15 Prizewinning Works of Art

Meet the winners from Artists Magazine‘s 37th Annual Art Competition

Every year, Artists Magazine has the happy job of showcasing the exceptional works of art being made today by artists who deserve time in the spotlight. With the help of five distinguished art jurors, Artists Magazine awarded three prizes and 10 honorable mentions in five categories in this year’s 37th Annual Art Competition. This year’s award-winning artists have employed a variety of media and techniques to bring their visions to life. Drawing inspiration from the divine, the natural, and the quotidian, these works display a range of expression from the powerful to the playful.

In this quick showcase of the 15 prizewinning works of art, we celebrate the artists’ talent, hard work, and the awesome scope of creativity. Make sure to check out the January/February 2021 issue of Artists Magazine to see not only the prizewinning work but all 50 honorable mentions!


At the Museum (After Mel Bochner) (oil on canvas, 36×36) by Nancy K. Bass

1st Place: Nancy K. Bass
Boca grande, Florida

My ongoing series, “At the Museum,” builds on a passion for painting cows that I developed over the course of many years of raising cattle in central Virginia. Each painting in the series juxtaposes a cow with an iconic work of American or European art. This reflects my interest in the exploration of color and texture, and the boundary between nature and culture. Mel Bochner’s Blah, Blah, Blah appealed to me both for its playful use of text and its message, which perfectly captures the ennui of the present moment. The challenge lay in finding the perfect cow to pair with the colors and attitude of the artwork.

Jam (oil on canvas, 40×20) by Carrie Cook

2nd Place: Carrie Cook
Austin, Texas

Jam was born in a Hollywood entertainment compound. At age three, when his trainers stopped working with great apes, he was sent to Florida, where he was reunited with his mother, Geri.

My current series focuses on the great apes living at the sanctuary. Through
every portrait, I encourage people to acknowledge each animal’s right to life and freedom from harm. Their stories are inextricably linked with our own, and — like ours — are filled with both loss and hope.

A Signature Member of both the Society of Animal Artists and Artists for Conservation, I actually consider myself a portrait artist and strive to portray these animals as the individuals that they are.

Mr. White (oil on linen, 12×16) by Yael Maimon

3rd Place: Yael Maimon
Ashkelon, Israel

This is a portrait of my cat, who’s named “Mr. White” after Walter White, the main character in the television series “Breaking Bad.” The viewer sees a cat with striking white fur. The lighting is so dramatic that the shadowed fur blends with the dark background, but is still perceived as white. In this way, I feel the painting highlights the “dark side” that can be found in anyone — even a pet cat — a message which parallels the evolution of Walter White from a good-guy chemistry teacher and family man into a fearless criminal.


Under the Shade Sails, No. 2 (oil on canvas, 20×20) by Ni Zhu

1st Place: Ni Zhu
Santa Clara, California

I’ve painted many of the narrow streets in my hometown as well as those I’ve seen in the ancient towns of Italy. These streets are expressive — full of character and potential. This painting is one of a series that explores the shade sail as an emblem of local culture as well as an organic element of the “streetscape.” Although my typical format choice for these scenes is portrait, I had so much time for painting during the pandemic lockdown that I challenged myself to try a square.

In my work, I attempt to make ordinary things appear unusual and beautiful. At first, I was drawn to the way the light and shadow plays around the figure, and to the way the diagonals of the sails break into the horizontals and verticals of the buildings, creating a sense of dynamic harmony. The square format ultimately helped in achieving a fresh impression of the subject.

The Dark Line (acrylic on ragboard, 291/2×32) by John Jude Palencar

2nd Place: John Jude Palencar
Medina, Ohio

The Dark Line was painted over the course of several months in my Ohio studio. Although I’m primarily a figurative painter, I’ve recently begun working on a series of tree portraits. Trees show their history in their bark and limbs as they grow, and in this way are not unlike people. In the painting, slivers of light trace across the distant landscape. The snow and the shifting light in the foreground enhance the surreal mood and sense of isolation.

The actual tree in this painting is located in a cemetery between Mystic, Conn., and Westerly, R.I., where I spent a full day collecting reference images and sketching. Within the image, I included hidden symbols that reflect my own personal iconography. I also included objects and shapes that viewers can interpret for themselves, leaving the piece open-ended, with numerous meanings and possible interpretations.

Waterlilies With Reflection of Sky and Trees (pastel on paper, 18×24) by Musa Musa

3rd Place: Musa Musa
Woodbridge, Ontario

This painting was inspired by a visit to Monet’s gardens in Giverny where
I was particularly drawn to a group of waterlilies tucked away under a canopy of trees. While some lilies rested peacefully in the shadows, others bathed in the rays of light that permeated through the thick foliage. The sky and trees made their way into the scene as reflections in the water. I found the contrast between light and dark attractive, and between the blue of the sky and the rich tones of the water. To me, the harmonious forms and relationships of the lily pads communicated a theme of togetherness — the need to work with one another to create a larger, more meaningful whole.


