Portfolio | Artistic Excellence 2016: Meet the Finalists

We receive thousands of entries in our Artistic Excellence competition. After selecting 13 winners, we’re left with many more worth attention. Here’s a sampling of the 100 entries that made it to the final round of judging.

This story was featured in the December 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  December 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Lynette Cook | California

Lynette Cook, Blue Balcony, acrylic, 24 x 48.

Lynette Cook, Blue Balcony, acrylic, 24 x 48.

What inspired this painting? While exploring San Francisco’s Chinatown, I discovered this uniquely colored balcony. The pattern of light and shadow created by the metal rungs was mesmerizing.

Where did you study art? The art department at Mississippi University for Women, where I received my bachelor’s degree, provided a solid art foundation. Later, I received a master’s from the California College of the Arts, where I studied scientific illustration and expanded my skills with realism.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? Receiving a grant this year from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation is a huge honor. Imagery Estate Winery acquired my work KALEIDOSCOPE and will feature it on a wine label. I’m delighted to have had solo exhibitions at the Morris Graves Museum of Art and Gallerie Citi. Premiering at the inaugural Art Silicon Valley/San Francisco International Art Fair was a thrill as well.

What are your goals for the future? While architectural elements first draw me in, it’s the subtleties of color and value within shadows that I’d like to explore and develop further. Additionally, areas of repeating light and shade that have an abstract quality and can be juxtaposed with the realism of buildings captivate me. Combining these diverse elements within the same painting is an enticing challenge. 

What galleries represent your work? Gallerie Citi, Burlingame, CA.

Wang Kun | China

Wang Kun, Summer Flower, oil, 29 x 24.

Wang Kun, Summer Flower, oil, 29 x 24.

What inspired this painting? This model is one of my favorite models. I am deeply attracted by her endlessly mysterious eyes and her elegance.

Where did you study art? My legs were paralyzed due to polio at the age of 3, so self-study was my major approach to learning art most of the time.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? This year I won the Artists’ Choice Award in the International Guild of Realism’s 11th annual International Juried Exhibition. In 2012 I was one of the Jury’s Top 50 in Salon International. In 2010, I was the first-place winner in the Richeson75 Still Life and Floral competition, a finalist in The Artist’s Magazine’s Annual Art Competition, and a finalist in the Art Renewal Center’s International Salon. In 2009, I won the Gold Award in the National Painting and Calligraphy Competition for the Disabled in Beijing.

What are your goals for the future? My ultimate goal is to be a great artist and paint more beautiful artworks.

What galleries represent your work? Quent Cordair Fine Art, Napa, CA; Robert Lange Studios, Charleston, SC; Gallery 1261, Denver, CO; Weinstein Art Management, Woodland Hills, CA; www.wangkunstudio.com.

Margaret Cerutti | Virginia

Margaret Cerutti, Last Winter Snow II, oil, 18 x 16.

Margaret Cerutti, Last Winter Snow II, oil, 18 x 16.

What inspired this painting? It was late March and the last snowfall of the season. The time was late afternoon, the sky was a beautiful clear blue, the shadows were long, and the light was absolutely incredible. That moment was just waiting to be captured on canvas!

Where did you study art? I have a master’s degree in visual arts education, but I wanted to really fine-tune my painting skills. The professional artists of The Art League School in Alexandria, VA, were most generous in sharing their expertise. I have studied with Robert Liberace, Danni Dawson, and the late Ross Merrill, who was a fine artist and the chief conservator at the National Gallery.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? Along with being accepted into coveted shows and receiving awards, my artwork was chosen to advertise a special performance of the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra titled “Where Does the Music Take You?” The presentation was a wonderfully memorable experience.

What are your goals for the future? To never stop learning and refining my skills. To see the familiar with fresh eyes, and to push my painting abilities to the max. To achieve my personal best, wherever that may lead!

What galleries represent your work? Torpedo Factory Art Center, Alexandria, VA.

Marsha Lehmann | North Dakota

Marsha Lehmann, Grit and Determination, oil, 40 x 30.

Marsha Lehmann, Grit and Determination, oil, 40 x 30.

