Raymar Art Painting Competition Finalists (8th Annual Competition Month #8 - November 2014)

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   November Best of Show
Award Sponsor: RayMar Art
Judge: Thomas Jefferson Kitts

Pink Peonies and Lilies by Stacy Barter
24 x 30 Oil

Judge's Comments: Wow. What can I say? Think of the 19th century French painter Henri Fatin-Latour. Go check him out and then come back to Stacy’s painting. She may have done him one better. Stacy threw down a lot of paint and worked it alla prima in what appears to be within a short period of time. It is also obvious she had a great time painting it as well. And yet, we all know that when a painting becomes this thick and wet every touch becomes fraught with risk and things can skid out of control without warning. Edges can become mushy. Colors can chalk up. Transparent darks can be lost forever. If you have not looked at the larger image of her painting stop reading now and do so. Zoom in. Enjoy how Stacy not only uses her consummate drawing skills, she uses the inherent properties of paint itself to represent a level of form and detail that goes beyond rendering. Stacy clearly understands what paint can do, and when it is time to do it – when the suface is slick, when it becomes sticky and grabs, when to go thick, and when to keep it thin. This painting is a tour de force. Stacy shows us how adroit she is at responding to oil’s quirky foibles without overworking things. She loads her brush in many different ways and she is killer at hiding the presence of a palette knife. (Not that anyone has to hide the knife.) She also understands how dropping little jewels of color into neutral passages juice them up. Her edgework is simultaneously precise and happenstance, which imparts a sense of controlled abandon, and everywhere you look you find modulated color. There are hundreds, if not thousands of touches on the surface and none of them feel arbitrary or unnecessary. All are descriptive and unique, from the grain of the wood, to the straw of the basket, to the distinct differences between a peonie and a lily. And I can’t let this last part pass without comment: Stacy even articulates the bug-chewed stems and leaves of the flowers, a touch that connects them to the soil they grew in. There are entire worlds to be found in the smallest areas of Stacy’s painting and they all add up to a sum greater than their parts. It’s like what Quang Ho says, “A painting should include the micro as well as the macro”. And finally, I think Stacy’s ability to hold back on her impasto work until the very end shows an incredible sense of timing and self-control. It is always tempting to jump into thick paint too soon, or to mess around with a passage again because it felt so good the first time around. But Stacy didn’t do that here. She knew when to hit the finishing notes, when to drop the brush, and when to walk away. - Thomas Jefferson Kitts







   Finalist
Award Sponsor: RayMar Art
Judge: Thomas Jefferson Kitts

They have eyes but see not, ears but hear not by Marc Chatov
60 x 44 Oil

Judge's Comments: I am not a particularly religious man myself but let’s start by getting this out on the table: Psalm 115:5-8 “They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.” Marc Chatov appears to be drawing from the biblical text above for his painting. And this was the only painting I reviewed that overtly set out to tell a story using a blend of religious iconography and contemporary references. You do not need to know the biblical passage to properly read Marc’s painting because he works with references most people know. Who among us has not walked past the homeless while checking in on our Facebook status? Who among us hasn’t missed out on something meaningful in life because we failed to be present at a time we should? A halo around the head of a Christ-like figure instantly tells us we are in the presence of a spiritual being. However, Marc’s painting is not about the two pedestrians who fail to take notice of Jesus as they pass by, it is about you or me, who have stopped in our tracks, and it is about Christ who awaits our reaction. All of this is accentuated by our inability to turn and look into the eyes of anyone else. This is a complicated painting, and one that can be interpreted in multiple ways. So I will will just offer one possibility: There is form created by light and shadow and a concerted effort to create a powerful design. The blue field in the window with the pink oval could conceivably be associated with the presence of Mary, Mother of God, and if so, then it is a nice touch to see the blue repeated downwards towards Christ through the shadow on the wall onto his shoulder and into the lapel of his jacket, as well as seeing it appear one more time on the concrete step behind his right boot. Why? Because the color visually stitches the composition together while it also extends the narrative. One can simply enjoy the blue as blue or attach a deeper religious significance to the way it envelopes Jesus and gently separates him from rest of the world. Marc’s narrative intent may be overt but his handling of this painting is sublime in many ways. I enjoy the strong and confident application of paint and how it conveys a certain degree of honesty. Marc quietly draws upon a strong article of faith and contextualizes it with our hectic modern life. - Thomas Jefferson Kitts







