This story was featured in the January 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art January 2016 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 another talented group: The artists featured here were all winners and finalists in the 32nd Annual Art Competition recently conducted by The Artist’s Magazine, a sister publication to Southwest Art. From the more than 6,100 entries received this year, 30 winners and approximately 400 finalists in five categories were chosen by a distinguished panel of artist-jurors: Sherrie McGraw, still life and interior; Daniel E. Greene, portrait and figure; Stephen Quiller, landscape; Betsy Dillard Stroud, abstract and experimental; and John Seerey-Lester, animal and wildlife. We hope you enjoy the diverse work of these winning artists.
Linda Sheppard | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? For 16 years I taught at the Fletcher Farm School for the Arts and Crafts in Vermont. My drawing students would take some of the small, carved figures created in the woodcarvers’ class and draw them using classical drawing techniques. I saw a story that would make a painting. The woodcarvers, mostly men, gave themselves permission to go to “summer camp” (my term) to learn something new. Their friendships deepened as they returned year after year. Viewers, especially men, often comment that the painting touches an inner core, challenging them to find a new interest and make new friends.
What is your creative process like? This painting sparked a new direction for me. I look for stories to tell that might pull the viewer in to find his or her own story.
What do you feel makes your work unique? I often paint in series, using dance or music themes that explore universal ideas people can relate to. Viewers bring their own stories to the paintings.
What is the funniest thing anyone has said about one of your artworks? Of a painting of aspen trees that has purple in the shadows, someone said, “There is no such thing as purple in a tree trunk.”
Where can collectors find your work? www.lindasheppardfineart.com.
David Beal | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? This work is largely about storytelling, but the design emphasis was contrasts and comparisons—warms against cools, soft edges against hard edges, gritty complacency against inner, emotional warmth. The subject is also an artist. I wanted to convey that this is a visual snapshot of a one-of-a-kind, creative, kindred spirit.
What is your creative process like? With portraits, I start with a combination of quick sketches, color roughs painted from life, and reference photos. From there, I’ll do a more refined pencil sketch and see if I can get a likeness. Then I grab a blank canvas and brush it with a coat of raw umber. Using cheesecloth, I remove paint from the coated canvas to pull out the big shapes, mid-tones, and lights. I then go back into that wet value study and add the darkest dark and a few details with black and umber. While it dries, I mix my color palette. I begin laying in color by building the mid-tones and darks, saving the lights until last.
What is the funniest thing anyone has said about one of your artworks? Years ago a little boy watching me paint a library mural gave me a drawing that included his written encouragement. He wrote, “Maybe someday you’ll paint as good as a computer!”
Where can collectors find your work? www.davidbealportraits.com.
William Schneider | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? I try to paint with emotional impact. That means that the piece must tell a story, and the technique needs to support that narrative. In this painting the model’s curly, wind-blown hair and red scarf made me imagine her as the heroine in a romantic novel, scanning the moors for the return of her beloved, tragic hero.
What is your creative process like? On a simple piece like this, I study the model until I start to see him or her as a movie character. That vision guides my choices about key, harmony, angles of action, and expression. On larger, more elaborate paintings, I may spend several hours setting up the environment (furniture, props, lighting) and making thumbnails and color roughs to get the composition [right].
What do you feel makes your work unique? As I paint to suit my taste, I think my work becomes more individualized. I’ll leave it to someone else to say if they agree.
Where can collectors find your work? Lee Youngman Galleries, Calistoga, CA; Total Arts Gallery, Taos, NM; New Masters Gallery, Carmel, CA; Eisele Gallery of Fine Art, Cincinnati, OH; www.schneiderart.com.
Drew Miller | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? The painting PIPER is very personal to me. Piper is my daughter, who, of course, I think is beautiful. But that beauty comes with a very energetic child. I was trying to portray her beauty and personality in my approach to the painting. I wanted to keep the face and hair soft and have a nice contrast by painting her shirt with a lot more texture. The way the light was hitting her face, I could see simple shapes and subtle changes in color temperature that really stood out to me and drew me in. I now realize that kids grow up way too fast. So I was trying to capture what I can, when I can.