What inspired this painting? I was at a youth rodeo in the badlands on a very hot day. This little guy had made a solid attempt to ride a steer, only to be piled into the dirt just before the buzzer. He wasn’t happy, but he pulled himself up, set his jaw, and walked back to the chutes with his head held high—a lesson in life.

Where did you study art? From grades 1 through 8, I went to a one-room prairie school, where our teacher Margie—who was a very good artist herself, having taken correspondence courses from Chicago—introduced us to art. I have a commercial art degree from Bismarck State College, where I studied with the excellent instructor Richard Jackman.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? I have five consecutive years of People’s Choice Awards at one show, and I made the Top 40 in the SmallWorks Competition at Greenwich Workshop Publishing.

What are your goals for the future? A few years ago, with the steadfast encouragement of my husband, I took a crash course in studio work, studying the western and wildlife masters. I think the step back has allowed me to paint faster and with confidence.

What galleries represent your work? JP FrameShop and Western Edge Gallery, Dickinson, ND; www.prairiebleustudio.blogspot.com.

James G. Moore | Colorado

James G. Moore, Bountiful River, bronze, 50 x 36 x 18.

James G. Moore, Bountiful River, bronze, 50 x 36 x 18.

What inspired this sculpture? On trips to Yellowstone and Yosemite, I observed grizzly bears in the wild. About the same time, I had seen a trout sculpture by artist Steve Kestrel, and I wanted to do something similar for the top of this sculpture. I tied the whole thing together with a Northwest Coast Salish-style bear on the back of the bell because I love that style.

Where did you study art? I have degrees in ceramics and curriculum development. Those programs were instrumental in preparing me for life as a professional artist, but most of my development as a sculptor has been as a result of self-study and working with other sculptors and artists.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? The best part of this job is inspiring other people with the things I make and developing relationships because of that.

What are your goals for the future? To find balance between being productive and taking time to enjoy the people in my life and God’s creation. I plan to spend a lot more time on the river this year.

What galleries represent your work? SmithKlein Gallery, Boulder, CO; Vail International Gallery, Vail, CO; Broadmoor Gallery, Colorado Springs, CO; McLarry Fine Art, Santa Fe, NM; K. Newby Gallery, Tubac, AZ; Dick Idol Gallery, Whitefish, MT; Edgewood Orchard Gallery, Fish Creek, WI; Trailside Galleries, Jackson, WY.

Camille Engel | Tennessee

Camille Engel, Smooth Operator, oil, 9 x 12.

Camille Engel, Smooth Operator, oil, 9 x 12.

What inspired this painting? I adore birds, and cedar waxwings are particularly elegant. This painting depicts a flexible, determined behavior to satisfy an appetite for berries. For me, every morning is a fresh opportunity to find extraordinary joy in the most ordinary things. My art overflows from this joy.

Where did you study art? I’m a self-taught oil painter intuitively working in the “indirect layering” technique of the Dutch masters.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? Exhibiting with some of the world’s top artists in museum tours, and winning museum purchase awards, magazine awards, and guild awards. Also, there’s honor in being commissioned by corporations, individuals, and interior designers for special paintings. I’m currently creating new work for a solo museum tour launching next fall at the Parthenon museum in Nashville, TN.

What are your goals for the future? With a dedication to creating sumptuous visual intricacies, I work with the highest quality oil pigments on archival supports with the goal of my paintings lasting through time and being enjoyed by multiple generations. I seek to capture life’s richness, with each oil painting inviting viewers to momentarily step into my world and share my joy in the simple things.

What galleries represent your work? Sugarman-Peterson Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; Sheldon Fine Art, Naples, FL; RARE Gallery, Jackson, WY; www.camille-engel.com.

Kathy Ellem | Australia

Kathy Ellem, The Big Whites, oil, 24 x 36.

Kathy Ellem, The Big Whites, oil, 24 x 36.

What inspired this painting? I love playing with light and shadow, particularly with subjects that are mostly “white.” These horses were so massive, like gentle giants, I just couldn’t resist the challenge.

