.
What is your creative process? This varies from painting to painting, depending on my mood and subject matter. I don’t adhere to any strict rules about the process. That keeps it fun and more interesting to me.
What makes your work unique? I hope my work evokes a sense of place for the viewer. I spend a lot of time focusing on the quality of light. Does it feel like the type of day I’m attempting to portray? Once I put away my reference, I listen to my instincts. I often need to leave the room and do something totally unrelated before going back and seeing if the painting still has the same impact.
What do you like best about being an artist? I love the anticipation and endless possibilities. I never know exactly what will happen when I face the canvas, and I think that’s exciting.
What galleries represent your work? The Glass Tipi Gallery, Ward, CO; Mary Williams Fine Arts, Boulder, CO; www.sabrinastiles.com.

Alejandra Gos | Finalist

Alejandra Gos, Spring is Back, pastel, 14 x 11.

Alejandra Gos, Spring is Back, pastel, 14 x 11.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? My focus was the contrast of light and shadows. I was trying to convey the sense of late-afternoon sunlight blasting against the barn, giving the wood that bright, almost incandescent look. The same idea of high contrast is given to the field near the barn. The reference photo was taken in spring—the bushes were actually red roses—hence the name of the painting.
What is your creative process? I start with a small thumbnail sketch using a black Sharpie. I want to make sure I have an interesting combination of lights and darks. Then I make my drawing with a pastel pencil before applying a wet underpainting of alcohol wash or watercolors. I then block in the big shapes with their correct values.
What makes your work unique? My work is unique in its boldness and the fact that I don’t fear color at all. Thanks to some great mentors, I have an understanding of color harmony and value that keeps me from messing up but also allows me to go wild where I can.
What do you like best about being an artist? Once I’m “in the zone,” I lose track of time and all those worries we all have in our everyday life. I am a full-time engineer, and I cannot really “rest my mind.” Art gives me a break from math and logic but still demands full concentration of a different kind, and I love that.
What galleries represent your work? Christopher Framing & Gallery, Edmonds, WA; www.dailypaintworks.com; www.etsy.com/shop/AlejandraGos; www.alejandragos.com.

Cathy Boyer | Finalist

Cathy Boyer, Sunset on Nob Hill, oil, 36 x 24.

Cathy Boyer, Sunset on Nob Hill, oil, 36 x 24.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? I wanted to achieve a feeling of depth, scale, and atmosphere. Initially, I was attracted by the contrast of warm, pink light against the shadow bisecting the buildings quite dramatically.
What is your creative process? First, I select an image. This image struck me a second time when I was viewing it on my tablet. The painting process begins with a tint of gesso in neutral gray or raw umber. Next, I do an accurate drawing with a small brush. A block-in follows with a thin application of paint. Middle darks and lights follow. I scan for value relationships and shapes, reviewing at every stage before advancing to new areas. Final evaluation requires a fresh mind. I may take several days or weeks away from the work, asking myself, “What does the piece need?” rather than, “Does the piece match up against the reference photo?”
What makes your work unique? My palette, subject matter, paint application, narrative, and my influences, which include who I studied with, the era, and my region.
What do you like best about being an artist? Seeing a project through to completion, and the supportive relationships I build with colleagues. Ultimately, my primary goal and motivation are to gain mastery through risk-taking.
Where can collectors find your work? www.catherinemboyer.com.

Timothy Mulligan | Finalist

Timothy Mulligan, Street Layers, Sacramento, acrylic, 36 x 48.

Timothy Mulligan, Street Layers, Sacramento, acrylic, 36 x 48.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? By showing these four layers of streets converging on the city, I hope to show how strangely beautiful yet overly complex our world is.
What is your creative process? First, I find an interesting subject that has special meaning to me. Then, through sketches and photographs, I discover a unique perspective. I carefully study the lines and shapes in the composition and simplify the information to create a final sketch. While painting, I experiment with colors and textures to achieve both a sense of the real subject and how I relate to it. I then add hyper-colorful effects to the objects, shadows, and the seams linking the shapes in the painting. Finally, I study the painting under different lighting conditions and revise it if necessary.
What makes your work unique? My landscapes and cityscapes are of real subjects and locations that are often built upon abstracted planes of bright color and re-imagined forms. I paint in an expressive style inspired by the Bay Area Figurative Movement and use hyper-colorful effects.
What do you like best about being an artist? Most importantly, I get to be creative! It’s a way for me to express my ideas and how I view the world.
What galleries represent your work? Elliott Fouts Gallery, Sacramento, CA; Signature Gallery at Studios on the Park, Paso Robles, CA.

