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Allison Park, Pennsylvania • www.buxtonart.com
Winter Windfall (oil, 22×34)
Although it was the snowbound landscape near John Buxton’s home that captured the artist’s eye, he’s made a career of painting historically accurate images of America in the 1700s, so he turned the scene into an 18th-century narrative by adding Native Americans and a spilled hay cart.
Buxton composes most of a painting in his head but uses a projector as a shortcut for placing and sizing individual details such as an arm or a leg. Knowing that projection is controversial, he explains: “Artists make the mistake of copying everything being projected. That’s not the idea. Use projection as a means for creating your own work. Copy the source—but only as much as it works.”
An illustrator for 31 years, Buxton was taught to begin with a cool overall wash on the surface. But since leaving illustration for fine art, he tends to paint in cool colors, so he starts with a warm wash, usually Winsor & Newton Indian red or light red, and adds a bit of ultramarine blue or Van Dyke brown. A warm-temperature underpainting with a cool overpainting can lend sparkle to the finished piece.
Buxton mixes the exact color he needs on his palette and then applies it to the canvas. This approach works well with the quick-drying alkyd (resin-based) oil paints he uses for his historical paintings. For Winter Windfall he used primarily Winsor & Newton alkyds with some C.A.S. Alkyd Pro paints, both of which take only a few hours to dry to a matte finish.
Buxton takes pleasure in bringing to life things we all learned in school: “I do it so the viewer may learn to appreciate the hardship and sacrifice endured by our forefathers in order that we may enjoy what we have today. I like to think that I give a small glimpse into our heritage.”
Duluth, Minnesota • www.johnsalminen.com
Seventh (watercolor, 32×36)
Minnesota painter John Salminen started this painting with a detailed drawing based on two photos taken with an EF 70-300 mm zoom telephoto lens on his Canon EOS 20D. “This lens compresses the scene—an effect called stacking—which gives the resulting photo a very flat, graphic appearance,” he says. What drew him to the New York City scene were the shadowy canyons created by the tall buildings and the details on the taxis, which led his eye to the light in the sky.
For this strongly backlit composition, he created a progression from the darkest to the lightest areas with several techniques. First, he darkened the foreground with a Pat Dews mouth atomizer (a spray diffuser) and dark paint. “I prefer not to use masking fluid,” he says, “because of the edge it leaves, but I needed, in this case, to protect the highlights during the atomizing process.” Second, he created a path of light the viewer could follow with the light reflecting off the tops of the cars. Finally, he used strong one-point perspective to lead the eye into the painting.
Salminen used Stephen Quiller watercolors, which he likes because of the way they granulate, but for his darkest black, he chose Winsor & Newton lamp black. The piece took about 40 hours to complete. Salminen’s biggest challenge was infusing the piece with the scene’s atmospheric qualities; he had to adjust values carefully to get the right balance. “My favorite part was painting the cars on the street,” he says. “Each one of them reflected the light in a slightly different manner, and all were surrounded by shadow.”
Boischatel, Quebec • www.raymondquenneville.qc.ca
Entre Deux (oil, 24×30)
For his winning piece, artist Raymond Quenneville started with a pencil sketch made after a visit to Solvang, California. When transferring the sketch to canvas with a brush and thinned oil paint, he tried to preserve the essence of the composition. He also incorporated houses characteristic of the Gaspé area in Quebec. “That’s why the painting is titled Entre Deux—somewhere ‘in between’ the Gaspé and the California landscapes,” he explains.
He continued by creating a monochromatic underpainting with thinned burnt umber and white paint. After letting this layer dry, he applied glazes of Holbein Extra-Fine Artists’ Oil Colors thinned with Liquin and finished with pure oil paint straight from the tube. His palette included lemon yellow, cadmium yellow medium, yellow ochre, oxide of chromium, sap green, cobalt blue, blue black, cobalt violet, scarlet lake, rose madder, burnt sienna, burnt umber and titanium white.
It took three weeks to finish the painting. During that time Quenneville paid special attention to values and colors to create the impression of a haze in the background while keeping intense light in the foreground. Using complementary colors helped to enhance contrasts and to create luminous effects.