Where did you study art? I started out doing a degree in biology because I wanted to work in nature conservation. But after marrying a cattleman and moving out onto the property, job prospects were very limited. I have always liked to doodle but didn’t get serious about art until 2007. I was taken under the wing of Bill Sass, who mentored me for several years. Since then I have attended many workshops with artists I admire.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? I’ve had several joint and solo exhibitions and won first prizes all over the country. In the pursuit of improving my skills, I have surprised myself by surpassing what I had believed myself capable of, so now I’m only limited by my imagination.

What are your goals for the future? My goals are to teach and exhibit across Australia and eventually internationally. My aim is to build positive links between city and farming communities and to teach in rural communities where access to good instruction is limited.

What galleries represent your work? MET Galleries, Highfields, QLD, Australia; Ibrox Fine Art Gallery, Mansfield, VIC, Australia; www.kathyellem.com.

Candace Rideout | Utah

Candace Rideout, Wet Lands, oil, 20 x 24.

Candace Rideout, Wet Lands, oil, 20 x 24.

What inspired this painting? The wetlands just west of the Salt Lake City airport are the inspiration for the painting. I especially like what happens there in the late afternoons and evenings. In the quiet just before nightfall, the sun will sparkle off the still water, and the sky changes every few minutes. The Great Salt Lake can be seen in the distance, and reeds and vegetation sway gently with the wind. The sunlight was literally dancing on the water.

Where did you study art? I think I was about 3 when I started drawing. At the University of Utah I was able to immerse myself in painting. I tried everything—commercial art, art history, fresco painting, sculpture, figure drawing and painting, printmaking, and I became quite proficient with both oils and watercolors.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? I won Best of Show at the Provo Freedom Festival in 2007 and have been lucky enough to receive many similar awards since then. Giving back to the community has been high on my list of priorities. I started an art program at the local elementary school, which grew to involve 35 volunteers and all of the students. I also have taken an active role in my local arts council.

What are your goals for the future? Becoming a well-known artist on a national level and entering more shows with wide recognition.

What galleries represent your work? Relics Gallery, Salt Lake City, UT; www.crideout.faso.com.

John D. Westerhold | Texas

John D. Westerhold, Iron Horse Sunset, acrylic, 36 x 48.

John D. Westerhold, Iron Horse Sunset, acrylic, 36 x 48.

What inspired this painting? My inspiration is the unique angles from which I can photograph the chrome on motorcycles, and the challenge of painting the dramatic reflection in the chrome. It takes a sharp eye and discipline to paint chrome to look like chrome.

Where did you study art? I have been teaching myself to paint since I was 10 years old. I was very fortunate to have a creative family and teachers who encouraged me over the years. After high school I volunteered to join the U.S. Army and went straight to Vietnam in the 1960s. When I returned home, I taught myself silversmithing and goldsmithing and opened a shop where I made and sold jewelry. I later opened a studio and gallery, Iguana Jacks Ceramic Art, on Ambergris Caye, a small island off the coast of Belize. There I successfully showcased my tropical paintings and ceramics for several years. Art has always been my occupation one way or another. I am currently painting full time at my home and studio in the heart of Texas.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? Being published in Southwest Art magazine, of course.

What are your goals for the future? I’m looking forward to being represented by Estancia Art, a new gallery in the Texas Hill Country.

Where can collectors find your work? www.jdwfineart.com.

William Schneider | Illinois

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

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

What inspired this painting? I envisioned THE LONG GOODBYE as a still from a film noir. The dramatic uplighting and the model’s penetrating gaze indicate intense yet guarded emotion. What is her role in this story? I tried to accentuate the drama by making the painting almost monochromatic, cooling off the color temperature, and pushing the intense value contrasts.

Where did you study art? I first studied art at the University of Illinois. I took a multiyear hiatus to play in rock bands and then had a career in finance. In 1992 I entered the American Academy of Art’s weekend program and studied with Bill Parks and Ted Smuskiewicz for the next eight years. I also took workshops with Carolyn Anderson, Harley Brown, Dan Gerhartz, and Richard Schmid.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? The real highlight is being paid to do what I love, but I’ve been blessed to receive honors along the way, including being named a Master Signature Member by the American Impressionist Society, the International Association of Pastel Societies, and the Pastel Society of America.

What are your goals for the future? My main goal is to keep learning and improving. I view myself as a perpetual student.

