Jeffrey T. Larson
Blue Marsh (8×10)
Jeffrey T. Larson’s winning painting is an 8×10-inch oil—but the intense blue water seems to cover acres. Indeed, that water is the very point of the painting. Larson was driving by a marsh when he suddenly observed the rich color and was lucky to have his paint box handy. “I mentally analyzed what it was that caught my eye,” he says. “I hit that note to the best of my ability by mixing the deepest, most brilliant blue possible with paint.”
Working on a gessoed aluminum panel sealed with acrylic matte medium, and with an array of 27 colors—a range unusual for a plein air artist—Larson painted in a direct, alla prima fashion. After establishing the rich blue of the water, he mixed the other colors in reference to that blue. “I try not to re-create the colors as I see them,” he says, “so much as to re-create the correct relationships between all the colors.”
The Wisconsin artist worked every area of Blue Marsh at once, developing relationships to bring out the focus. Because of changing light conditions, he paints en plein air for no more than 90 minutes at a time. Although large outdoor pieces may take up to two summers to finish, this one he completed in one session.
Larson was the first place winner in last year’s Still Life/Floral category, and The Artist’s Magazine just ran a feature article on his work in the November 2009 issue. Little did the editors know when they were planning his article that Larson would win first place in this category, honorable mention in the Still Life/Floral category, and a finalist spot in Portrait/Figure in this year’s competition! Larson is represented by Tree’s Place Gallery in Orleans, Massachusetts.
The Trip Home (watercolor, 30×40)
Lately Antonio Masi has been working on a series of paintings depicting the major bridges of New York City. Bridges have a special meaning for Masi, whose grandfather was one of the immigrants who worked on the Queensboro Bridge. But his inspiration for the winning painting was a car ride with a friend across the Manhattan Bridge. “It was a rainy day,” Masi says, “and the sun kept trying to come out. The cables and the looming tower had a strong visual impact. I told my friend to cross the bridge again. As we did so, The Trip Home started to crystallize in my mind.”
After returning to the bridge to take photos and make sketches, Masi then followed up with small watercolors done on-site to capture colors and values. Back at his studio, he lightly sketched the scene on a sheet of Arches 300-lb, rough watercolor paper and then blocked in the masses with a neutral wash. Once that was dry, he used an 8-inch hake brush and a limited palette to apply the first transparent glaze. After that dried, he added several more glazes until he reached his desired effect.
A commercial artist and teacher for many years, Masi began painting full time in 2000. Originally an oil painter, he tried using watercolor at his wife Elizabeth’s suggestion. “I soon discovered,” he says, “that by adding a little body color (gouache), watercolor becomes a powerful medium with a personality all its own. It likes to flow and do unexpected things. It can be light and delicate one moment, or strong and powerful the next. This was the medium I was looking for, to convey this play of opposites, the rigid steel against the light atmosphere, the sense of motion and solidity.”
Masi has won awards from prestigious groups such as the American Watercolor Society, the Salmagundi Club and Audubon Artists. He’s represented by the Phyllis Lucas Gallery in New York City and the Paul Scott Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Kansas City Southern de Mexico (oil, 24×36)
When one of his collectors, the Kansas City Southern Railway (KCS), decided to introduce a new color scheme for its locomotives, John Pototschnik decided to paint Kansas City Southern de Mexico. But it wasn’t an easy project. KCS had just come out with the color scheme, and he could find only one photo on the Internet showing it. None of his own reference photos had the specific engine he needed. “I had to work it out. I also purchased an HO-scale KCS locomotive to help me achieve accurate proportions and perspective in the drawing.”
Once he’d worked out the complete drawing on canvas with thinned paint (he doesn’t use a projector), he blocked in the scene with burnt umber to establish the mood and values he was after. Using bristle flats and brights, he continued, restricting his palette. “A limited palette helps me achieve color harmony more easily. Also,” he adds, “I’m not out to match the color I see perfectly, but to capture a mood.”
