Still Life/Floral Winners from the 28th Annual Art Competition

Congratulations to the 30 winners of our annual art competition! Here (and in our December 2011 issue) we celebrate the winners from the Still Life/Floral category. By Louise B. Hafesh

First Place
Eileen Eder
Guilford, Connecticut •

Beyond the Frame (oil, 24x36) by Eileen Eder

Beyond the Frame (oil, 24x36) by Eileen Eder

Eileen Eder discovered a passion for painting still lifes by accident, literally. Returning to grad school in her late 40s, she began painting figures until a ski mishap landed her temporarily in a wheelchair. “I started doing still lifes, which really improved my painting skills, and I developed a love for the genre,” she says.

Inspired by how light reveals manmade objects and nature with an endless variety of color and value, Eder often begins with a value underpainting of burnt sienna and ultramarine, applies three or four layers of color and ends with the lightest lights applied thickly.

Recalling a yearlong effort on a series of paintings that combine interior objects with an exterior landscape and play upon the tension between manmade and natural elements—a series that includes her winning entry—she points out, “Along the way I discovered what works in lighting and learned to reduce elements, particularly in the landscape, so they don’t compete with the still life elements.”

A major part of that series was painted under natural light. However, when tackling Beyond the Frame, Eder experimented by illuminating her setup as a director would a stage. “Switching to interior lighting allowed me to bring focus to the white vase and pears,” she says. “It also formed dramatic shadows.”

Mindful of creating engaging, cohesive compositions, Eder employs a limited palette of cadmium red, cadmium yellow, ultramarine blue and white. “In this particular piece,” she explains, “maintaining balance—keeping an assertive focal point and recessing some areas to subservience, especially the landscape—was a struggle. In the end, I think the painting works because there are layers of visual and psychological interest. Some parts recede and some come forward—sort of a Hans Hofmann approach to classical still life painting.”

Second Place
Elizabeth A. Patterson
Hollis Center, Maine •

Mottled (colored pencil, 20x16) by Elizabeth A. Patterson

Mottled (colored pencil, 20x16) by Elizabeth A. Patterson

“Since I favor lighting situations that are fleeting, such as early morning or winter afternoon sun, reference photos are critical,” explains Elizabeth Patterson. “So, once I settle on a setup, I take numerous shots, begin drawing from life and then continue through completion with photos.”

Typically drawn to rounded, organic shapes, as exemplified in Mottled, Patterson explains, “I wanted to bring objects together that show variations of that random, speckled quality found in an old, glazed stoneware bowl.” After she’d decided upon the crockery jars and spattered squash, the bubbled glass pitcher added “just the right touch of lightness and transparency to complete the arrangement.”

Using colored pencils to create the speckled objects, Patterson drew the free-form dots of varying hues and values. “Together they made the objects magically appear,” she states. “It was challenging, but great fun.”

By contrast, tackling the fabric beneath the objects was more tedious. “As I worked on its design, shadows and folds, the fabric began to take on too much importance, visually,” says the artist. “I took a break, looked at the piece for a day and realized I was losing what had originally excited me—the concentration of light in the center of the composition: the squash reflecting colors on the inside of the bowl, the intensely lit area on the small crock, and the hint of fabric that was in direct sunlight. Concentrating on those bright spots, I applied more layers of colored pencil to soften the fabric’s pattern, thus placing it appropriately in the background.”

Third Place
John (Solly) Sollinger
Ashland, Oregon •

Radiance (glass mosaic, 16x20x1) by John (Solly) Sollinger

Radiance (glass mosaic, 16x20x1) by John (Solly) Sollinger

“I’m a geneticist by training, but an artist by nature,” reveals self-taught mosaicist John Sollinger, whose Radiance was inspired by a clump of arnica growing along the Pacific Crest Trail in southwest Oregon. “I translate my passion for natural patterns by ‘mosainting’ (mosaicking + painting) with glass pieces using a visual vocabulary shaped by my study of biology, rather than by traditional mosaic techniques.” Composing his works with a play of light and shadow, he leaves room for “improvisation, uncertainty and atmosphere.”

Hunting for patterns with his camera in uncultivated landscapes, Sollinger chooses an image that appeals to him “both as an abstraction when viewed as a thumbnail and as an interesting compilation of interwoven patterns at full-screen size.” After increasing the image’s saturation and contrast on the computer, he crops and prints it to the desired size to use as a guide in arranging selected glass pieces, which are first laid upside-down and then flipped onto an adhesive-covered substrate.

“After eliciting an initial emotional response to the radial patterns in this scene,” says the artist, “I hope to remind viewers of the need to preserve the vestiges of our natural heritage.”

Louise B. Hafesh is an award-winning artist and writer and a contributing editor for The Artist’s Magazine. You can see examples of her work at and

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