What is your creative process like? I usually paint things that catch my eye—different shapes, the way light hits the object—and I translate what I see. I pay attention to value, edges, and color temperature. I begin with loose, runny paint and slowly refine each stroke. My creative process is more of an observation and slow build-up. Subject matter isn’t always important. It’s more about the process of applying the paint, and then I challenge myself to improve every time I pick up a brush.
Where can collectors find your work? www.drewmillerart.com.
Barry G. Pitts | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? I walked out of the Orvieto Cathedral in Italy and came upon these two men in deep conversation. I was struck by how it must have been a regular event for the two to meet and talk about their issues and concerns. I imagine their meeting to represent years of friendship and camaraderie.
What is your creative process like? I carry my camera and sketchbook to capture compelling moments, then execute a finished painting later.
What do you feel makes your work unique? Because of recent health issues, I have had to change how I produce my work. My newest works explore the possibilities and potential of artwork created using a graphics tablet and stylus on the computer. The art requires the same skills used in traditional mediums and can be created on various archival substrates. Each digital painting is represented in a very limited number of signed archival prints. I realize that digital [art] has encountered resistance in the art community, but fortunately, it is gaining wider acceptance.
What is the funniest thing anyone has said about one of your artworks? I am often asked, “Are pastels like chalk?” With a chuckle I say, “Yes.” The next question is usually, “If it’s drawn with chalk, why do you call it a painting?”
Where can collectors find your work? www.barrygpittsart.com.
Margaret Minardi | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? I wanted the viewer to get a sense of who the figure is through the use of his workspace environment and carefully selected objects.
What is your creative process like? I begin with a drawing or painting of any subject, and the rest is instinct and stream of consciousness. I don’t have a preconceived vision of what the work will become. I add elements as I go. The unraveling story of the work gets me up in the morning. I am always curious and excited to find out what will happen in a painting. For CRAIG, I photographed him in his classroom on a table, which skewed the point of view just enough to create drama. The objects are all personal to Craig. I attached actual pages from his sketchbook to the canvas. I also selectively chose objects from his classroom, such as the paint can and bottles, and added them to the composition in a trompe l’oeil style. The sculptures in the background represent his fun side. They come about three inches off of the canvas and are constructed using cardboard packing scraps.
What is the funniest thing anyone has said about one of your artworks? “Is that a squid?”
Where can collectors find your work? Ripe Art Gallery, Huntington, NY; The Firefly Artists, Northport, NY.
McGarren Flack | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? I like creating art that mixes contemporary ideas with traditional paint application. In this work, I placed a contemporary model in a pop art scene. I debated using Audrey Hepburn behind the model, but Marilyn Monroe better represents my view of America. The composition seemed a bit stagnant, so I painted in the torn-up “obey” signs. I am trying to convey a sense of patriotism with the strong use of red, white, and blue and an American icon.
What is your creative process like? I paint what inspires me, which could be something as simple as how light fell on an individual or as complex as creating a painting that stirs a discussion with cultural constructs.
What do you feel makes your work unique? I don’t think my work is really unique. I create because I love to and because it is challenging.
What is the funniest thing anyone has said about one of your artworks? “Why would you paint a brick?” I love that question. I painted 16 bricks while I was in graduate school, and I have sold almost all of them. My response is, “Why wouldn’t I paint a brick?” Some people feel like flowers are what artists should paint. A brick is as good a model as a flower. The only difference is that a brick doesn’t die.
Where can collectors find your work? www.flackstudio.com.
Calvin Lai | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? Visually I want to convey a sense of movement, a sense of depth, and a feeling that you are there with the subject. Emotionally I want to carry across her quirky personality and good humor.