In 1982, Pototschnik left his freelance illustration career to paint full time. He won a fellowship in 1992 that allowed him to study under the late Deane Keller at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in Connecticut. Pototschnik’s work has appeared in several national magazines and six books. He’s a signature member of Oil Painters of America and the Outdoors Painters Society.
The Texas-based painter says, “The genres artists choose only indicate their strongest preferences. Mine is landscape, but I also enjoy painting figures, still life and cityscapes.” He adds that art is all about the quality of the work: “I want to overcome every area of weakness and achieve paintings that are beautiful, well executed and have a positive, powerful effect on all who view them. I desire to honor God and also to be a blessing to my fellow man.”
Winter Orchard (oil, 20×24)
Winter Orchard was inspired by a scene in Jerry Markham’s hometown of Vernon, British Columbia. “I wanted,” says the artist, “to paint the late autumn snow lying on the branches with a few leaves remaining. It was beautiful, and I wanted to represent the feeling of the day and convey a sense of place.”
To achieve this end, Markham typically works from life—making drawings and a small painting on-site to work out composition and values—and then he moves to the studio to create his larger, finished piece. Because of time constraints, he had to go directly to the studio with photos for this piece.
Drawing the branches and painting the negative spaces between them proved most challenging and time consuming. “It’s always hard to say how long a painting will take,” says the artist. “It’s a balance between being complete and not overworking the painting.”
Disappointed in an art school’s program oriented toward abstract art, Markham soon left and began working at Swinton’s Art Supply & Instruction, where he met mentors and friends who encouraged him to grow. He’s been painting full time since 2004.
View of Monhegan Island (oil, 24×30)
“I’m always inspired by the views on Monhegan Island,” Neal Hughes says, “in this case, the light early in the morning when the colors are more intense.” Although he often uses a traditional underpainting followed by transparent glazes, he did no underpainting for this piece. He painted the foreground foliage and some areas directly but layered the building and other areas. “My underpaintings are usually done with at least some color,” he explains. “Then I build up layers, using some transparent colors and some thicker paint, with the thickest usually in the lighter areas.”
A former illustrator with national clients in publishing and advertising, Hughes is a full-time painter who has done major commissions for the National Civil War Museum and other groups.
Nicole McCormick Santiago
Interior with Piñata (oil, 78¼x62¾)
Narrative painter Nicole McCormick Santiago believes that interiors “give insight into the social and familial roles of the figures who inhabit them, especially when the figure is absent or marginal.” Interior with Piñata, painted from life in the artist’s Virginia studio, shows the feet of her husband, who kept falling asleep and shifting, making the feet difficult to paint.
This piece she painted directly, although not necessarily wet-into-wet, a method sometimes associated with alla prima. She likes to paint over dried paint, so she usually has several projects going on at one time.
Interior with Piñata took 84 hours to complete, including canvas prep and framing. In what is an unusual practice, Santiago literally “clocks in” when she goes to her studio—and logs her time for each task. “This helps calm me when a painting isn’t going well,” she says. Santiago teaches drawing and color theory as an assistant professor at the College of William and Mary.
Michael Chesley Johnson is a longtime contributor to The Artist’s Magazine and the author of Backpacker Painting: Outdoors with Oil & Pastel and its companion videos. He teaches plein air workshops in both oil and pastel throughout North America.
State College PA
Virginia Beach VA
El Paso TX
Maggie R. Hellmann
Santa Cruz CA
Lake Villa IL
New York NY
South Plainfield NJ
Bryn Mawr PA
Garden City NY
Nancie King Mertz
Fort Collins CO
Santa Fe NM
Port Ludlow WA
South Harwich MA
Long Grove IL
James E. Trippler
Soon Young Warren
Fort Worth TX
Steven J. White
Sierra Madre CA
Keiko Yasuoka and Duncan Simmons
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