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, and Blowing Rock, NC; River’s End Gallery, Elm Grove, WI; www.schneiderart.com.

Pauline Roche | California

Pauline Roche, Boys on the Boat, oil, 8 x 8.

Pauline Roche, Boys on the Boat, oil, 8 x 8.

What inspired this painting? While traveling in Egypt, along the Mediterranean coast, I noticed some boys swimming up to a boat and climbing on and off. It was clearly not their boat, but they were deeply engrossed in the game, gesturing to each other and planning which boat to swim to and climb next! Apart from my interest in capturing this carefree moment, I was attracted to the strong shapes of the boats contrasting with the boys’ little bodies.

Where did you study art? My early training took place in artists’ studios and ateliers in Melbourne, Australia, where I learned traditional painting and studied the sight-size method of oil painting from life. I also studied portraiture at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and spent some time at the Florence Academy of Art in Italy.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? Being named a Signature Member of the Oil Painters of America was a wonderful honor. Articles about my artwork in Southwest Art and The Artist’s Magazine were special highlights for me. Another exciting moment was receiving the Gold Medal of Honor at an Audubon Artists exhibition.

What are your goals for the future? This year I focused on preparing for my one-woman exhibition at Newbury Fine Arts in Boston. My goals for the future include more extensive travel and plein-air work, and challenging myself to paint larger pieces.

What galleries represent your work? Newbury Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Waterhouse Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA.

Gina Torkos | Florida

Gina Torkos, Minding the Nest, collage, 30 x 30.

Gina Torkos, Minding the Nest, collage, 30 x 30.

What inspired this artwork? In the spring, the rookery at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm comes alive with native birds roosting and raising their young. I watched this nesting heron and was inspired to re-create the scene using materials available to me piece by piece, just like the heron assembled its nest.

Where did you study art? I’ve attended community art classes and workshops in a wide variety of mediums, read art books (which threaten to take over my studio), visited museums throughout the world, and traveled. I am focusing on collage full time recently, as the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive since it is so unique.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? A solo show of my oil paintings from Cambodia in 2013, winning numerous awards for my most recent collages, joining Aviles Gallery, and watching gallery guests walk closer to my work only to realize my medium is not paint, but bits of magazines, with pieces that seem illogical up close but achieve a harmonious image from afar.

What are your goals for the future? To continue to evolve my unique point of view and bring my enthusiasm and passion to my work, to love what I do every day, and to find representation for my work in New York City, my home away from home.

What galleries represent your work? Aviles Gallery, St. Augustine, FL.

Randy Van Dyck | Idaho

Randy Van Dyck, Light House, acrylic, 18 x 14.

Randy Van Dyck, Light House, acrylic, 18 x 14.

What inspired this painting? When I came across this old Nash Metropolitan, I was struck by the wonderful patina and the fact that one headlamp was missing. I returned early one beautiful spring morning and placed a nest in the cavity to get the reference photo I used for this concept. You can see the morning dew on the fender, which evaporated moments later as I spoke to the vehicle’s owner.

Where did you study art? I graduated from the Art Institute of Seattle with a focus on illustration.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? I have been very fortunate lately to have my works published in several books and magazines. This particular series of auto-and-bird paintings will be the subject of a feature article in the spring 2017 issue of Acrylic Artist magazine.

What are your goals for the future? I am currently challenging myself with some larger paintings, and I have plans for a new series of work that I am still developing.

What galleries represent your work? Gallery Five18, Boise, ID; Van Dyck Frame Design, Boise, ID; www.vandyckframe.com.

Robbie Fitzpatrick | Texas

Robbie Fitzpatrick, Gently Persuading, watercolor, 20 x 24.

Robbie Fitzpatrick, Gently Persuading, watercolor, 20 x 24.

What inspired this painting? I was considering dog motifs, so I went to a herding trial. The dogs are tested on both sheep and ducks. I watched a more advanced dog named Mister. He was quiet and obedient compared to the younger, less-experienced dogs. When I reviewed my pictures of him, I loved what I saw. Not only was it a dog working as he was bred to, but the sun backlit both the dog and the ducks, highlighting the beauty of Mister and the individuality of the ducks and providing some wonderful shadows as well.