What is your creative process like? I spend a good amount of time on the initial drawing. After that I try to paint as quickly as possible for the first couple of stages. I feel that painting fast at this point gives the piece vitality. But as I fill in detail and become more specific, I slow down quite a bit. I also like to make certain I don’t overwork the painting and try to be extra sensitive to when I should stop.
What do you feel makes your work unique? I really like to push conventions of composition, sometimes consciously breaking standard rules. I also like to combine near-photo-realistic elements with very loose elements. Both of my choices in composition and style create a tension in my art that I utilize to push the boundaries of realism.
What is the funniest thing anyone has said about one of your artworks? “Please make prints of your work for those of us that are poor.”
Where can collectors find your work? www.calvinlaiart.com.
William Jones | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? PLEIN AIR features a young girl living and painting totally in the moment. She’s not giving a thought to a future critique, mimicking another’s style, or making a tricycle payment. She’s enjoying the beauty of the world through the process of painting.
What is your creative process like? I will form a vague idea stimulated by some vista, still life, or figurative pose that I have seen. Then I look for a compelling composition incorporating my idea. This step includes searching for further references, followed by pure mental visualization or a series of sketches. I often only solidify 70 percent of the composition before I begin. I’ll fill the other 30 percent with (and then later remove): a small house, birds, a dog, a mountain range, a pile of leaves, an apple peel, and so on. I keep scraping and painting until something works or I run out of ideas and toss the piece in the neighbor’s garbage can.
What is the funniest thing anyone has said about one of your artworks? I had a teacher who stood behind me as I painted and commented, “Your palette is more interesting than your painting.”
Where can collectors find your work? www.wrjonesfineart.com.
Cynda Valle | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? I have always noticed a profound radiance that exists in ordinary, everyday stuff. It is my intention to remind the viewer—and myself—that it is there and to live accordingly. I imagine [my subconscious] like a dark pool. In its shadows, things percolate and create bubbles that rise to the surface and pop, delivering memories from my childhood. Things get twisted, changed, jumbled. It’s hard to know what is real and what is imagined. In my current series, I paint these images from my childhood.
What is your creative process like? When I am done painting, I bring the piece home and spend hours looking at it. Ideally this “slow looking” evolves into a painting that tells me something about myself that I didn’t already know and moves me in directions much more interesting than where I thought I was going.
What do you feel makes your work unique? I work with a highly detailed underpainting followed by up to 30 layers of glazes. The technique dates back to the 15th century and was used by two artists that I admire, Remedios Varos and George Tooker. I think there are even fewer practitioners of the method today.
What is the funniest thing anyone has said about one of your artworks? Referring to a painting that took two months to paint: “Would you take a hundred dollars for it?”
Don Burchett | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? This painting is a good-humored tweak of modern art. Specifically, I wanted to illustrate the difference in skill required between abstract and representational art. The painting on the easel is based on Picasso’s NUDE WOMAN IN A RED ARMCHAIR. He painted several by that name. I often use humor to evoke a response from the viewer. In that way my painting becomes a dialogue with the viewer, not just a monologue by the artist.
What is your creative process like? For this painting, I first had the concept, “What can I paint to make fun of modern art in a good-natured way?” My first idea was to paint a realistic still life in the style of the Dutch masters with a painting of the same composition by Cezanne hanging in the background. That may have illustrated my point, but it wasn’t very funny. That concept evolved into the present painting.
What do you feel makes your work unique? My sense of humor. For example, I did a painting of myself teaching my grandson how to play chess. The title of the work is THE CHESS LESSON. But in the painting, our body language and the expressions on our faces suggest that he is the one who is teaching me the lesson.
Where can collectors find your work? www.donburchett.com.
Erica Hawkes | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? I painted JUST RIGHT in a style I call Nouveau 7. It brings together the flowing, organic lines of the Art Nouveau movement and joins it with the Canadian Group of Seven painting style, which is somewhat impressionistic.
