The 2010 Artist’s Magazine Animal/Wildlife Winners

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First Place
Debbie Stevens
Cypress, Texas •
Sandy 13 (oil, 36×48)

“Birds in water are my favorite subject—the challenge is to create a realistic bird contrasted against an abstract, graphic background,” says Debbie Stevens. Her winning painting, Sandy 13, shows a sandhill crane in the midst of a field of patterns whose shapes mimic the contours of his feathers. The spectacular light and Asian-inspired design are breathtaking.

Stevens has often painted Sandy, a male sandhill crane that was raised at the San Antonio Zoo by hooded cranes, a situation that exemplifies how zoos are “valuable resources and partners in conservation.” On this occasion, when a great egret flew overhead, Sandy jumped into the water. “There was a little bridge,” says Stevens, “so I stood there for hours watching, drawing and photographing. I loved the unusual point of view.”

For this painting Stevens chose to use a panel for its smoothness and durability and prepared the surface with three coats of primer and three to four coats of gesso. To suggest the texture of the rocks, Stevens brushed on a color glaze mixed with Liquin after the other layer was dry. Then, laying the painting flat, she sprayed the rock areas with turpentine. After letting the surface dry for a day, she repeated this process—applying a color glaze, spraying with turpentine, letting it dry—three to four times, alternating the glaze colors between ultramarine blue, burnt umber, burnt sienna and alizarin crimson. “Initially, the prospect of spraying turpentine over a finished painting was scary,” she says. “Now I find it exhilarating.”

This has been a great year for Stevens. It started with making the cut for the Salon International, a juried show at the Greenhouse Gallery of Fine Art in San Antonio. A few weeks later she was accepted at the Oil Painters of America National Exhibition. Next came a letter from the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, informing Stevens that her work would be in the Birds in Art exhibition. On the same day, she also found out that one of her paintings was accepted for the Society of Animal Artists’ 50th anniversary show. “And then The Artist’s Magazine called!” says Stevens. “I couldn’t be more excited!”

Second Place
Vincent Giarrano
Washington Depot, Connecticut •
Spring Robin (oil, 8×10)

Vincent Giarrano, who also received an honorable mention in the landscape/interior category (page 39), paints in all genres. “I enjoy painting subject matter that presents a drawing challenge for me—cityscapes, interiors, figures—and love to find new ways of presenting classic subjects,” he says. “This image was a departure from the norm; however, I enjoyed the challenge of simplifying the complex scene I’d observed through my studio window, while also achieving a believable impression.”

Giarrano works mainly in oils and prefers smooth surfaces. For this painting he chose to work on canvas but applied extra coats of gesso to smooth out the weave. His first step was to establish a neutral base, knocking down the white of the canvas with ultramarine blue and burnt sienna, thinned with Gamblin Gamsol. Next he loosely mapped out the darks. Painting fairly fast—this painting was completed in three days—he chose as his focus the cooler light that bathed the scene and its effect on both the robin and the leaves.

A lifelong artist with both a bachelor of fine arts and a master of fine arts in sculpture, Giarrano taught himself to paint. He wants his images to resonate as real moments, so he avoids subjects that seem too set-up or contrived. As an artist, Giarrano strives to “listen” to his eyes: “I try not to think of what I know about a subject,” he says. “Instead I force myself to ignore all expectations. I look at my subjects as shapes of color.”

Third Place
Ray C. Brown Jr.
Lake Forest, California •
Lookin’ For Bo Peep (pencil, 5×18)

Graphite artist Ray C. Brown spent a great day at Glacier National Park in Montana, observing, sketching and photographing a herd of bighorn sheep that were led by a beautiful ram. His challenge was to distill that experience into something that said, “This is amazing; I wish others could see it.”

Developing the composition was key for Brown—who made the switch from commercial to fine art seven years ago. It was also the most fun and challenging part of the process. Working with a number of digital reference photos, he removed the entire background, cropped the legs of the large ram to get viewers closer to its face, and cut off the horn on the second sheep. “I didn’t want any space above that horn; it bothered me that you could go ‘over the top.’ I also enjoyed adding a bit of humor by placing the sheep peeking over and around each other’s backs and legs.”

After transferring his initial drawing to Strathmore 500 Series bristol board, Brown rendered the rich textures and intricate detail using wood-cased pencils, ranging from the harder 2H and H grades to softer HB and B, gradually building up values.

Brown’s advice for aspiring artists? “Follow your heart. Create what you want. And stand on the shoulders of the best artists you can find.”

Honorable Mention
Daria Shachmut
Carmel, California •
Beast (oil, 16×20)

Beast is part of Daria Shachmut’s Prey series of cattle paintings, based upon her weekly visits to Big Sur and Central California ranches. Shachmut, who painted her first horse in Saturday classes for children at the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts, loves to work in oils. “I work wet-into-wet and want to capture the animal’s essence in as few brushstrokes as possible,” she says. “The abstract qualities of the painting are very important to me.”