Where did you study art? After a career in writing, I revisited drawing and then attempted watercolor. I was hooked! I studied every watercolor book I could get my hands on. My husband gifted me with a course at the Watercolor Art Society—Houston. Eventually I started critique sessions and classes with artists Keiko Yasuoka and Duncan Simmons. I have also taken a workshop with David Rankin.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? I’ve won national and international awards; been accepted into the Society of Animal Artists, the International Guild of Realism, and Women Artists of the West; been included in the book Splash 18; and been a finalist in the 12th International ARC Salon.

What are your goals for the future? More learning, improving, and sharing my work with more people.

What galleries represent your work? Lovetts Gallery, Tulsa, OK; www.robbiefitzpatrick.com.

Dan Simoneau | Wisconsin

Dan Simoneau, I Dream, Therefore I Become, acrylic, 30 x 40.

Dan Simoneau, I Dream, Therefore I Become, acrylic, 30 x 40.

What inspired this painting? Recently the figures in my works have become more introspective and soul-searching. I’ve painted Johnny, one of my muses, many times. In this particular piece, I lit him very specifically and intentionally removed any background distraction so the focus would be on the face and the light on the face. The tattoos also aid in the storytelling. The title aligns with the feeling I want to convey in the work.

Where did you study art? I received my BFA from the University of Southern Maine.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? I’ve been fortunate to have a wonderful art career, which began over 40 years ago. The accomplishments I’m most proud of are my signature memberships in the International Society of Acrylic Painters, the National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society, and the National Watercolor Society. I’m also honored to be an elected artist-member of the Salmagundi Club in New York City and the Copley Society of Art in Boston. Another highlight is my upcoming solo museum show next year.

What are your goals for the future? To complete my quest for signature memberships in the American Watercolor Society and the National Society of Painters in Casein and Acrylic. And to teach workshops around the country and, hopefully, abroad.

What galleries represent your work? Xanadu Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ; Art Frenzie, Wilton Manors, FL; Re:Vision Gallery, Kenosha, WI; Lyman-Eyer Gallery, Province-town, MA; www.dsimoneau.com.

Richard Hedgecock | North Carolina

Richard Hedgecock, The Seesaw, oil, 21 x 31.

Richard Hedgecock, The Seesaw, oil, 21 x 31.

What inspired this painting? I live on a small farm with five horses, 12 cats, and 39 dogs (my wife Penny rescues animals, you see). I was out in the pasture one afternoon with my three grandchildren, thinking that the kids and animals together might make for a good painting. I wandered off for a bit looking for a good scene, and when I returned, I found that the girls had made their own seesaw out of an old wooden plank. So natural, so innocent—this was the painting I was looking for.

Where did you study art? I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts from East Carolina University, with a major in sculpture and a minor in painting.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? A couple of appearances at the Southeastern Wildlife Exhibition and a painting at the White House during President George H.W. Bush’s time in office.

What are your goals for the future? To use and share the talents that God has given me to the best of my ability. I have seen some of the greatest art western civilization has to offer, and that keeps me humble about my own skills.

What galleries represent your work? R. Hedgecock’s Fine Art & Framing, Kernersville, NC; www.richardhedgecock.com.

Ann Huston | New Mexico

Ann Huston, Mesa Road, pastel, 24 x 29.

Ann Huston, Mesa Road, pastel, 24 x 29.

What inspired this painting? Black Mesa, which is powerful, mysterious, rugged, and soft, all at the same time. The road draws you in and leads your eye to the top of the mesa, touching the ever-moving sky. No matter what time of day or season, Black Mesa takes your breath away. From the distance, there is a soft, velvety feel, subtle and rich in tone—almost the feeling of being wrapped in a warm blanket. That’s when you know you just have to break out those pastels.

Where did you study art? Coming from an artistic family, I have been an artist all my life. In my earlier years I pursued weaving. My love for painting started in the 1980s. I am self-taught in pastels.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? I will always treasure winning Best of Show at the Taos Fall Arts Festival. Then I was selected as the poster artist, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the festival. I’ve also been included in several books.

What are your goals for the future? To continue to paint, explore, and learn.