Beth Bathe | Finalist

Beth Bathe, Saxton’s River Bridge, oil, 9 x 18.

Beth Bathe, Saxton’s River Bridge, oil, 9 x 18.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? I painted this en plein air in March 2016. I wanted to capture Vermont in late winter: cold, bare, and very monochromatic.
What is your creative process? I use Cobra water-mixable oils in very thin washes, letting drips and marks help me define my composition. Sometimes they create trees, or a negative space, and often they seem random and unplanned even though they are not so at all.
What makes your work unique? I use unconventional tools, such as squeegees, paper towels, and cotton swabs. Removing paint becomes as important as putting paint on the panel. My panels are well thought out. I prepare them with gesso and random brush strokes, creating texture under my thin oil washes. Then, instead of using white paint, I allow the white of the panel to show through.
What do you like best about being an artist? As a plein-air painter, I am drawn to a scene at a particular moment in time, usually by how the light strikes the subject. I mix a wet wash of raw umber and do a value study of the scene and then take away, add, scrape, and build up detail. Chasing the light and capturing a moment in time is my love of painting.
What galleries represent your work? Brazier Gallery, Richmond, VA; Mat About You, Ellicott City, MD; Crystal Moll Gallery, Baltimore, MD; www.bethbathe.com.

Elizabeth Barlow | Finalist

Elizabeth Barlow, Unbuttoned, Scene 1, oil, 12 x 9.

Elizabeth Barlow, Unbuttoned, Scene 1, oil, 12 x 9.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? Inspired by the portraiture tradition, but working within the still-life genre, I use the personal belongings of my subjects rather than their faces or bodies to explore the human experience. I call this body of work “portraits in absentia.” With the perspective of a cultural anthropologist, I view the things with which we surround ourselves as both containing and revealing the shape of our lives.
What is your creative process? I relish pondering the inner character of my subjects. They can be people I know or people who have deeply inspired me. I meditate first on their character and story. Then I select objects that symbolize these complex aspects of their inner selves and create a compositional arrangement. Using color and shadow, I amplify these seemingly mundane things into a work of art that reveals truths about their lives and personal journeys.
What makes your work unique? I use my subjects’ cherished belongings to create personal portraits that reveal their life stories in a whole new way.
What do you like best about being an artist? I feel joy and gratitude being able to devote myself to seeing and celebrating the beauty that resides in all things.
What galleries represent your work? Gallerie Citi, Burlingame, CA; www.elizabethbarlowart.com.

Megan Euell | Finalist

Megan Euell, Shoemaker’s Bench, oil, 19 x 31.

Megan Euell, Shoemaker’s Bench, oil, 19 x 31.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? This painting was created as a love letter to my fiancé. He has made me beautiful shoes over the years, and I wanted to paint this to celebrate his craft, skills, and the tradition of bespoke shoemaking.
What is your creative process? Once I choose what I am going to focus on, I begin preparatory studies to help me decide on composition, followed by a color study. I stretch my own canvases using archival Belgian oil-primed linen, and I paint with high-quality oil paints, some of which I make myself in my studio.
What makes your work unique? I actively focus on the tactile qualities of still-life objects, or the way the wind is blowing across a field as I paint a landscape. With portraiture, I am constantly thinking about technical aspects, but I am also interpreting the personality and spirit of the model by consciously working to notice his or her idiosyncrasies, enabling me to capture his or her essence.
What do you like best about being an artist? It is incredibly fulfilling to start with an idea and a blank canvas and begin to translate the subject before me. I love the process of making materials, of bringing my ideas to fruition and capturing the beauty in life.
What galleries represent your work? The 1708 House, Southampton, NY; The Artist Study Gallery, Quogue, NY; Salmagundi Club, New York, NY; www.meganeuell.com.

Nancy Whitin | Finalist

Nancy Whitin, Buckwheat and Alfalfa, pastel, 20 x 15.

