Juror for the Animals/Wildlife category: John N. Agnew
Keel-Billed Toucan (acrylic, 20×32) by John Agnew
What guidelines did you use to judge the Animal/Wildlife category?
I look for an interesting, balanced composition, technical ability (rendering, paint handling, etc.), exciting color and light, and an interesting subject. Knowledge of the subject matter is critically important when portraying animals and their habitat.
What were your overall feelings about this year’s entries?
Over all, the quality of the entries was excellent. When it came down to choosing the winners, it was very difficult.
Tell us why you awarded first place prize to Anxious (oil, 11×11) by Carol Lee Thompson (www.carolleethompson.com).
Anxious portrayed the emotion expressed in the title very well. While this piece is not as colorful as some of the other contenders for the top spot, Anxious has what I look for in the way of form, execution, composition, and emotional power. The composition feels especially well balanced and offers three levels of interest: the dogs, the truck, and the reflection of the wider world that the dogs seem anxious to explore. I like that the piece feels very real while reminding us that it is indeed paint. The artist’s brushstrokes are visible, but give us surface interest without making a feature of the artist’s hand. The dogs look real enough that we can almost feel their wet noses, but they reside in a painterly world. The tiny bit of chain visible on one of the dogs’ neck is a reminder of their captivity and frustration.
Second Place: The Waiting Game (oil, 12×16) by Karla Mann (www.kmmann.com)
The contrasts in this painting of a Snowy Egret give it impressive depth. The composition is well balanced, and the use of the grass as lines to bring our attention back to the bird works very well. The colors are harmonious and pleasing, and the forms are executed expertly. The light in this painting is especially nice, spotlighting the bird without washing out the colors, and bringing out the warmth in the colors of the grass behind the bird, making a nice contrast with the cooler colors in the shadows. The bird is portrayed as it actually lives, in the rough and tumble world of nature, not as an idealized ballerina dressed in feathers. The concentration in the bird’s gaze gives the piece a visible tension.
Third Place: Off the Causeway (acrylic, 21×38) by Clinton Jammer (www.clintjammerart.com)
While not immediately attention grabbing with intense color or dramatic forms, this painting of a loon in his habitat lends a sense of peace through its careful attention to consistency of color and value. The forms are well rendered and the perspective works very well to draw us in and keep us interested. There is an atmospheric perspective as well as a linear one. The warm colors in the foreground separate well from the cool colors of the background, and the loon really pops out of the background because of its stark black and white contrast with the hazy mist of the water and background. The soft lighting is consistent with a misty morning.
Honorable Mention: Lunch Al Fresco (pastel, 18×14) by Rita Kirkman (www.ritakirkman.com)
This pastel grabs your attention immediately because of the wonderful, intense color. I love the contrasts between the cool shadows and warm highlights, and the yellow/orange underpainting gives the entire piece a pleasing glow and ties everything together. The forms of the goats feel solid and real without overwhelming us with details, and the goats come alive with color. The composition works well despite the empty space on the right, which is broken up with dappled light. The dappled light falls everywhere, which in addition to the underpainting helps to tie together the entire composition.
Honorable Mention: Evening Egret (oil, 16×24) by Matthew M. Schulz (www.theschulzgallery.com)
This painting has a presence that draws you in. It is a real world, caught in the golden hour of sunset, with an egret that takes your breath away with its contrasting colors. I love the use of atmospheric perspective in Evening Egret. You can almost feel the humidity and hear the whine of mosquitoes in this salt marsh. It is a simple composition, but well balanced and appropriate for a landscape that is uncluttered. The violet and blue hues on the egret contrast nicely with the golden pink colors of the light transmitted through the wing. Those same violet hues in a muted form are visible in the distant elements of the landscape
Honorable Mention: Florezca el Flamenco (graphite, 17×13) by Terry Miller (www.terrymillerstudio.com)
An expertly rendered graphite drawing of an anhinga drying its wings, caught in a state of disorder typical of a bird living the wild life. The feather details give the composition a lot of its movement, the wing feathers thrusting you up to the center of the bird, and the junction with its fuzzy, loopy neck. The bird feels well placed within the borders, its mass lifting you up to the bird’s head. The tufts of feathers on its head add a bit of whimsy while also giving the form interesting texture.
Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for future contestants?
As always, originality stands out. When doing animals, make sure you know their anatomy, as reference photos can be easily misinterpreted. Submit professional quality photos of your entries.
John Agnew is an artist, illustrator, naturalist, a former curator of exhibits at the Science Museum of Palm Beach County. He has been an artist in residence in the Everglades and has created murals for the Cincinnati Zoo and Cincinnati’s Museum of Natural History. He writes a blog about his adventures in the wild; visit his Web site at http://herps2art.wordpress.com. His work is represented by Miller Gallery in Cincinnati. www.millergallery.com
Juror for Still Life/Floral: Amy WeiskopfStill Life with Cut Squash and Winter Melon by Amy Weiskopf
What guidelines did you use to judge the Still Life/Floral category?
I am drawn to compositions that exploit the inherent special ambiguity in painting between the three-dimensional illusion and the flat plane of the canvas. The visual tension created by this contradiction provides much of the mystery and joy in looking at paintings. Paint handling and a comprehensive understanding of light and color are essential. The subject matter should not carry the painting but be an integral part of the formal choices, everything inextricably working together to create the expression. Lastly and most importantly, I look for a clear and unique sensibility, a developed poetic vision.
What were your overall feelings about this year’s entries?
As a longtime still life painter, I was thrilled to see that the ancient tradition I love so much is alive and thriving in 2013! The range of subject matter and the painting styles were impressive. I saw many beautifully painted and well-crafted images. I found it difficult to choose only 6 winners.
Tell us why you awarded the first place prize to Bread Rack (oil, 66×60) by Jeffrey T. Larson (www.jeffreytlarson.com).
I have seen so many paintings in my life; it is wonderful to be surprised and Bread Rack did just that. It hints at some Baroque paintings of objects on shelves, but just barely, and at the same time the rack functions as a bold grid on the canvas. This is the kind of painting my eye wants to wander over again and again, through the twists and turns of bread rack, cloth, shadow, and back again. The visual complexity in tonality, texture, and space make the painting a pleasure to look at.
Second Place: Lemons (oil, 14×30) by Noah Layne (www.noahlayne.com)
Lemons is also very eye-catching. The combination of the flat wooden frame and the plump, 3-dimensional lemons squeezed together and emerging into the light and into our space, is so appealing. The form and sensuality of the lemons are made more intense because they are confined by the flat, purplish wood.
Third Place: After Dinner (oil, 24×36) by Jennifer O’Connell (www.jenniferoconnell.net)
The Composition works so well in After Dinner. We are invited into the painting, to the table, so to speak. Here again many other elements support the composition: delightful color and light, beautiful paint handling, interesting subject. All in all we see and enjoy an expression of joy in the quotidian.
Honorable mention: Study in White (oil, 24×36) by Eileen Eder (www.eileeneder.com)
The beautiful tonality and abstraction derived from carefully observed light make Study in White an interesting painting and a pleasure to look at.
Honorable mention: Blue Ballet (oil, 12×9) by Todd M. Casey (www.toddmcasey.com)
This painting is beautifully painted and has such satisfying, subtle color, the greenish blue and dull green against the grayish pink. It is also humorous in an equally subtle way.
Honorable mention: Autumn’s Bittersweet (pastel, 9 x18) (www.barbaragroff.com)
The composition is very elegant in Autumn’s Bittersweet. The long horizontal gives generous space to the arch of branches. This, combined with the pastel’s quiet minimalism, makes the bittersweet so fragile and poignant.
Do you have words of wisdom or advice for future contestants?
Someone else will be the judge in the future, so this is just general advice that reflects my own deep bias. I don’t think a painting has to have an idea, or rather an idea that can be put into words. Painting provides a particularly complex and pleasurable visual experience. Its strength is nonverbal. The sheer joy of looking at a painting, that visual and visceral experience, should not be eclipsed by more tangible consideration. Exploring looking, exploring the visual world and all its ambiguities is such a rich field to mine.
Featured in The Artist’s Magazine in June 2012, Amy Weiskopf has work in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Arkansas Art Center. She lives in Brooklyn and shows at Hirschl & Adler Modern in Manhattan (www.hirschlandadler.com).