Imperfections (pastel on paper, 14 1/2 x 1 11/2) by Arlene Tarpey

1st Place: Arlene Tarpey
Glenview, Illinois

This painting is part of an ongoing series exploring the abstract. My process was experimental and interactive. Rather than planning beforehand, I let the materials and colors guide me, allowing for mistakes, erasing and reworking. I’m drawn to the imperfections created by using soft pastel and smoothing the pigment with my fingers or a sponge, leaving a layer of transparency. From a bold beginning, this work evolved into a simple and quiet painting.

Bridge (oil and 23-karat gold leaf on canvas, 36×40) by Dennis Bertram

2nd Place: Dennis Bertram
Buffalo, New York

I’m curious about the complex nature of human lives, particularly our difficulty making wise decisions. Bridge reflects this complexity through the denseness, variety and multiplicity of the structures in the painting. The use of gold leaf was inspired by religious iconography symbolizing the belief that no matter how difficult and complicated our lives become, there may be the possibility of redemption. The title is simply derived from the composition, which reminded me of land bridges. Bridge is in many ways a culmination of a similar style used in my other paintings.

Where’s the Dance Floor? (acrylic on canvas, 60×48) by Theresa Girard

3rd Place: Theresa Girard
Bonita springs, Florida

When approaching this work, my intention was to engage the canvas fully. I wasn’t looking to conceal, dissolve or clarify a particular area or mark. My process was merely a search for conflict in the colors and a presence of the paint. I allowed the painting to dominate the interaction and used it to describe a moment in time that was meaningful to me.


Emily and The Ram “Conjuring” (charcoal sanded into paper, 63×42) by Annie Murphy-Robinson

1st Place: Annie Murphy-Robinson
Carmichael, California

This piece was a labor of love. I saw the ram at an antique store, and the owner let me take photos of it after closing. I had my daughter pose with the ram wearing an antique dress, and I took at least 100 pictures. When I looked at them afterward, I knew this was the image I wanted to draw. There’s a look of wonder on my daughter’s face. The image captures her tentative reach toward the ram and his “surety of self” as he stares at the viewer. I didn’t want to hide the fact that he’s taxidermic, which led me to compose the image as though the touch of Emily’s hand could bring him back to life — thus the “conjuring” nod in the title.

Head Study of Matthew Innis (oil on panel, 18×36) by Nicole Moné

2nd Place: Nicole Moné
New Castle, New york

This is a portrait of the editor-in-chief of Underpaintings Online Magazine — a fellow painter and one of my closest friends. This painting is filled with inside jokes drawn from our conversations, emails and texts over the past 16 years. It’s an homage to a friendship rooted in art and steeped in twisted humor. I’ve painted serious portraits of Matthew many times. This painting was made for myself without any expectation that it would be embraced by anyone other than the two of us. In truth, I have enough material for many such paintings. I laughed many times while creating this artwork and doubt that I will ever be able to look at it without laughing out loud. I’m grateful for such a friendship, and I’m pleased that this peek into our “normal” has been so well-received.

Hug (oil on canvas, 192/3×192/3) by Marcos Rey

3rd Place: Marcos Rey
Arequipa, Peru

This painting was inspired by the embrace of a mother. No one
loves like a mother, who teaches her children to love and care for themselves. In fact, the figure we see only from the back in the painting is the mother of the model. Through use of the chiaroscuro technique, this painting plays with the idea of being able to “hug” and protect ourselves when our mother isn’t able to. For me, the glazes are important because they provide realism, making the piece vibrate through its textures.

Still Life/Interior

Tomatoes in Plastic Bag (oil on canvas, 24×18) by Stella Kim

1st Place: Stella Kim
Richmond, California

For my painting, I turned to the very ordinary subjects around me, such as tomatoes from the market in a plastic bag. I wanted to depict the freshness by utilizing layers of saturated color and adjusting different areas of brightness.

I made a special effort on the plastic bag, emphasizing the varying values with tinted colors. It has been a pleasurable challenge for me to play with the magnificence of colors in a reserved expression.

Collection of Bottles (oil on panel, 6×8) by Todd M. Casey

2nd Place: Todd M. Casey
Redding, Connecticut

This painting was modeled after a collection of bottles and similar materials found lying around my studio. Each object in the composition is connected by color, shape or texture. For the most part, the color scheme is neutral, except for a few elements of red and green. I wanted the piece to convey a mysterious mood and imply a story without being overly descriptive.

The Hundredth Monkey (oil on canvas panel, 23×21) by Julie Beck

3rd Place: Julie Beck
Cambridge, Massachusetts

The Hundredth Monkey (oil on canvas panel, 23×21) by Julie Beck

The Hundredth Monkey began as a still life inspired by a gray, gold and black piece of fabric. It resulted, however, in a painting that dances around the concept of internal and external human exploration while echoing the still life works of the Dutch Golden Age. The painting features objects related
to magic and science (two sides of the same coin) as well as items which suggest self-exploration (the mirrored ball and Darwin’s classic “I Think …” from his notebook). Also included are items representing the senses by which humans explore and experience the world: sight (microscope), sound (bell), touch (hand), taste (egg), and smell (flower).

Make sure to check out the January/February 2021 issue of Artists Magazine to see not only the prizewinning work but all 50 honorable mentions!

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