Nancy Whitin, Buckwheat and Alfalfa, pastel, 20 x 15.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? Through my paintings of animals, I hope to start an intimate conversation—a cross-species dialog about the nature of joy and empathy. This is a painting from a photograph of local donkeys. Their pose and their expressions are real, not exaggerated. Indeed, donkeys are individuals with unique, irresistible personalities and emotions.
What is your creative process? Carrots and an iPhone often initiate a painting. I have thousands of animal photos. The challenge becomes portraying the emotion of the moment, and a good deal of study, instruction, feedback, and experimentation contributes to my artwork. The amount of planning and knowledge that goes into creating a painting amazes me.
What makes your work unique? Donkeys aren’t often the subjects of paintings; consequently people are surprised to discover my artwork. My perspective and my range of colors delight them. Indeed, I never expected to be painting donkeys!
What do you like best about being an artist? My artwork has taken me on a journey encompassing everything from animals and emotions to the history of art. I am grateful to work with creative people and talented teachers. Through this exploration, I have discovered the visions of contemporary artists as well as new perspectives on the masters. I have lost myself in a world of paintings, and it’s wonderful.
What galleries represent your work? Art Stable Gallery, Westport, MA; Cory Farms Past & Presents, Portsmouth, RI; www.nancywhitin.com.

Terry Sigler | Finalist

Terry Sigler, Intent, acrylic, 38 x 18.

Terry Sigler, Intent, acrylic, 38 x 18.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? I am portraying the power and intensity in the owl’s gaze and the dramatic movement of his wings as he seeks his prey.
What is your creative process? I choose a wildlife or figurative subject that excites me first. I always start each piece by determining the position of my subject on the canvas. Then I will decide on a color scheme and lastly compose the abstract background and add various streaks and spatters to enhance the energy and movement of the subject.
What makes your work unique? I think my use of realistic subjects with abstract backgrounds, plus the bold contrast and use of streaking and spattering techniques, make my work unique.
What do you like best about being an artist? It is the freedom to create unique art and manage my own time.
What galleries represent your work? Amsterdam Whitney Gallery, New York, NY; Pop Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; www.terrysiglerfineart.com.

Patsy Lindamood | Finalist

Patsy Lindamood, Surfside Trio, pastel, 18 x 24.

Patsy Lindamood, Surfside Trio, pastel, 18 x 24.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? This was a morning beach photography session. Light bounced off every surface as I bent down to capture the birds at their level. I wanted to capture that sensation of bouncing, sparkling light.
What is your creative process? I shoot photos in the field and then come back to the studio to review my inventory. Sometimes, I know the photo I take at that moment is destined to become a painting. I’ll start by laying in my darkest darks, a few of my lightest lights, and then work back and forth between the two. I use strong colors to develop my work, but I also like to challenge myself with a limited palette to execute a monochromatic work.
What makes your work unique? My paintings are typically mistaken for photos from a distance, but up close, the strokes are evident. My work is unabashedly representational as a wildlife artist. But, unlike many wildlife artists who are masters at portraying their subjects in natural environments, I intend to portray creatures as if they are emerging from the two-dimensional plane.
What do you like best about being an artist? I love having a vision, then executing a work that looks like what I envisioned. Also, finding joy in the work when the painting just seems to flow out of me.
What galleries represent your work? Affaire d’Art, Galveston, TX; Orchid Tree Park & Gallery, Round Top, TX; www.lindamoodfineart.com.

Linda Besse | Finalist

Linda Besse, Just Above Freezing, oil, 9 x 12.

Linda Besse, Just Above Freezing, oil, 9 x 12.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? During the winter of 2015, New England counted its snowfall in feet rather than inches. One morning, just outside the sliding-glass door, there were about a dozen robins eating the last remaining berries from fall’s bounty. The sun was shining, the snow was deep, and the presence of robins made me feel that spring would come despite the wintry conditions. I’m pleased that this piece won third place (and that two other works were named finalists).
What is your creative process? Often it is a chance encounter, or maybe the inspiration starts on a trip to Africa or Antarctica. Once I have the ideas, I take time to mentally place myself in that space before I begin drawing on my board. Rarely do I work on more than one painting at a time, as I try to immerse myself into that time and place.
What makes your work unique? I strive to convey a sense of “being there” in my work. If the collector can feel what inspired the painting, I deem it a success.
What do you like best about being an artist? Being with animals in their natural habitats. Each moment is filled with inspiration and surprises. I’ve been alone in a blind waiting for a polar bear to walk by, and a pack of wolves comes to investigate. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Where can collectors find your work? www.besseart.com.

George Ann Johnson | Finalist

George Ann Johnson, Through My Eye, scratchboard/colored pencil, 16 x 20.