What is your creative process like? I love to take photographs and now have a computer full of thousands of images from around Canada and the United States. I will often amalgamate a few different images on the computer and then paint from the new image. I also happen to live near the beautiful Lake Okanagan, and as the sun is setting, I rush down, sit on the pier, and click away. JUST RIGHT is from one of these sunset adventures. Back in the studio, photos get reworked, sketched onto the canvas, and painted.
What do you feel makes your work unique? The new style I work in is unique in that I incorporate flowing lines into my skies and land, which is a little tricky.
Where can collectors find your work? www.hawkesfineart.com; Tutt Street Gallery, Kelowna, BC, Canada; Lloyd Gallery, Penticton, BC, Canada; Wall Space Gallery, Ottawa and Orleans, ON, Canada; Artym Gallery, Invermere, BC, Canada; Groop Gallery, Prince George, BC, Canada.
Timothy Mulligan | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? Using bold, expressive paint strokes and intensified colors, I wanted to highlight the early morning sun shining on the empty fruit stand. I also wanted to express that same intensity and emotion in the way the shadows stretched across the foreground and how the clouds streamed across the sky.
What is your creative process like? My inspiration usually comes from the California landscapes, waterscapes, and cityscapes near where I live. I enjoy painting outdoors and in my studio. After finding a subject, I look for a unique perspective, often making quick sketches and taking photographs from different angles. The final composition is often developed with abstract and reimagined shapes and forms. I paint with bold colors in an expressive style influenced by the Bay Area Figurative Movement.
What do you feel makes your work unique? My paintings blend a raw, expressive style with the hypercolorful effects of the contemporary Sacramento Valley painters.
What is the most unforgettable thing someone has said about one of your artworks? Earlier this year, I had my first solo show at a gallery in Sacramento, CA. I was honored to have renowned artists Wayne Thiebaud and Greg Kondos attend the reception. During the evening, a collector who had purchased one of the paintings asked Mr. Thiebaud what he thought of it. A man of few—and often comical—words, he studied it for a minute or two, then said in a serious tone, “You’re going to appreciate that painting for a long, long time.” What a wonderful and memorable comment.
Where can collectors find your work? Elliott Fouts Gallery, Sacramento, CA; www.timothymulliganfineart.com.
Susan Brandsema | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? Flashes of lightning and the sound of distant thunder, combined with torrential rain pummeling the windshield, inspired this painting. The electric sky created the misty reflections on the bridge, the roadway, and the windshield. These became the challenges to paint, in a way that was both technically correct and interesting.
What is your creative process like? Most of my works begin with late-afternoon plein-air sketches and color studies. Nature provides an ever-changing source of inspiration, whether it’s pristine untouched woods, snowy mountains, city streets, or quiet streams. When working in my studio, I keep a window open, and I love to listen to instrumental music, so I can focus on the painting. I also enjoy the company, conversation, and creativity of friends and family who occasionally paint with me.
What do you feel makes your work unique? Painting in nature gives me an opportunity to observe amazing minute-by-minute changes in light. My goal with each painting is to choose a focal point, then use color and paint strokes that convey the light, charm, and emotions unique to just one moment in time.
Where can collectors find your work? www.rsbabylon.fineartstudioonline.com.
Jim Smither | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? I was trying to convey the beauty found in a rainy winter’s day. This scene is on a street called Herenstraat, several blocks west of the core of Amsterdam. Even on a drizzly day, the streets were packed with bikes, pedestrians, and, of course, boats. Cars seem to be at a disadvantage.
What is your creative process like? At the core of my process is my identity as a geographer. I feel compelled to express the enthusiasm I have for exploring iconic places through painting. To capture the emotions of the moment, I sketch, do color studies, and take reference photographs, then I complete my work back in the studio. An important part of my process is editing the world I see to enhance the pictorial qualities I want to express.
What do you feel makes your work unique? I see the world through the lens of a designer with formal training in landscape architecture and urban design. I depict the spatial and atmospheric qualities in landscapes, as well as how people use spaces and interact with built and natural forms.