Adding the dark, saturated colors over the initial hue of the bull’s body proved challenging. “Because the paint layer had dried,” she explained, “I had to ensure that the saturated colors would integrate with, and not just sit on top of, the background color.”

The artist chooses subjects from her thousands of reference photos; she looks for an interesting expression or shape. “Most of all, I want to express my emotional response to these sentient beings,“ Shachmut says. “I love Herefords—with their tender snouts and long white lashes—and want the viewer to love them as well.”

Honorable Mention
Michael Allen McGuire
Santa Fe, New Mexico •
Egret Cove (oil, 16×20)

An artist for over 40 years, Michael McGuire won his first art scholarship at age 12. The strength of his work comes from incorporating a “full-value vocabulary” into each piece—strong lights, darks and midvalues; warm and cool temperatures; hard and soft edges; important shapes along with less dominant ones.

In this piece, which took him “two weeks and 20 years” to complete, McGuire wanted to overcome what he calls the major “tyrannies” of landscapes. “I conquered the tyranny of ‘horizontality’ by including strong diagonals,” he says, “and I skirted the predictable light-above-dark-below formula by brightening the bottom of the canvas with reflected light.”

Working in oil as well as watercolor, McGuire also does computer graphics and three-dimensional modeling and animation. He typically has numerous projects in progress: “I often say, ‘Be careful what you get good at because you might end up doing it the rest of your life.’ For me, living as an artist has been both a privilege and a blessing.”

Honorable Mention
Patricia Mansell
Leduc, Alberta, Canada •
Water Acrobat (acrylic, 24×30)

While Patricia Mansell and her husband, Paul, were visiting Calgary Zoo in Alberta, her husband took photographs of an otter performing underwater ballet. “The otter was moving and turning with ease and grace,” Mansell says, “and he kept us entertained. I wanted to capture this sense of playfulness.”

A supporter of the World Wildlife Fund, she travels North America, when she can, to find new subjects and spends time researching each animal. “Often I discover a unique trait that inspires a painting,” she explains, “and then I go about obtaining the specific reference I need for the piece. I want the focus to be on the character of the animal rather than on the anatomical details.”

Working with Winsor & Newton Galeria Flow Formula acrylics, she loves bringing depth and detail to her paintings and enjoys mixing colors from a very limited palette. She usually completes one or two paintings per year, but Water Acrobat “seemed to almost create itself.”

David N. Kitler is an internationally renowned naturalist and wildlife artist. His wife and manager, Ively Kitler, is a marketing and business consultant.

Lee Alban
Havre de Grace MD

Nancy Bass
Charlottesville VA

Saundra Bellamy
Tucson AZ

Sally Berner
Green Bay WI

Linda Besse
Mead WA

Stacey Burmeister
Clinton MI

John Cappadonna
Midland TX

Richard Clifton
Milford DE

Jim Connelly
Jenison MI

Mary Cornish
Warrenton VA

Helen Crispino
Dalton PA

Anni Crouter
Flint MI

Maria D’Angelo
Newton NJ

Emmanuel de Guzman
Kissimmee FL

Beth de Loiselle
Baltimore MD

Kim Diment
Grayling MI

Lori Dunn
RRI Norwood ON

Janetta Gee
Fort Walton Beach FL

Pat Gilmore
Vista CA

Jeff Gola
Moorestown, NJ

Sue Gombus
Merrillville IN

Dana Heimbach
Wurtsboro NY

Grace Kim
Upper Marlboro, MD

Laura Larabee
Monticello IA

Barbara Lindsey
Jefferson City MO

Kathleen Maling
Saint Augustine FL

Karla Mann
Virginia Beach VA

Tiffany Maser
N. Charleston SC

Terry Miller
Takoma Park MD

Billy-Jack Milligan
Canfield ON

Michael Nolan
Stuart FL

Mejo Okon
San Angelo TX

Rick Pas
Lapeer MI

Cristina Penescu
Chatsworth CA

Anne Peyton
Phoenix AZ

Brett Pigon
Grant FL

Lance Rudegeair
Yellow Springs OH

Matthew Schulz
Osterville MA

Catherine Secatore
Lynnfield MA

Cinda Serafin
Royal AR

Cathy Sheeter
Aurora CO

Gail H. Shelton
Winnfield LA

Bill Shoemaker
Palm Coast FL

Eileen F. Sorg
Kingston WA

Jill Soukup
Lakewood CO

Debbie Stevens
Cypress TX

Tiffany Stevenson
Roy UT

Jan Stommes
Owen WI

Richard Sukup
Hico TX

Kathie Sumpter
Franklin County Auckland, New Zealand

Carel Brest van Kempen
Holladay UT

Diane Versteeg
Spokane Valley WA

Linda Walker
Bemidji MN

Ben M. Young
Vista CA

Dennis Zervas
Lake Forest CA

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