George Ann Johnson, Through My Eye, scratchboard/colored pencil, 16 x 20.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? Intensity. I chose the hawk because their eyes produce a singleness of purpose when hunting that is unique within the animal kingdom. With this in mind, I created the piece so the viewer is drawn into the eye. Once in the confines of the eye, it is very difficult to leave without withdrawing from the entire piece.
What is your creative process? It’s a journey into the soul—not only mine but also the subject’s. It is a focused effort, with the goal of producing the level of detail required to engage in the spiritual communication with the subject.
What makes your work unique? My work is unique because it is a singular journey. Most of my work is an evolution through the eyes of animals because they speak through their eyes.
What do you like best about being an artist? I am currently engrossed in scratchboard; it is an incredible medium that requires complete focus but also enables a high level of detail. The recognition of the creativity of humanity is fundamental to life. By engaging in my own art, I am able to receive so much more from other artists’ work.
What galleries represent your work? Two Old Crows Gallery, Pagosa Springs, CO; Rockport Center for the Arts, Rockport, TX; Latitude 28°02′ Gallery, Rockport, TX; Artifacts Gallery, Farmington, NM; The Art Center of Corpus Christi, Corpus Christi, TX; Port Aransas Art Center, Port Aransas, TX; www.gajart.com.

Julia Lesnichy | Finalist

Julia Lesnichy, My Cat, pastel, 12 x 19.

Julia Lesnichy, My Cat, pastel, 12 x 19.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? This artwork is dedicated to my beloved cat. As a person, I wanted to show my affection for her. As an artist, I was instantly attracted by the play of warm and cool colors in the light and shadows and wanted to convey these subtle shades.
What is your creative process? Usually I start by blocking in initial masses of color. Keeping the values right, I go on and develop each mass by adding more color layers to it so that the underpainting colors show through. Eventually I create multicolored paintings both in oil or pastel, which enables me to achieve color vibrancy.
What makes your work unique? I push colors but balance them in terms of values and chroma. Working either en plein air or from a photograph, I work fast and broadly apply strokes of color; this technique gives my paintings a certain freshness and spontaneity.
What do you like best about being an artist? I like to take my own path and follow my own schedule. I love to paint what I am really excited about and share this excitement with others. Whenever I go out painting, the beauty of nature overwhelms me. I am happy I have the skills to render this beauty and show it in my art.
What galleries represent your work? Chasen Galleries, Richmond, VA; Cabell Gallery, Lexington, VA; For Art’s Sake Gallery, Henrico, VA; CoArt Gallery, Staunton, VA; www.julialesnichyart.com.

Johanna Lerwick | Finalist

Johanna Lerwick, Solitude—Snowy Owl, oil, 24 x 20.

Johanna Lerwick, Solitude—Snowy Owl, oil, 24 x 20.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? The beauty of a magnificent snowy owl as the sunlight dances through the blowing snow in a harsh environment.
What is your creative process? I research my subjects to get to know as much about them as I can, so I have a better understanding of them. This determines the type of surroundings I want to place them in. In oil paintings, I like to paint wet-on-wet, blending and layering my colors to get the effects that I want to achieve in my work. The snowy owl has a drastic change from shades of white to dark in each feather, so I chose to paint each feather individually. The final step is the soft glazing with thinned oils for shading and adding highlights.
What makes your work unique? I have a passion for animals, so I sit for hours watching their expressions, personality, and character in the moment. In my paintings, I like to bring my emotions about them to life through their eyes.
What do you like best about being an artist? The ability to express myself with my art and have others feel what I am feeling in my paintings.
What galleries represent your work? Broad Street Gallery, Hamilton, NY; Harrington Gallery, Sidney, NY; Jill Kraft Gallery, Norwich, NY; www.johannalerwick.com.

Sophie Rodionov | Finalist

Sophie Rodionov, Petaline, watercolor, 15 x 15.

Sophie Rodionov, Petaline, watercolor, 15 x 15.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? This artwork is one from a series on Petaline. This cat has a unique personality, and for me she represents “The Cat.” She is an egoist, does whatever she wants, and doesn’t care about anyone else’s opinion. Above all, it portrays her relationship with her owner, a man with a hard background who has no one but Petaline. So these buddies with difficult characteristics live together, with all things hate and love at one time. I tried to tell this hidden story.
What is your creative process? My creative process is a nonstop one. I think art, I do art, and then I do it all over again. If I don’t paint or create something, I get angry. I don’t need a muse or inspiration for starting this process; I must do it, and there is not any other choice.
What makes your work unique? I never paint the object itself, but I define the space by this object or group of objects, and I paint the empty space in one specific moment of time.
What do you like best about being an artist? Art and life are the same. For me, this question is like asking, “What do you like the best about your nose?” I don’t think about my nose, but I’m happy I have it, and it must be uncomfortable without it. Art is the same way for me.
Where can collectors find your work? www.canotstop.com.

Patrish Kuebler | Finalist

Patrish Kuebler, Bovine Buddies, pastel, 16 x 20.