Lea Colie Wight
Manasquan, New Jersey • leawight.com
The Boat Shed (oil, 20×22)
An instructor at Studio Incamminati, a small intensive atelier in Philadelphia, Lea Colie Wight paints both interior and exterior still lifes and figures. The boatyard featured in The Boat Shed was a place the artist frequented as a child. After doing a preliminary 10×12 study on-location, she later returned to the site with a 20×22 piece of stretched Claessens No. 12 linen. Starting with a mixture of burnt sienna, French ultramarine blue and titanium white, she blocked in the scene and placed the initial value and color notes. “My main goal was to capture accurately the green light pouring onto the boat hulls. That color note was one of my first.” She returned for a second session to work on the hulls. Limiting her sessions to three or four hours on sunny days, she completed the piece over eight sessions. Along with Silver Brush Limited filbert brushes, she used a variety of oil paints, including Williamsburg, Winsor & Newton, Gamblin and Old Holland.
Debra Joyce Dawson
Pataskala, Ohio • www.debrajoycedawson.com
The Monks’ Alarm Clock (oil, 28×22)
“It’s impossible to travel in Bhutan,” Debra Joyce Dawson says, “without constantly seeing the ever-present monks’ red cloaks.” At one monastic fortress, she snapped photographs of monks and a rooster, which her guide called “the monks’ alarm clock.”
At home in Ohio, working from a value sketch, she created a full-size contour drawing and, using the grid method, transferred it to canvas. After spraying the drawing with fixative, she blocked in the values with Venetian red thinned with Gamblin Gamsol. Using a series of grays made from titanium white and ivory black, along with complementary colors Venetian red and viridian green, she built up the paint layer, later adding alizarin crimson, cadmium red (light, medium and deep) and yellow ochre. To give the paint more body, she incorporated Gamblin’s Cold Wax medium, whose matte finish also helped simulate the look of masonry. She built up the texture further with Winsor & Newton’s Liquin Oleopasto medium. Finally, she glazed with Payne’s gray and Liquin, carefully avoiding areas where she wanted to preserve a matte finish.
Washington Depot, Connecticut • www.giarrano.com
Japanese Girls (oil, 22×28)
Vincent Giarrano, who also won second place in this competition’s animal/wildlife category, started his landscape Japanese Girls on stretched linen, toning it with a mixture of ultramarine blue, burnt sienna and Gamblin Gamsol. After using a rag to wipe out areas that would become the major lights, including the reflection in the large window that serves as a frame for the girls, he loosely located his key shapes with a small brush and a thicker version of the toning mixture. With a plein air oil sketch and a photo for references, he continued to develop the painting over the course of a week. He used mostly Gamblin oil paints but also Old Holland and Winsor & Newton.
“My goal,” Giarrano says, “was to capture the interchange between these two girls—together yet isolated.” He also enjoys exploring the dynamic between people and the man-made environment of New York City, a setting that inspires much of his work.
Michael Chesley Johnson is a contributing editor to The Artist’s Magazine and the author of Backpacker Painting: Outdoors with Oil & Pastel. He teaches plein air workshops in both oil and pastel throughout North America. To learn more visit www.michaelchesleyjohnson.com.
Jonathan J. Ahn
San Francisco CA
Havre de Grace MD
Safety Harbor FL
Manitou Spring CO
Linda Tracey Brandon
Anne Blair Brown
J. Henderer Burns
Diane Saretta Carbone
Lea Colie Wight
Mission Viejo CA
Washington Depot CT
West Palm Beach FL
Bellows Falls VT
Joy E. Hagen
R. John Ichter
Saltspring Island BC
San Francisco CA
Mike Barret Kolasinski
Garden City NY
Fort Worth TX
Robert B. Mesrop
Marstons Mills MA
Sante Fe NM
St. Petersburg FL
White River Jct. VT
Joseph M. Palazzolo
North Hollywood CA
S. Dartmouth MA
Lynda A.N. Reyes
Richard T. Scott
Frederick D. Somers
San Diego CA
San Francisco CA
James E. Trippler
Keiko Yasuoka & Duncan Simmons
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