Being an art juror is one of those tasks that falls into the “toughest job you’ll ever love” category. There’s no denying the satisfaction of getting to go “behind the scenes” of an art show or competition and to be witness to the diversity of subject and style—even within a single category. But when jurors claim that their selections were made with great difficulty, you can be sure they aren’t exaggerating.
In the 12th Annual Pastel 100 competition, our distinguished cateogry jurors included Brian Cobble for Landscape and Interior, Alan Flattmann for Portrait and figure; Claudia Seymour for Still and Floral; Cindy House for Animal and Wildlife; and Colette Odya Smith for Abstract and Non-Objective. Here, we’d like to officially thank our jurors for the efforts to help us tap the 100 top pastels. To see a celebration of the grand prize winners, check out our slide show at www.artistsnetwork.com/article/12pastel100. To get your copy of the special edition “Pastel 100” issue of the magazine, visit our online shop here to check out the April issue.
And because each of our jurors is a tremendous talent in his or her own right, we’d like share here a gallery featuring some of the jurors’ own work in pastel, along with reflections and comments on this year’s competition.
Brian Cobble: Landscape and Interior
“If you’re jealous of it, it’s probably good,” says our Landscape & Interior juror Brian Cobble, whose evaluation of art typically begins with this sort of “gut reaction,” at least initially. “Is there something about the painting that holds your attention? It could be color, composition, subject matter or perhaps something that provokes an emotional or psychological response. Or any combination of those elements,” he says.
The Albuquerque, N.M., artist is no stranger to the Pastel 100, having won the Ruth Richeson/Unison Pastels Award and The Pastel Journal Grand Prize in the seventh and ninth years of the contest. To artists still hoping for recognition, Cobble’s advice is simple: “Keep trying.” He cites this lyric from a Tom Waits song: “Fishing for a good time starts with throwing in your line.” Cobble also encourages artists to work toward their own unique style. “Learn to trust your own vision and talents,” he says.
Alan Flattmann: Portrait and Figure
Juror Alan Flattmann (www.alanflattmann.com) listed—not unexpectedly—such things as drawing, composition, color and technique as his criteria for judging. But once these elements were answered, his questions became more subjective: “Did the painting go beyond a copy of nature or photo? Did it convey a sense of mood or atmosphere? Was the overall concept clear and executed with conviction? Did the painting have character and style?”
Flattmann, a Pastel Society of America Hall of Fame artist, found many entries in the Portrait and Figure category that performed well under this exacting scrutiny. “I was impressed by the overall quality of entries,” he says. “They showed great imagination, skill and a solid understanding
of pastel techniques.”Flattmann, celebrated for his powerful portrayals of the people and scenery of New Orleans, maintains that the key to success is staying true to your own artistic aspirations. “Don’t be swayed by changing styles or discouraged by others’ opinions,” he says. “Find what you really enjoy painting and stick to it.”
Claudia Seymour: Still Life and Floral
This year’s Still Life & Floral juror, Claudia Seymour (www.claudiaseymour.com), is the president of the historic Salmagundi Club in New York and an award-winning painter. In this category, she looked for paintings that exhibited strong composition, style and “an effective use of color and value.” That said, Seymour acknowledges that determining rankings within a large group of paintings, in which the overall quality is quite good, ends up being—in her words—“arbitrary and extremely personal.”
Of this year’s entries, Seymour was quite impressed overall. “It was very enjoyable,” she says, “to see so much variety in style, use of color and positioning of elements within each composition. From the quite formal and precise to the much looser and more casual, I think many of the paintings would be easy prizewinners in any well respected national exhibition.” Ultimately, she believes a pastel needs to be attention-getting to stand out in a competitive situation such as this. “Whether it’s gorgeous color or color combinations, an unusual selection of objects, or a concept that’s obviously or visibly unique,” says Seymour, “pastelists have to offer work that’s strikingly individual in one or several ways to avoid falling into the ranks of the ordinary.”
Cindy House: Animal and Wildlife
Cindy House (www.cindyhouse.com), juror for the Animal & Wildlife category, declares that the jurying process was, for her, “one of the hardest tasks, by far, I have ever had to perform!” To assist in her deliberations, she—like other jurors—considered composition, color, drawing skills, pastel application and, specific to this category, “the ability to capture the essence of the animal.”
House says that, in many cases, an entry might meet most of these standards, but fall short in a single area. “There were a number of animal portraits that were skillfully painted,” she says, “but which lacked a certain component—an interesting composition, for example—that was necessary to make a ‘complete’ painting.” She suspected that in some cases, artists may have been relying too heavily on photos, leaving them unsure of how to handle areas of the photograph not in focus.
With this in mind, her advice to future contestants is to learn about and be able to portray accurately an animal’s habitat—as well as the
animal: “And pay attention to edges,” she says. “Edges not properly handled can be the downfall of a painting.” House’s career in art has included a wide range of work from field guide illustration to award-winning landscape painting, which typically features the presence of wildlife, primarily birds.
Colette Odya Smith: Abstract and Non-Objective
As juror for the Abstract & Non-Objective category, Colette Odya Smith ( www.coletteodya.smith.net), a multiple award winner herself in previous Pastel 100 competitions, approached the process with an expectation for, in her words, “high-level craftsmanship and facility with the pastel medium.” Beyond that, she looked for work made with “inspired mark-making, sensitive and precise color relationships and satisfying compositions.” Smith says she sought out paintings that “harnessed the power of these pure aesthetic elements to communicate at a visceral level and to evoke associations, experiences and ideas that connect viewers with the heart and mind of the artist.”
Smith, whose own work skirts the edges of realism and abstraction, expressed a true pleasure in seeing the strength of the submissions in the category. “Each year of the competition, this area seems to get better,” she says. “It shows an understanding of pastel as a medium of incredible diversity, not confined by any limitations of genre.”
Her advice to the aspiring painter is to continue learning and growing. “Don’t be content with technical virtuosity,” she says,” but strive to imbue your work with who and what you are and what’s important to you. The honesty and conviction in one’s artwork will always come through even though we may not have the words to describe that quality in the art.