What is the funniest thing anyone has said about one of your artworks? My friend Stuart said the floodplain in a painting of the Rio Chama in New Mexico looked like a hovering pepperoni pizza.
Where can collectors find your work? Crossroads Art Center, Richmond, VA;
Ganga Duleep | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? I prefer to paint on metal—aluminum, stainless steel, or copper—because light refracts off the metal in delightful, astonishing ways depending on the angle from which the painting is viewed and the intensity of the light shining on it. Hence the painting always commands attention, since it is never static and cannot fade into the background. At shows I have observed people spending considerable time walking back and forth in front of my paintings, viewing them from all angles. That is precisely the kind of interaction and involvement I hope to provoke.
What is your creative process like? Initially, I play with the juxtaposition of shapes and colors arranged with basic design principles. I am basically doodling with my subconscious mind in charge. Eventually either the colors or the shapes or both evoke a memory of a scene or person encountered in my life. Obviously that moment has been retained in my memory bank because of some memorable emotion it awakened in me. I try to paint that emotion. From that moment on, the painting takes on a life of its own, with the end result providing me with fresh insight as to the person I have evolved to be.
What do you feel makes your work unique? My artwork is the medium through which my subconscious communicates with me. It has been serendipitous for me to discover that other people seem to feel that same emotion I feel when viewing the artwork. Thus I have been able to communicate globally with this universal, wordless visual language of common humanity across the barriers of diverse cultures and languages.
Where can collectors find your work? www.artganga.com.
Paula Holtzclaw | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? I love to collect old objects to use in my still-life paintings, in particular old linens. I wanted this painting to have strong color in contrast with the old used items. The title, A TOUCH OF LACE, could spark a thread of thoughts as to the stories this lace cloth might tell.
What is your creative process like? For my still-life paintings, I will set up some of my favorite or found objects in my studio. I don’t fuss too much with this; I’m just looking at the shapes, shadows, and colors. For my landscapes, it begins with visiting the site and getting a feel for the area, doing some quick studies or sketches that I can develop further in my studio.
What do you feel makes your work unique? It may not be unique to many artists, but I always hope to impart a peaceful feeling, a calmness, to my paintings. Also, many times, I add something within a painting that is personal to me. It may be an object in a still life, a family name, or an important date on a boat, for instance.
Where can collectors find your work? Anderson Fine Art Gallery, St. Simons Island, GA; Cheryl Newby Gallery, Pawleys Island, SC; Highlands Art Gallery, Lambertville, NJ; Providence Gallery, Charlotte, NC; www.paulabholtzclawfineart.com.
Rusty Frentner | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? I found this white lily in the trash. What grabbed my attention was that the flowers were okay but the stems and leaves were starting to turn yellow. It was a beautiful contrast in colors. I took it home and put it in water. Then I thought of some ways to photograph it with different lighting. I finally took it outside in the late afternoon. The sun was setting and made the flower glow. Then I thought it would be neat to set the flower and vase on its side. I happened to also catch the water as it dripped from the vase. While I was working on the painting, the title came to me, LOVE LIES BLEEDING. It made sense—the vase on its side like maybe someone had knocked it over in frustration. The water dripped out of the vase like tears, and the red pollen on the petals reminded me of blood.
What do you feel makes your work unique? I have a lot of patience, and it’s easy for me to do a very detailed painting.
What is the funniest thing anyone has said about one of your artworks? When a big, black Labrador walked past one of my cougar paintings at an outdoor art show, he just went nuts barking and trying to jump at the painting.
Where can collectors find your work? www.keepingitwildart.com.
Peter Swift | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? I took a simple, common object and applied a little impish imagination, adding a needle and thread. I hope the result is an iconic image, one that stays in people’s memories for a long time. SEWING A STRAWBERRY is on a museum tour sponsored by the International Guild of Realism. It is on display at the Albany Museum of Art in Albany, GA, from February 6 to June 11.
