Meet the Winners: 10th Annual Pastel 100

The Pastel 100 competition is an annual showcase of the 100 best works of pastel in five categories—landscape & interior, still life & floral, portrait & figure, animal & wildlife, and abstract & non-objective. Of the approximate 4,000 entries, the category jurors and editorial team selected five top award-winners, whom we introduce here. You can learn more about these five artists in feature articles in the March/April issue of The Pastel Journal. The issue also includes an introduction to the five place-winners in each of the five categories, as well as honorable mentions, for a total of 100 full-color pastel reproductions.

The Jack Richeson/Unison Pastels Best of Show Award ($5,000) went to Carolyn Robles, a relative newcomer to pastels, for her luminous portrait called Fallera in Turquoise. Robles lives in California where she’s working on her MFA at the Laguna College of Art & Design. The artist recently moved back to the United States after spending several years in Europe where she lived, for a time, in Valencia, Spain. It was here that Robles came across the subject for her award-winning painting. The town celebrates the holiday Fallas with a colorful festival, parade and elaborate floats. The falleras are the young women chosen to represent each neighborhood during the festival. “Any one of the falleras would have made the perfect subject,” Robles says. “All these ladies in their beautiful dresses, and the jewelry—all these amazing surfaces. I was lucky. They were all walking in the parade, and I just kept taking photos—hundreds of photos.”

The Ruth Richeson/Unison Pastels Award ($3,000 worth of Unison pastels and Richeson art product) went to Peter Seltzer for his still life, Threads. Seltzer’s still lifes are typically rich in symbolism, so it struck the artist as funny that this piece was the one to fetch a top award. “In the span of my work, I would say that it’s one of my less symbolic pieces,” Seltzer says. The antique spools of thread in the still life belonged to the artist’s mother-in-law, and one of the artist’s students (a professional upholsterer) supplied the fabric remnants in the background. “These two things came into my possession and they just fit together beautifully,” says Seltzer. “There was an instant recognition that this was a painting. It exists for me pretty much on an interesting visual level. Again, there isn’t much symbolic life in this piece; just a bit of whimsy.”

The Pastel Journal Grand Prize Award for Excellence ($2,500) was awarded to Vilas Tonape for a striking self-portrait titled Interview. Tonape’s classical training shows through in his painting. The artist’s portraits are often conceptual as well anatomically precise. His award-winning painting features an unusual narrative. “When I put this hat on, I looked like someone you see on the street at night, an urban dweller,” says the artist. “I thought I’d wear a tie, because that’s the usual thing that people wear when they’re going for an interview, but I’m not wearing a collared shirt, so it’s a different kind of interview. It’s an interview to get in the gang, so to speak. It’s so funny that an Indian guy wants to get in a gang, and that fun part is represented by another person with a hat, Charlie Chaplin. “He’s kind of laughing at the guy, like, ‘Are you kidding me? This hood is not for you,’ or something like that. It’s like an oxymoronic thing,” says Tonape. The narrative is an important element in his work. “I have to have some kind of story, because if I don’t have a story, all I’m left with is the same boring face to paint.”

The Art Spirit Foundation/Dianne B. Bernhard Gold Medal Award for Excellence ($1,500) went to another pastel newcomer, Georjean Hertzwig, for a portrait of an Australian shepherd called Ken’s Bucky. “It isn’t just the dog’s vigilant pose that draws us into this portrait,” writes Christine Proskow, “but his direct gaze which creates a convincing, if not familiar-feeling connection.” Hertzwig talks about capturing that moment: “There’s a fleeting moment, I would say an attitude, where something about that animal is revealed,” she says. “Bucky is closely watching his owner Ken and waiting to be given a command. That’s characteristic of the breed. Australian shepherds are very attentive and highly devoted to their owners.” The artist’s attention to line and shapes, her use of warm tones against cool tones, and her effective handling of detail all work to convey a subtle sense of movement within an otherwise simple composition. “I like the idea that something simple can be quite powerful,” Hertzwig says. “I seek to touch the soul of nature, which I feel is borne of a kinesthetic quality. I find things that emphasize a visual quality, without also possessing a kinesthetic or animating component, lack feeling.”

The Art Spirit Foundation/Dianne B. Bernhard Silver Medal for Excellence ($1,000) was awarded to Michigan artist Jerry Power for his lovely landscape, Springtime, a work that actually began as a demo painting for a class he taught. “I was telling a class that I never use pure white, which looks too much like chalk. Nor do I use black, which is just too strong,” he says. “So, they selected an orchard photo to see how I could make blossoming trees appear white. Making one color that surrounds another color a little darker causes the adjacent color to look lighter. With all of those blossoms, though, I couldn’t just paint a bunch of polka dots. I had to create eye movement and a center of interest.”

Read the complete interviews in the 2009 March/April issue of The Pastel Journal.

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