What the Judges Had to Say | The Artist’s Magazine’s 27th Annual Art Competition

In the December 2010 issue of The Artist’s Magazine, read about the winning works of the 27th Annual Art Competition. Scroll down to view the jurors’ biographies and samples of their work, while learning their reasons for awarding the first prize in each category.

Abstract/Experimental: Cathy Woo

Garden Series No.3 (acrylic, 36x36) by Cathy Woo
Garden Series No.3 (acrylic, 36×36) by Cathy Woo

Biography: Cathy Woo’s beautiful paintings were last featured in the June 2010 issue of The Artist’s Magazine. Her works, along with essays on creativity, have appeared in Watercolor Artist and Artist’s Sketchbook, as well. She is a signature member of the National and Northwest Watercolor societies. She graduated with honors from the University of California at Berkeley; she also has JD degree from Seattle University School of Law.  To see more of her work and her teaching schedule, visit www.alkiweb.com.

Cathy Woo
Criteria for judging work: “In making my selections I looked for a knowledgeable approach to composition, for confidence in technique, and for a forceful, well-defined expression of the artist’s intent.

“Abstract painting is exposed painting. Lacking the advantage of distracting the viewer with an overlayer of realistic subject matter, abstract painters must rely solely on artistic basics. Fortunately, there are a sufficient number of available combinations of elements, principles, and media to allow for almost infinite expression.

Reasons for awarding the First Prize: “Jennifer Gardner’s Gold Series No.6 (pastel, 20×22) provides a fun, playful, visual journey for the viewer. There are many passages—intertwining color, shape, and line—for the eye to enjoy and explore. Technically, the artist demonstrated her ability to use color relationships to create space and imply movement without relying heavily on changes in value.”

Advice for future contestants: “If you didn’t win this year, my advice is to continue to enter. The fact that there are so many good entries means that awards decisions are close, in many cases. There’s always a good chance that you may be a winner next time!”

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Animal/Wildlife: Chris Bacon

Out of the Blue (acrylic and watercolor, 22x24.5) by Chris Bacon
Out of the Blue (acrylic and watercolor, 22×24½) by Chris Bacon

Biography: Chris Bacon has received six Awards of Excellence from the Society of Animal Artists (1992–94, 1996–98) in addition to that organization’s Elliot Liskin Memorial Award for painting (1996). Chris was honored to receive the prestigious Master Wildlife Artist Award from the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in 2004. His work can be found in public and private collections in Canada, the United States, England, and Australia. Visit his Web site to learn more: www.chrisbacon.com/bio_artist.html.

Chris Bacon
Criteria for judging work: “I was looking for work that ‘spoke,’ that is, work that evoked some kind of a response in me: work that was interesting in its concept and design, with a competent handling of the medium.”

Reasons for awarding the First Prize
: “When I first saw Debbie Stevens’s Sandy 13 (oil, 36×48), I knew it was the one, but I continued to compare all others against it. I like the design, the use of perspective, and the simplification of form and surface, plus the overall use of color and the ‘bounced’ light, used as a way of accentuating a focal point.”

Advice for future contestants: “Beat your own path by following your own vision. It’s your only chance of producing a meaningful body of work that you may call your own.

Ask yourself … what is it I want to convey to or instill in the viewer? What am I communicating? Is there a narrative? Or is this just another pretty picture with nothing to say?”

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Landscape/Interior: Paul Jackson

Detour (watercolor, 36x40) by Paul Jackson
Detour (watercolor, 36×40) by Paul Jackson

Biography: Paul Jackson has an MFA from the University of Missouri. He is the author of Paint Spectacular Effects in Watercolor (North Light Books); his work has appeared on the cover of The Artist’s Magazine four times. A signature member of the American Watercolor Society and the National Watercolor Society, he served as a judge of the American Watercolor Society’s 142nd annual exhibition. In 2009, he was the featured speaker at the International Watercolor Masters Invitational in Lushan, China, during the Olympic games. Visit his Web site at www.pauljackson.com.

Paul Jackson
Criteria for judging: “I looked at the use of design, color, atmosphere, value, and the idea behind the piece.
I thought the paintings in the contest were entertaining, rich, vibrant, subtle. This was an outstanding collection of landscapes and interiors.”

Reasons for awarding the First Prize: “The unique and vibrant use of color in Winter Windfall (oil, 22×34) by John Buxton was unexpected and extremely effective. The detail and use of space were well considered and the focal point riveting. The idea behind the painting was very well conveyed.  Simply put, this painting was outstanding.”

Advice for future contestants
: “Find a focal point, even for your landscape. The whole painting cannot be a focal point. Consider the message you are trying to convey.”

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Portrait/Figure: Sharon Sprung

The Sari (oil, 38x40) by Sharon Sprung
The Sari (oil, 38×40) by Sharon Sprung

Biography: Sharon Sprung studied at New York’s National Institute of Design and the Art Students League, where she now teaches. In 2009 she was invited to teach a master class at the Russian Academy of Art in St. Petersburg in conjunction with an exhibition sponsored by the US State Department. In 2006, she won first place in the Portrait/Figure category in The Artist’s Magazine’s annual contest; the judge was Everett Raymond Kinstler. Sprung shows her work regularly at Gallery Henoch in New York City. She has two ArtistsNetworkTV videos, Understanding Values in Skin Tones and Painting Facial Features, both available from North Light Shop at www.northlightshop.com. To see more of her work, visit her site at www.sharonsprung.com.

Sharon Sprung
Criteria for judging: “I looked for strong draftsmanship, composition, originality, and execution. I thought the entries, on the whole, were very well done but lacking in originality. When I did see originality, it seemed forced and manipulative. It is very hard to make good art.”

Reasons for awarding the First Prize: “Alejandro Rosemberg’s Victoria (oil, 28×20) was quietly powerful and compelling. The subject was mysterious and engaging. The piece seemed beautifully painted.”

Advice for future contestants: Get good reproductions! Work on strong, unusual compositions and ideas for paintings. Don’t send reproductions of paintings that are obviously portrait commissions.”

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Still Life/Floral: Jeffrey T. Larson

Bowtie Pasta (oil, 16x20) by Jeffrey T. Larson
Bowtie Pasta (oil, 16×20) by Jeffrey T. Larson

Biography: Jeffrey T. Larson studied anatomy at the University of Minnesota and old master techniques at Atelier Lack in Minneapolis before embarking on an art pilgrimage to Europe. In 2009 he won First Place in the Still Life/Interior category of The Artist’s Magazine’s annual competition, after previouslyhaving been a finalist for many years. He shows his work at Tree’s Place Gallery in Orleans, Massachusetts and at Arcadia Gallery in New York City and Philadelphia. To see more of his work, go to www.jeffreytlarson.com.

Jeffrey T. Larson
Criteria for judging
: “I looked for emotional impact, strong, intelligent compositions, and sound craftsmanship.”

Reasons for awarding First Place
: “A lot of work entered had something good in it; there was a wide variety of techniques and evidence of different tastes. Sandra Power’s Enamel Bowl with Ladle (oil, 18×22) jumped out as an image more than any other painting I saw. And it stuck with me. It is very difficult to paint something very simple and not have it be boring.”

Advice for future contestants
: “Paint from the heart. Study and analyze great works of art to learn the lessons they can convey. Admire but don’t plagiarize others’ subjects or styles. To become original, trust yourself.”


Click here for a peek at the table of contents for the December 2010 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.


Click here to learn about the digital download of the December 2010 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.


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