What is your creative process like? Images pop into my head. I prefer symmetrical images, especially ones that are circular. I like to use metallic objects in my paintings and to contrast them with living things.
What do you feel makes your work unique? Though I do mostly still-life paintings, I avoid “slice-of-life” images (food or flowers sitting on a table). I prefer artificially created, symmetrical designs. I often ask myself: “Would this image work as a flag?”
What is the most unforgettable thing anyone has said about one of your artworks? Someone once remarked that this painting reminded him of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a traditional Catholic image, and he asked if I had been raised Catholic. I answered yes but told him I had never once thought of that while doing this painting. He was convinced that, deep down in my subconscious, the religious image was the source.
Where can collectors find your work? www.facebook.com/peterswiftartstudio.
Stephanie Holznecht | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? LET’S DANCE is about movement and vigor. It is an attempt to convey to the observer a desire to get up and move. There is an energy to be found within its depths.
What is your creative process like? I want to convey what I have inside—my thinking, emotions, life, essence, and soul. My abstract art is an extension of myself, full of passion and emotion, all playing a part in my creative process.
What do you feel makes your work unique? The process and medium I employ are an unusual combination rarely found in abstract art today. My technique of layering fluid acrylic paint is unique to me. The paint is very difficult to control and produce the results I am looking for. My technique of layering and removing some of the paint at each level requires a level of skill that I continue to improve upon with each painting.
What is the funniest thing anyone has said about one of your artworks? Someone once said they could see a naked person bending over to put on his jeans in a painting. It just goes to show you that abstract art allows the mind to wander and see things no one else can see.
Where can collectors find your work? www.scholznecht.com; Raven’s Wish, Janesville, WI; The Flying Pig Gallery & Greenspace, Algoma, WI.
Hazel Stone | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? OPEN 893 is a visual puzzle with many layers of interlocking and interrelating shapes and colors, plus words and numeric and symbolic messages. We spend time figuring out what it means to us. Words and numbers stimulate left-brain function, while images and color activate the right brain.
What is your creative process like? Working directly on watercolor paper, I plan, design, change, and paint. I explore connections, combinations, and layers of ideas. Often I have no preconceived idea of what the completed painting will be and am happily surprised by the result.
What do you feel makes your work unique? I use abstraction, symbolism, simplification, repetition, and unusual palette choices. Geometric shapes, often circles and squares, appear in my work as major components or minor accents. Line work—always an important element—connects, breaks up, or separates the parts, providing an endless variety of visual paths for the viewer’s eyes to take as they travel around the painting. With strong color in complementary or analogous color schemes, the color placement and color vibration is important, along with light and dark values.
Where can collectors find your work? www.xanadugallery.com; www.hazel-stone-artist-in-watermedia.com; www.hazel-stone-watermediaartist.com; www.hazelstonefineart.com.
Lynn Welker | Honorable Mention
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? HIDDEN BRIDGE is part of a current series titled Community. Incorporating a man-made structure within an abstract backdrop shows man’s presence in an imagined landscape. With these works I hope to shift attention from a world of technology to one that reconnects people to the richness of the land and its communities.
What is your creative process like? Experimentation and innovation. I am always pushing beyond what I have done before.
What do you feel makes your work unique? Improvisation and spontaneity. There is no planning or sketching. I invent solely from my mind, drawing from past experience, an in-depth art education, and a strong sense of organization and design. I paint intuitively, exploring the effects of erosion, sedimentation, weather, and the passing of time.
What is the funniest thing anyone has said about one of your artworks? People viewing my work often see objects within the abstract patterns. Once I point out a few things, people’s imaginations go into high gear. One collector saw a helicopter hovering over a town. Her husband is a helicopter pilot, so she was compelled to add the piece to her collection.
Where can collectors find your work? A Gallery Fine Art, Palm Desert, CA; Gallery of Modern Masters, Sedona, AZ; Sandstone Gallery, Laguna Beach, CA; www.lynnwelker.com.
