Fly Over Country (pastel, 21×29)
While on a road trip through Nebraska, Terry Donahue saw in the distance what looked like a “white tornado.” On closer inspection he realized the sight was a swirling mass of migrating snow geese. For the next three days, the artist photographed the marvelous creatures, and, from these reference photos, he created his winning pastel, Fly Over Country. The title is a wordplay based on a comment by a political pundit who described the Midwest as flyover country—dull and not worth a visit. Donahue, who returned to Nebraska two weeks after the snow geese migration to watch sandhill cranes in flight, clearly feels otherwise.
“I don’t do thumbnail or rough sketch drawings prior to starting a piece,” says the artist. “Some works fall together quickly, whereas others build from a particular vision or impression of mine and are continually forcing themselves in new directions. These works take a little more time to finish; Fly Over Country was one.
Donahue can trace his desire to be a painter from his 10th year. After earning a bachelor of fine arts degree at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, he went into commercial art and continued in that field for the next 12 years. Seeing that he was stressed and stifled by the creative restraints of the commercial art industry, his wife, Deb, urged him to pursue a fine art career, to which he now devotes himself full time. “I wouldn’t balk at monetary success,” says Donahue, “but what’s most important to me is that my art be instantly recognizable as mine. In my artistic touch and my handling of the medium, I hope to develop a style that will always be seen as unique to me.”
If I Had Wings (colored pencil, 16×23)
“I believe that every drawing is a self-portrait on some level,” says Laurene Puls. If I Had Wings is no exception. Puls has always identified with turtles and had them as pets as a child. In dreams she often experiences the exhilaration of superhuman flight, although in real life she fears flying.
A whimsical calendar picture of turtles sunning themselves with butterflies perched on their heads sparked the idea for Puls’s winning piece. “I started a drawing of turtles, in a pond, looking as if they were about to take flight as they watched other turtles that were already airborne. But in that rendering, the feeling of freedom and exhilaration that I assumed would come with being weightless was missing. I put the piece aside for a few years.”
When the artist saw a photograph that her daughter had taken from an airplane as it descended into Ohio, Puls knew she’d finally found the perfect setting. To render the main characters, Puls relied on reference photos plus ceramic figurines of a butterfly and turtle that helped her see their three-dimensionality. Working with colored pencils, her primary medium since 1993, she began by laying in the lightest values and gradually worked toward the darks, applying scores of layers over the course of hundreds of hours.
During her college years, advisors turned Puls away from their art programs because she lacked high school art training. Not until 26 years later did she take up drawing again, and she’s been studying with the same instructor—Amy Lindenberger—since 1993. She feels entering competitions has helped her grow as an artist and is a signature member of the Colored Pencil Society of America. “Having lived within my own self-imposed artistic limits for almost 30 years,” says Puls, “I now look for opportunities to expand my abilities.”
Roping Horses (scratchboard, 8×24)
Self-taught artist Cathy Sheeter currently works full time as a dog groomer but hopes one day to earn a living from her artwork. Learning in the same day that she’d placed in The Artist’s Magazine Competition and won a purchase prize at the Greeley Stampede Invitational Western Art Show offered huge encouragement.
“I grew up in a very small town with a large ranching population and was actively involved with showing animals of all types—including horses,” says Sheeter. “I use reference photos for most of my work, but having an innate knowledge of my subject matter (primarily Western art, wildlife and domestic animals) is also helpful.” For Roping Horses, the artist worked from a photo she took at a junior rodeo. “I cropped the image,” she says, “to highlight the variety of textures in the horse’s neck, its eye, the bridle leather and the rope.”
She executed her artwork in scratchboard, a medium involving a paper or hardboard surface coated with chalk or white clay, which is covered with a layer of ink. A sharp blade or pointed tool etches the inked surface, revealing the white below. “Scratchboard art is all just lines and dots!” says the artist. “By using short and long lines, more or less pressure and a few different tools, I can create a diversity of textures.”
Scratchboarding is demanding—and it doesn’t allow for many mistakes; however, you won’t find this art form in many fine art galleries. One of Sheeter’s goals is to raise awareness of the medium. She loves to educate people about the art form and moderates the scratchboard forum on WetCanvas (www.wetcanvas.com). “Scratchboard should be regarded with the same esteem as other fine art media,’ she says. “I’d like to see scratchboard continue to spread in popularity and become well known throughout the world.”
4 at Rest (pastel, 32×32)
“My work is more about composition and light than subject matter,” says Rita Kirkman. In animals she sees aesthetic lines and expressiveness.
She works mostly from photos and plays with compositions on her computer. Her piece 4 at Rest mainly derives from one image, but two cows were pasted in from other shots. She liked the overlapping diagonals—and enjoyed breaking a compositional rule by using an even number of elements.
The artist, who holds a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Dayton in Ohio, begins her pastels by applying Art Spectrum pastel primer with a wide brush to Gatorboard (a plastic foam board). She then applies pastels in thin layers, building values from dark to light. “On large pieces such as 4 at Rest,” says Kirkman, “I don’t like to blend; the pastel sits on the primer so the underlying tone and texture show through, allowing that crispness and sparkle only pastel can achieve.”
Chinook Salmon: Nearing Journey’s End (acrylic, 19×27)
Mark Hobson was 23 years old when in 1977, hitchhiking through Africa, he met the not-yet-famous wildlife artist Robert Bateman, who’d recently left teaching to paint full time. “He gave me a glimpse into the possibility of turning my hobby into a full-time occupation,” says Hobson. In 1987, the possibility became reality.
In recent years the artist has received more and more commissions to paint underwater scenes. “Getting the background color correct and fading it gradually in accord with the aerial perspective of the underwater world is a tricky business,” says Hobson. “I premix several colors that I apply wet-into-wet, blending with a wide hake brush.” Another challenge is rendering underwater lighting—such as the light patterns on the salmon’s body in his winning painting. Scuba diving experience enables him to create those patterns from memory.
Hobson’s studio—a floating two-story cabin off Canada’s British Columbian coast—is a 9-kilometer boat ride from civilization. “I’ve enough inspiration outside my window,” he says, “for more than one lifetime.”
Writer’s Block (acrylic, 24×18)
“Spiders are misunderstood,” says Cara Bevan. “I paint them to show their true beauty and ingenuity.” From the spider’s ability to adapt came the ironic title of her painting: Writer’s Block. She feels arachnids overcome challenges better and more creatively than many humans.
Striving for utmost detail, Bevan wants viewers to feel they can touch the creatures she renders. She works from reference photos, often using a projector to get the scale exactly right. “The hairs on the spider caused me the most trouble—and were the most fun to paint,” says Bevan. In addition to detail, the artist works to create a sense of value and space, like that achieved by the blurred background effect. Most of her paintings have deep shadows and bright highlights, which she believes provoke reactions in the viewer.
“I want to show the world the true beauty animals possess—particularly animals that are misunderstood or ignored,” says Bevan. “If I can create for them a little more respect, my work will have paid off.”
A board member of the Society of Tempera Painters, Koo Schadler conducts workshops on egg tempera and old master painting.
Oak Harbor WA
Jim Thorpe PA
New Braunfels TX
Viola Pace Knudsen
Palm Bay FL
New York NY
Virginia Beach VA
Sharon K. Schafer
Boulder City NV
Prince George, BC