Patrish Kuebler, Bovine Buddies, pastel, 16 x 20.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? While on vacation in the French Alps, I came upon these two adorable cows. I attempted to share the obvious beauty of the animals and the emotional experience of connecting with those big brown eyes.
What is your creative process? I believe one has to do quite a bit of planning and preparation before beginning a piece of art: pay attention, read, absorb, ask questions, and listen. The proper materials, learned skills, dedication, luck, and emotion all mesh to help create that vision I want to share.
What makes your work unique? I attempt to share images that are important to me, images that depict quiet, calm, wonder, and beauty.
What do you like best about being an artist? I absolutely love the fact that I reinvented myself, again. After working as a clerk in city government for 10 years, I took off a chunk of time to be a full-time mom. Then I went back to school to be a registered nurse. After moving to Ojai, CA, I was inspired to return to the local community college for basic art lessons. Things took off—I was awash in new ideas and having the time of my life.
Where can collectors find your work? www.patrishkuebler.com; www.ojaistudioartists.org.

Kate Carney | Finalist

Kate Carney, Big Feisty, oil, 30 x 30.

Kate Carney, Big Feisty, oil, 30 x 30.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? My crow paintings have layered meanings. Superficially, crows are entertaining birds with iridescent feathers. On a deeper level, I see our human condition in the behaviors of these expressive creatures. I portray my crows with postures and expressions that reflect the actions and emotions I observe in us. I realized that when people saw my paintings, they were projecting their own feelings and experiences: some saw an angry crow, some thought he was laughing, and others thought he was singing. That made me realize that crows are a dialog rather than just an expression.
What is your creative process? Using a heavy grade of canvas or linen, I start with a warm-toned canvas. I do a red chiaroscuro underpainting for the crows and start creating a simplified background with layers of oil glazes. Black doesn’t exist in nature, so I blend my own “black” using other colors. I finish in a painterly fashion with expressive brush strokes and flashes of bright “shine.”
What makes your work unique? The vision and emotion I put into these expressive creatures, as well as my ability to edit out extraneous details that detract from the message in the work.
What do you like best about being an artist? When I am painting, I am myself, and there is a rich joy in that authenticity.
Where can collectors find your work? www.katecarneyfineart.com.

Patrycia Ann Herndon | Finalist

Patrycia Ann Herndon, Pure Ego, colored pencil, 14 x 19.

Patrycia Ann Herndon, Pure Ego, colored pencil, 14 x 19.

What are you trying to convey in this artwork? I was doing studies of white peacocks at a friend’s farm. Two tom turkeys kept trying to horn in on the attention, and I found myself photographing them as well. When I edited the photos, I was struck by the colors and shapes of their feathers.
What is your creative process? I do not usually go looking for something to create; it finds me. When the idea presents itself, it speaks as to the medium to be used. My mind asks, “How am I going to make this work?” Sometimes the answer comes quickly, and other times it takes a long time.
What makes your work unique? As artists, I believe we see the world differently. As a child, I realized that I saw details, patterns, shapes, and colors that others overlooked. I want to capture and preserve what I experience to share with the viewer.
What do you like best about being an artist? The very act of creating gives me great personal satisfaction. I always have several projects going at the same time, so I never get bored. I consider myself lucky to be able to spend my days painting, drawing, designing and making clothes, restoring antiques, creating in stained glass, and collecting local history.
What galleries represent your work? The Old Bank Gallery, Dighton, KS.

Vincent Wilson | Finalist

Vincent Wilson, Rocky Mountain Pika, acrylic, 16 x 20.

Vincent Wilson, Rocky Mountain Pika, acrylic, 16 x 20.

What are you trying to portray in this artwork? The beauty of the setting, as well as the character of the animal and species portrayed. I continuously strive to capture the charm, grace, and appeal of wildlife, especially in its own environment.
What is your creative process? This painting was inspired while hiking at high elevations in the Rocky Mountains. Numerous trips around mountain peaks led to many encounters with various critters. I have always been inspired to paint by the wonders of nature, but cute little critters that stick their heads out of the rocks to see who is trespassing on their domain really capture my attention.
What makes your work unique? I am meticulous in pretty much everything I do, from my laboratory bench work in my research career to my artwork. In my painting, I have slowly been learning that there are places for meticulous detail and places for implied detail.
What do you like best about being an artist? I am relaxed when I get to settle down and work on my art, whether around other artists or alone.
Where can collectors find your work? www.facebook.com/vincent.wilson.92372.

This story was featured in the January 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  January 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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