Carrie Nygren | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? I try to call attention to an everyday moment that people may take for granted. In this case, the everyday moment is three riders waiting for their class to be called—something most equestrians have seen a thousand times—and the girls in their black jackets, on board three very different grays in perfect symmetry in the early morning light. When you take away the surrounding elements, the painting becomes something entirely different, a simpler story: The study of black on grays balanced against a field of dark and lights, yet there’s a story there.
What is your creative process like? I’m not sure I have a formal process other than painting in the atelier method with oils. My subjects each have a voice, and I just have to find that voice.
What do you feel makes your work unique? I take the traditional oil-painting process and try to balance traditional subject matter (equine and sporting art) with a contemporary yet timeless format that tells a simple story with depth and weight, while capturing the spirit of the subject.
What is the funniest thing anyone has said about one of your artworks? “That’s a horse, right?”
Where can collectors find your work? www.cnygrenart.com.
Terry Sigler | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? I wanted the viewer to see and feel the energy and movement of the eagle in flight. Birds of prey are one of my favorite subjects. I’ve watched this eagle dive for fish in the lake behind my father’s house several times. [It is] quite the aerialist and a delight to watch.
What is your creative process like? I start by finding a subject that excites me—particularly wildlife or figures with lots of energy or movement. I then do a light pencil drawing of the realistic part of the piece on my canvas. From there I determine how much contrast I want and a dominant color. I always paint the realistic part of the piece first. I then let the movement or position of the subject determine the direction of the abstract elements and streaking and spattering of colors.
What do you feel makes your work unique? I think my work is unique because of the use of realistic and abstract elements together. My use of a limited palette with high contrast, and the streaking and spattering techniques, also combine to produce a unique visual impact.
What is the funniest thing anyone has said about one of your artworks? A lady once saw this particular painting and said, “I guess there’s an eagle in there somewhere!”
Where can collectors find your work? www.terrysiglerfineart.com; www.artisticallysocial.com.
Tricia George | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? My work is very personal and a reflection of my experiences both spiritually and physically. When I moved to the West Coast, I was mesmerized by the variety of bird species. I find it amazing how they can cohabitate in such urban settings and still move so fluidly through their environments. HOME is representative of winter, the season which inspired it. My love and I were on a road trip to Bishop, CA. We were blessed with seeing a mated pair of spotted owls perched in a tree above the room where we were staying for the evening.
What is your creative process like? I am spontaneous with the backgrounds, using various plasters, trowels, and materials, experimenting with the surface without any expectation of what is going to happen next. I enjoy applying the layers and seeing how the materials interact with one another. What I paint on top of these more modern, urban backgrounds is more of a superrealism. I apply layers of acrylic glazes to create a sense of three-dimensional depth. The layers are quite translucent, many times allowing the background surface to peek through.
What do you feel makes your work unique? My experience as a decorative artist for 26 years has merged with my love and passion for realism.
Where can collectors find your work? www.triciageorge.com.
Sandra Williams | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? A spirit of strength, determination, and togetherness.
What is your creative process like? In many years of hiking, exploring, and rescue work, I have assembled thousands of photos, sketches, and notes. I lay out these references, prime my surface, and sketch the basics with white charcoal pencil. The rest is drawn by brush. OSPREYS IN THE MIST is a tonal painting using over 30 washes to create the misty atmosphere.
What do you feel makes your work unique? I was born in the South Texas oilfields, and by age 4, I had bonded with many facets of nature. I taught myself to draw and paint and went on to become a marine biologist and an active bird and animal rescuer. In handling countless creatures, I learned to read body language as well as how the animals are built, move, act, and react. I avoid standard poses and expected surroundings, which, I hope, makes the paintings more memorable.
What is the funniest thing anyone has said about one of your artworks? I was about to enter a Florida panther painting in a competition when my daughter said, “But mom, you forgot to put any whiskers on the left side of its face!”