Where can collectors find your work? www.annhustonstudio.com.

Oliver Sin | California

Oliver Sin, Mother, charcoal, 24 x 18.

Oliver Sin, Mother, charcoal, 24 x 18.

What inspired this drawing? I drew MOTHER from life as a present for my mother’s 75th birthday. Since moving to the U.S. 20 years ago from my native Hong Kong, I haven’t spent too much time with my mother, so drawing her was an unforgettable experience for us to reconnect. My mom was surprised and delighted to see her picture in the ad and flyer for my art exhibition at Cawah Arts Gallery in Hong Kong in August. It was a priceless experience for my friends and family to reunite.

Where did you study art? I earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in illustration from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco in 1995. For more than five years, I studied with Zhao-ming Wu and Henry Yan. After working at LucasArts as a concept artist for four years, I returned to the academy to teach and have been teaching there since 2001.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? I’ve won six times in Creative Quarterly: The Journal of Art & Design’s annual competitions. MOTHER was also selected for publication in North Light Books’ Strokes of Genius 9, which will be released in 2017.

What are your goals for the future? To create more meaningful portraits, to have a solo exhibition, and to publish a collection of my portraits.

What galleries represent your work? Cawah Arts Gallery, Hong Kong.

Dan Knepper | Ohio

Dan Knepper, Early Evening Blues, oil, 36 x 36.

Dan Knepper, Early Evening Blues, oil, 36 x 36.

What inspired this painting? There are amazing sunrises and sunsets where I live, with skies that go on forever. There’s something magical about that time and transition. I think we still respond to it on a primal level, and I hope my paintings convey that feeling.

Where did you study art? I studied glassblowing at Bowling Green State University. My friend and mentor, Steven Walker, is most responsible for my success in oils, but I’ve been lucky enough to learn from many artists like James Toogood, Peter Fiore, Mary Whyte, Neal Hughes, and Scott Lloyd Anderson.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? Being a finalist in the Richeson75 International Portrait Competition. Being in the Adirondack National Exhibition of American Watercolors. Being in the Airstream Fine Art Invitational with heroes like Brent Cotton, Joseph McGurl, Kathleen Dunphy, Jim McVicker, and Peter Fiore. I’ve met the Beach Boys and Arnold Schwarzenegger because of my career, but the greatest highlights have been the connections made with other artists, friends, and patrons.

What are your goals for the future? I’m always trying to impress myself and go beyond what I’ve done before. I’m working on a series that questions the way we place value on art that I hope will end up in museums.

What galleries represent your work? Carteret Contemporary Art, Morehead City, NC; Atelier Gallery, Charleston, SC; Greenwich House Gallery, Cincinnati, OH.

Tom Swearingen | California

Tom Swearingen, Breakfast!, oil, 20 x 16.

Tom Swearingen, Breakfast!, oil, 20 x 16.

What inspired this painting? My intent in creating art is to help people laugh and smile. Eating a cookie for breakfast is just fun to do sometimes.

Where did you study art? Most people would probably label me as self-taught. However, for almost a year I took painting lessons from master oil painter Charles Becker. If you consider the countless videos I’ve watched, magazines and books I’ve read, and museums I’ve visited, I have learned from many diverse sources.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? Earlier this year, I painted a large badge for the Bakersfield Police Department in California and presented it to them as a memorial. The badge number belonged to a young officer who had recently been killed in the line of duty. I have never felt better about delivering a piece.

What are your goals for the future? I strive to improve my technical skills daily. I want to continue to create fun and meaningful art. Children play, animals play, and adults too often watch the action from the sidelines. My art keeps me focused on the play that we can enjoy as adults. My greatest hope is that viewers of my art will be reminded to take some time to play, no matter the circumstances.

What galleries represent your work? Gallery 1870, Yountville, CA.

Sabrina Stiles | Colorado

Sabrina Stiles, Green Patch, pastel, 18 x 24.

Sabrina Stiles, Green Patch, pastel, 18 x 24.

What inspired this painting? I was driving across Nebraska when I came across this scene. I was struck by the feeling of rural vastness. I find I’m often drawn to the charm and peaceful quality of bucolic scenes such as this.

