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Winning in Acrylic: The Top 3 Paintings from AcrylicWorks 8

Every painting, regardless of subject matter or medium, begins with a spark of inspiration. These sparks might spring from something specific—a roundup of wild mustangs, the paintings of Edward Hopper, a walk through Beijing’s hutongs—or from something more intuitive—a memory, a mood, the intense gaze of a live model. AcrylicWorks 8 is a stunning and colorful collection of 116 paintings that all began with just such a creative spark.

While artistic inspiration is uniquely experienced by the individual, it’s the fast-drying properties and flexible nature of acrylic that’s so universally embraced by the 100+ winning artists featured in this special issue. Artists and non-artists alike will find the paintings in this showcase relatable because each is so deeply cemented in our common experience as humans and how we engage with the world around us.

During the unprecedented and challenging times we’ve experienced, art has remained a refuge for many of the artists featured in these pages. We’re grateful that the artists of AcrylicWorks 8 have elected to share with us not only their beautiful and imaginative artworks but that very personal experience, philosophy or feeling that provoked each piece and process from the get-go.

First Place Winner: Ken Goldman

Consummate skills paired with a willingness to step out of the comfort zone and change course mid-painting lead to a prizewinning portrait.

By Christine Proskow
AcrylicWorks 8 winner
A Touch of Red (Serenity) Acrylic on paper, 30×22

Ken Goldman’s first-place award winner, A Touch of Red (Serenity), stands out in all the right ways. In this riveting portrait, the elements of a cool-toned palette, fluid patterns and a powerful composition coalesce to reveal something of the ineffable: a mesmerizing interpretation of striking feminine beauty. The work presents a young woman seated in an upright yet relaxed posture. Her attentive gaze is fixed directly on the viewer. Strong light bathes her and her summery, floral-patterned dress. Goldman notes that similar floral patterns are “repeated subtly in the background, creating a dynamic textural echo. A simple triangular composition gives the subject stability, while the dominance of cool neutrals sets off her warm, reddish hair.”

According to Goldman, A Touch of Red (Serenity) is based on a photo he took of the model in the early 2000s during a figure drawing class he taught at San Diego’s Athenaeum Art Center. Intended as a reference to help the model resume her pose during the following class, the perfunctory photo was truly a lucky shot. “Normally, I don’t get to paint the poses that I set up for a class,” says Goldman. “Years later, I decided that I needed to paint this one.”

From the Juror

For juror Stephen Quiller, the strengths of A Touch of Red (Serenity), expertly translated from concept to completion, elevated it to a decisive First Place win. “I love the basically symmetrical composition that makes a regal, rhythmic, universal statement,” he says. “It shows an incredible use of acrylic paint. The predominant yellow-green to blue palette is highlighted with the subordinate notes of red-orange. It’s a very powerful piece that deserves the top award.”

About the Artist

Ken Goldman in his studio

Ken Goldman is an internationally known artist, author, art instructor and juror, who works in various media, including acrylic, watercolor, charcoal and oil. A fine artist for more than 50 years, his paintings are found in collections throughout the world and are included in the permanent collections of the San Diego Museum of Fine Art, the Hilbert Museum of California Art, the San Diego Museum of Natural History and the Zuo Wen Museum in Qingdao, China, among others. Goldman is the author of 16 instructional books on acrylic, pastel, charcoal and artistic anatomy. A past president of the National Watercolor Society, he and his artist wife, Stephanie, design site-specific artwork and murals.

Second Place Winner: Susan Martin

Beautiful lighting, rich texture and striking color reveal the richness and complexity of nature in this prizewinning painting.

by Rebecca Dvorak
AcrylicWorks 8 second place
Divine Marriage Acrylic on canvas, 48×48

The title of Susan Martin’s Second Place award-winning work, Divine Marriage, is both a description and a pun. “The subject matter derives from my photograph of two trees on a wooded hillside, inextricably bound together by ‘da vines,’” Martin says. “The resulting composition, reduced to its essence, both defines that connection and highlights the spaces (or differences) between them.” She goes on to explain that the red and green vines on each tree unite, as if inseparable, by many years of “marriage.”

It was the textures and complex colors of the subject that inspired Martin to paint this piece. She has always been attracted to color—even going so far as to immerse herself in a five-gallon bucket of blue paint when she was a child. That love of color pairs with her pursuit of textures. “I’m attracted to the way the light plays over the textures of any subject, be it leaves and flowers, bark and vines, or crumpled soda cans,” she says. “The more chaotic the better. Much of my botanical subject matter is located in my yard and around my neighborhood.”

From the Juror

This intricate detail is what drew AcrylicWorks 8 juror Stephen Quiller’s attention to the piece. “This is an ornate tapestry of texture and color—a feast for the eye,” he says. “I like the soft diagonal movement and curvilinear flow from lower left to upper right and the variety of shapes throughout the composition.” Quiller also highlights the abstract quality of the piece, which is at the core of Martin’s work. “There’s not one focal point,” he says. “I love the pieces of light that are small notes in the central part of the composition giving a feeling of the exterior beyond.”

About the Artist

AcrylicWorks8 artist
Susan Martin in her studio

Susan Martin was raised in South Texas. She has a B.A. in Studio Art from the University of Texas at Austin. Realizing that she wanted to share her interest through teaching, she continued with coursework in art education. A significant part of her educational experience was the opportunity to study photography and composition under the eminent photographer Russell Lee. Working in black and white with the emphasis on composition, lighting and texture had a lasting influence on her work.

Third Place: Lynn Neuman

A meticulous compositional framework sets the stage for color, light—and the healing power of art.

By John Eischeid
AcrylicWorks 8 third place
Canyon Song Acrylic on canvas, 48×72

The line begins in a serene turquoise pool and cuts a path between the sunlit rock face on the left and another rock face trapped in shadow on the right. It continues its descent into a small, deep green basin, over an amber shallow, gushes into a white rapid at an abrupt turn and finally cascades into a deep aquamarine pool, obscured by shadow.

“The lighting was perfect for creating a breathtaking scene on canvas,” says Lynn Neuman, the artist behind the Third-Place award-winning artwork Canyon Song. “The bright light at the top of the piece draws the eye up and then down the river to the lovely emerald pools of water. It carries you all the way down into the canyon, guiding the eye through the composition.”

From the Juror

The piece resonated with juror Stephen Quiller, who is himself a mountain painter. “I’ve come across canyons, pools and waterfalls similar to this,” he says. “With this extended vertical format, the artist has captured the essence of sunlight and shadow, transparency of water and movement of the falls into the cool depths.”

About the Artist

AcrylicWorks 8 third place
Lynn Neuman

The act of creative expression has always been a passion for Lynn Neuman. The ease of working with a paintbrush and sense of color come naturally to her. She began at a young age, practicing the craft with the sole desire to master it, and was mostly self-taught. It wasn’t until later in life that she attended Kendall College of Art & Design, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and graduated with honors. Several of Neuman’s paintings were selected to show in the Muskegon, Michigan, regional fine art exhibit, as well as in a number of galleries. Her small plein air paintings of the Lake Tahoe area can be seen at Alpine Home in Tahoe City, California.

Check out The Best of Acrylic, our special issue devoted to the outstanding works of art from the AcrylicWorks 8 Art Competition!
We would like to extend a special thanks to our competition sponsor, BLICK Art Materials for their ongoing support for artists!

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