Where can collectors find your work? www.fineartamerica.com.
Karen Avery Miller | Third place, student competition
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? GOOD MORNING is meant to convey a bright start to the new day. The rooster is up and crowing, and his colorful plumage lends one more hint of his positive attitude and position of power in the barnyard. It’s just a happy painting.
What is your creative process like? As an emerging artist, I am constantly inspired, and my selection of subject matter is often a spontaneous result of what’s happening in the moment I am standing in front of my easel. I have the benefit of having a weekend cottage in a beautiful rural setting, and I draw many ideas from what surrounds me. I take advantage of opportunities for plein-air painting there. I often prime my canvas with a coat of burnt sienna and let it show through as I layer brush strokes. I begin with a sketch, but I don’t labor over it. This step seems to imprint the image on my brain. The hope is that my initial idea will emerge in the end.
Where can collectors find your work? www.averymiller.com; The Little Studio and Gallery, Arrow Rock, MO.
Heather Ward | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? There was a period when I was seeing an article on elephant poaching nearly every day. Several countries were burning or crushing confiscated ivory. Looking at photos of those tusks, all I see are piles of dead elephants; it breaks my heart. In FUNERAL PYRE, I use the powerful image of a tuskless elephant skull and a burning pile of tusks to bring awareness to the fact that the ivory trade will kill off the elephants. The carved tusk at the bottom shows the evolution of elephant hunting.
What is your creative process like? I go through my reference photos and choose something that strikes me at that moment. Or I come up with an idea and look for specific things in my references. I use a computer program called Gimp to create a layout, increase the contrast, and convert to black and white. With scratchboard, after a piece has been started, making significant changes is difficult, so I like to create a nearly finished digital reference to work from.
What do you feel makes your work unique? I am starting to focus on animals that may not be so well known as elephants and tigers, for example, but are fascinating in their own way.
Where can collectors find your work? www.heatherwardwildlifeart.com.
Kara Krieger-McGhee | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? In my bird paintings I want to convey everyday happenings in a bird’s life. In this painting, I used a couple of reference photos, pushing the colors of the water for a more contemporary feel. I love the energy conveyed by the wave and the look in the eye of the goose—as if to say, “Get off my back!”
What is your creative process like? My process and ideas often begin outdoors on hikes with my dog. The light, smells, and sounds of the outdoors stimulate my mind, and I can’t wait to get back to my studio. Most of my work is produced from my own photo references or a combination of still lifes and photos—usually after much rearranging and sketching.
What do you feel makes your work unique? I want to draw viewers into the bird’s experience, subliminally inspiring a curiosity about nature and an interest in getting outdoors and becoming part of nature’s stories that are taking place all around them.
What is the funniest thing anyone has said about one of your artworks? As I was completing the first painting in my Birdwatcher Series—which includes my artist’s mannequin as Orin, the birdwatcher—a neighbor came by to see it. Looking at it quizzically, she hesitantly asked, “Why do you have C-3PO in your bird painting?”
Where can collectors find your work? www.karamcghee.com; www.the-bird-watcher.com.
Catherine Sodano | Finalist
What are you trying to convey in this artwork? I have two cats of my own and am always intrigued by how they seem to see things that we don’t—things from somewhere beyond. This is what I tried to convey in JACK.
What is your creative process like? An idea may come to me through meditation or while having conversation with someone about something totally unrelated. I’ll hold onto that idea for a few days to see if it develops further. If it persists, I know it’s time to do a thumbnail sketch or jump into it full force. As I work, the spirit of that piece speaks to me, a connection is made, and the energy of that piece is felt. From that point, we work together until it tells me it’s complete.
What do you feel makes your work unique? I believe that opinion of uniqueness in my work is formulated by the individual viewer.
What is the funniest thing anyone has said about one of your artworks? As an artist who loves detail, I was asked, “Why do you always want to put the freckle on the fly?”
Where can collectors find your work? www.catherinesodanodesigns.com.
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