Where did you study art? I took lots of workshops early on, but I studied art primarily with Doug Dawson at the Art Students League of Denver. I’m also fortunate to have some very talented friends to paint with on a regular basis, and I get a good deal of informative feedback from them.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? Beyond the recognition of winning awards, I’m thrilled when someone selects one of my paintings to hang on their walls. Lately I’ve been selling work to younger buyers, which makes me optimistic about the future of fine art. I’ve recently been asked to do a couple of demos, and one of the things that gives me joy is having attendees tell me that they were inspired.

What are your goals for the future? I’m constantly trying to improve my craft. My goal is always to have my ability more closely meet my vision.

What galleries represent your work? Mary Williams Fine Arts, Boulder, CO; The Glass Tipi, Ward, CO; www.sabrinastiles.com.

David Lebow | California

David Lebow, Young Girl With Genie, oil, 12 x 20.

David Lebow, Young Girl With Genie, oil, 12 x 20.

What inspired this painting? I’ve been interested in trying to depict unusual and dark fairytales. I am attracted to the really strange and frightening ones the most. I was reading Basile’s The Tale of Tales, where in the first story, a young girl is told by a fairy to open a walnut if she is in trouble. She does this, and a tiny little man, as big as a doll, pops out. From this I came up with the genie idea. I’m interested in both realism and composition, but I also want to be narrative. So my goal is to do both while making the subject matter beautiful and the paint strokes painterly.

Where did you study art? Among other places, I studied at the Art Students League of New York. Some of the artists I have studied with are Robert Beverly Hale, Robert Brackman, Burton Silverman, and Greg Manchess.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? This year I had three of my paintings exhibited in a group show on modern art and pop culture at the Halle Saint-Pierre museum in Paris.

What are your goals for the future? I want to keep improving my technical skills while continuing to hone my storytelling and compositional abilities.

What galleries represent your work? La Luz De Jesus Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; Lovetts Gallery, Tulsa, OK; www.davelebow.com.

Becky Johnson | Colorado

Becky Johnson, Arroyo, pastel, 8 x 13.

Becky Johnson, Arroyo, pastel, 8 x 13.

What inspired this painting? Highway 50 between Salida and Pueblo, CO, crosses this arroyo with very little warning; it just looks like another gully as you’re speeding along. I tripped the shutter as we drove past the guardrail. When I went through all the photos from that day, the simple elegance of the water gently winding its way, reflecting only the blue sky above, made me catch my breath and want to put it down on paper. The serenity of quiet water in the shaded arroyo, with late-
afternoon sun lighting up the arid land above it, made this scene irresistible.

Where did you study art? Except for a Robert Bateman workshop in 1991, I am self-taught, with a lot of observation and trial and error along the way.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? I participated in art shows throughout the Midwest for a number of years but recently cut back on traveling. I’m gratified that my work is being accepted into juried competitions, such as this one, and that it often receives awards.

What are your goals for the future? I want to continue honing my skills and receiving feedback from people who enjoy my work.

What galleries represent your work? Mary Williams Fine Arts, Boulder, CO; www.beckyjohnsonpastels.com.

Jeff Gant | Australia

Jeff Gant, Royal Spoonbill, oil, 20 x 28.

Jeff Gant, Royal Spoonbill, oil, 20 x 28.

What inspired this painting? I live and paint in the Tweed Caldera, a region rich in animal and bird life. The Royal Spoonbill is one of the species inhabiting our waterways. The male is represented in my painting, displaying the nuchal crest, which is present during the breeding season. The facial expression was the main attraction for me.

Where did you study art? After studying art in secondary school, I was largely self-taught in a variety of media, including oils. A drafting background established me initially in pen and ink. Early influences on my work were Rembrandt and the Australian landscape artist Arthur Streeton. Other influences have been István Sándorfi and Walter Girotto, and more recently, Scott Waddell, David Gray, and David Jon Kassan.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? I provide tuition for a growing number of students in a variety of media. I’ve also done an artist residency at the Caldera Art Gallery, where I conduct art classes for students two days a week.

What are your goals for the future? To continue to teach and help students reach their potential. To continue to develop my skills, particularly in portraiture.

