What the Jurors Said | Robert Liberace, Portrait/Figure

Jurors of The Artist’s Magazine‘s 28th Annual Art Competition

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Photo courtesy Steve Smith

Portrait/Figure: Robert Liberace

In April of 2003 the Portrait Society of America awarded Robert Liberace its Grand Prize Award; in 2002, he received Best of Show. Both portraits were featured in International Artist Magazine; another of his portraits graced the cover of The Artist’s Magazine in April 2007. A master of both painting and sculpture and a popular instructor in Figure Drawing and Portraiture, Liberace has a BFA and an MFA from George Washington University. Arcadia Gallery in New York City and John Pence Gallery in San Francisco represent his work.

What guidelines did you use to choose winners in your category?
“I look at design, drawing, technical prowess and artistic instinct. The design of a picture will generally have the most immediate impact. Whether simple or complex, the abstract organization of the composition will draw the viewer in.

The drawing or arrangement and placement of the elements in the picture allow me to enjoy a painting without the distraction of technical hiccups. The drawing can be stylized and stretched like Parmigianino—or absolutely true and realistic like Velazquez, but it must not have many errors.

The ease of manner or technique gives the picture a certain harmonious flow and overall visual impact. This is where much of the artist’s personal approach can be found. Much of the artist’s unique style and sophistication resides in this realm and it reveals an artist’s training, experience and, I believe, the depth of feeling he or she has for his/her art. This is where the finalists separated themselves from the merely proficient.

When all these factors are in order, we can more clearly understand the artist’s personal sensibility or vision.”

What were your overall feelings about this year’s entries?
“This was an exceptional group, which made the task of judging particularly difficult. I was impressed with the number of finely executed pictures. A generation ago, it would have been difficult to assemble such an accomplished group, but now it seems that artists are refining their skills to a very high degree. It says something about the level of instruction available to artists—whether it comes through a formal school, atelier, or from an artist’s personal study.”

Tell us why you awarded the first place prize to Thomas Reis’s Amelie (oil, 19×12).
“I found Thomas’s painting to be flawless. The picture’s gentle tonality, punctuated with the vermilion scarf, entranced me. The design is simple, and the pictorial narrative modest, but what an impact it has! There is nothing but pure enjoyment for the viewer in a work like this.”

Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for future contestants?
“All of the finalists’ works spoke not only of the artist’s personal vision but also recalled the great works from the past that led directly to their beautiful pieces. They all absorbed me in their work, but I found myself connected to a deeper web of associations, both emotional and historical, which made the experience of seeing these award-winning pictures more meaningful.”

Apples on Silk (oil, 10x7) by Robert Liberace

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