What galleries represent your work? Red Hill Gallery, Brisbane, QLD, Australia; Caldera Art Gallery, Murwillumbah, NSW, Australia; Windhorse Gallery, Bangalow, NSW, Australia; www.thesquintingartist.com.

Ron Larson | Utah

Ron Larson, Monument Valley in Shadow, watercolor, 24 x 36.

Ron Larson, Monument Valley in Shadow, watercolor, 24 x 36.

What inspired this painting? The unique rock formations. The fact that nature can so exquisitely sculpt something as unforgiving as stone with just wind and water has always been amazing to me. I found this place in Monument Valley to be particularly beautiful.

Where did you study art? I have an artistic legacy from my grandmother, but beyond that I was mostly self-taught, using oils by the time I was in junior high. Every time I paint, whether in the studio or out on location, I learn something new. Sometimes, in the moment of creating a painting that is going really well, I feel like it is out of my hands, as if I am in partnership with something bigger than I am.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? My latest project has been a marathon: An exhibit of approximately 45 paintings called Vistas and Visions of the Colorado Plateau. It’s in museums and universities in two states; I’m changing it as paintings sell or I add more. The best success of all is that quiet moment when someone is touched by my art.

What are your goals for the future? I’m writing a book about my adventures in creating the Vistas and Visions exhibit. Over the last five years, I visited 130,000 square miles of the Southwest desert, an area containing the greatest concentration of national parks and monuments in the world.

What galleries represent your work? 11th Street Gallery, St. George, UT; www.ronlarsonfineart.com.

Diane Hoeptner | Ohio

Diane Hoeptner, Eye on Butterfly, oil, 8 x 8.

Diane Hoeptner, Eye on Butterfly, oil, 8 x 8.

What inspired this painting? Cats from a local shelter inspire many of my paintings. This particular cat was really outstanding in physique and coloration. He is part Siamese and at the age where every sinuous muscle shows.  He looked like sculpture in motion. I generally like to keep my compositions simple, and I will typically paint just a cat with a plain or patterned background. This cat seemed to be on the prowl, so I placed him on a marble perch and gave him a butterfly to consider. 

Where did you study art? I have a bachelor of fine art degree in studio art from California State University, Northridge. 

What have been some of the highlights of your career?
I had my floral art published as posters for many years, and a highlight was seeing framed prints of my work at a home-decor store. Last year I won a cash award at the Randy Higbee Gallery 6″ Squared Exhibit. And I’m proud of my eBook, “A Guide for the Introverted Artist.” Writing it was somewhat grueling but also really rewarding. 

What are your goals for the future? I hope to remain in northeast Ohio, keep painting, and get better at painting. And I’ll continue to raise awareness of the plight of shelter cats through my art.

What galleries represent your work? Gallery + at 78th Street Studios, Cleveland, OH; Lord Nelson’s Gallery, Gettysburg, PA; www.dianehoeptner.blogspot.com.

Rick Lacey | Connecticut

Rick Lacey, Self-Portrait, oil, 10 x 8.

Rick Lacey, Self-Portrait, oil, 10 x 8.

What inspired this painting? It had been quite a while since I had painted a self-portrait. It was a long winter here in New England, and I wanted to paint a portrait from life. I allowed myself the freedom to paint without reservations. Scratching, sanding, and revisions were all part of the process. The depiction of light was my primary focus. I feel a great portrait can portray as much about the painter as it does about the subject.

Where did you study art? I graduated from the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in 2011 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting. The academy was extremely influential. Its faculty, focused approach on observational figurative study, and rich artistic community make the Lyme Academy a truly unique fine-art college.

What have been some of the highlights of your career? I’ve had the opportunity to show my work in both solo and group exhibitions. I received an American Visions Award and a John Stobart Fellowship Award. What I enjoy most is spending time in the studio, teaching drawing and painting, and working from life with other artists.

What are your goals for the future? I look forward to continuing to make work and passing on what I’ve learned to others. I also plan to get my master’s degree. I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to spend my life doing what I care about most.

What galleries represent your work? Cooper & Smith Gallery, Essex, CT; www.ricklaceyiii.com.

This story was featured in the December 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  December 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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