   Finalist
Award Sponsor: RayMar Art
Judge: Thomas Jefferson Kitts

Cypress Sunset by Laurie Kersey
30 x 40 Oil

Judge's Comments: This painting is imbued with an outstanding sense of natural light. Anyone who has set out to include the sun in their frame of view can appreciate how it can create a host of problems, none the least of which is the fact that paint itself cannot match the dynamic range of light. Thus, as Turner once advised, “Do not set out to paint the light, paint the effects of light instead.” Laurie not only succeeds at delivering the light, she composes with it as well. Note how the upper boughs of the cypress tree breaks down where the sunlight passes through the needles. Look at how she leads our eyes downwards using light diffracting on the water below. Note the soft penumbra along the shoreline and the delicate top and back lighting on the distant cypress trunks, before we finally land on the illuminated foreground. Laurie does more than replicate a view, she is designs with the tools light has given her. Also note how this vertical movement is placed off-center, yet counter weighted by the silhouette and shadows of the cypress tree to our left. A classic light/dark reversal, asymmetrically balanced. Laurie twists and weaves natural shapes and forms to create an interesting flow. Some of the flow originates from the powerful forces this landscape is subject to but Laurie is not just copying what is there. She is making decisions that reinforce rhythm and movement throughout this painting. There are inward and lateral movements. There are diagonals movements that roll off to our right and curvilinear movements that draw us back towards the center. And throughout it all she uses selective lost and found edges to pick out areas of interest. - Thomas Jefferson Kitts







   Finalist
Award Sponsor: RayMar Art
Judge: Thomas Jefferson Kitts

Morning on Main by Troy Kilgore
8 x 10 Oil

Judge's Comments: This is a small painting, which is common to those painted en plein air, and its intimate size makes it an exquisite gem. Everything that should be in a larger, more developed work is to be found here: an adept grouping of values into two strong light and shadow shapes, additional grouping of those shapes using a division of warms and cools, and a fresh handling of paint that can be difficult to maintain in a studio setting. Some folks might consider this to be a sketch. I consider it a complete painting. The colors remain clean because each stroke has been carefully considered and laid down in a sensible order. Enough transparency remains to spice up the larger shapes, and attention was given to the direction of the brush pulls. Troy knows how to start and when to stop. We can all learn a lesson from that, right? - Thomas Jefferson Kitts







   Finalist
Award Sponsor: RayMar Art
Judge: Thomas Jefferson Kitts

"Boscs on a Ledge" by Anthony Robinson
12" x 12" Oil

Judge's Comments: I know I’m going to get asked by some folks why I picked this painting and when I am I will simply tell them to go look at the painting again. It is a fine example of how paint can have its own integrity beyond using it as a means to fool the eye. Plus, I’m charmed. Utterly charmed. It feels free of the sometimes burdensome legacy of High. Minded. Art. It even passes the squint test. It looks like what we’d see if Van Gogh had ever met Da Vinci. Oh, and I want to eat this painting. - Thomas Jefferson Kitts







   Finalist
Award Sponsor: RayMar Art
Judge: Thomas Jefferson Kitts

Bright Foliage by Laura Gable
11 x 14 Oil

Judge's Comments: What I like most about this painting is the immediacy of Laura’s brushwork and her light handed application of paint. She keeps things simple and unencumbered by detail and presents the minimum amount of information needed to position her shapes and colors in space. She set diagonal streaks of warm dappled sunlight against the horizontal geometry of the bridge, which also serves to indicate a sense of human scale. The sidewalk provides an inviting lead into the scene and the dark reflection of the tree in the water grounds the image. I also enjoyed how Laura bravely punched in rusty reds into the tree foliage because the color makes the other colors pop and provide relief from all of the green. - Thomas Jefferson Kitts







   Finalist
Award Sponsor: RayMar Art
Judge: Thomas Jefferson Kitts

Going Places by Jennifer Diehl
24 x 36 Oil

Judge's Comments: First and foremost, I hope this lovely painting sets to rest the old artistic canard that warm colors always come forward, and cool colors always recede because that is the exact opposite of what Jennifer is doing here. If you compare a red square against a blue square on an isolated grey background then yes, the rule holds true. But in real life other visual clues override such weak optical effects. Jennifer has backlit her street scene with an intense yellow light making it a fine example of “contre jour” painting. By loading all those warm yellows and greens into the background she makes the reds in the foreground appear cooler by comparison. Yet, if the warm/near & cool/far formula is so true then why should Jennifer’s background look so distant? Because her well-drafted linear perspective, strategically placed overlapping figures, progression of larger to smaller shapes, aerial perspective, and our first-hand experience of seeing streets diminish into the distance, tell us so. - Thomas Jefferson Kitts







   Finalist
Award Sponsor: RayMar Art
Judge: Thomas Jefferson Kitts

The Helmsley Building by Mark Lague
20 x 24 Oil

Judge's Comments: Mark’s approach to painting is both simultaneously realistic and abstract. Realistic in the sense that we can discern a rationality in the shapes and colors of the world we know, and abstract in the way he fractures that world into bits and pieces and flattens it like a 1950’s abstract expressionist. At first sight this image may appear disjointed but then the brain kicks in and start to put it together. That’s the joy in Mark’s work. By choosing to paint in this way he requires us to participate. There is great diversity of mark-making going on within this painting – no pun intended – when at times Mark offers an edge for us to latch onto, and other times destroys or denies us anything of the kind. But nothing we see here is arbitrary. Every mark he makes is calculated and used for an effect. He paints by staining, pushing, pulling, scraping, smearing, poking, wiping, and touching. I am guessing he manipulates thin and thick paint using stiff and soft brushes, an assortment knives, perhaps a squeegee, and other tools I can’t second-guess, and all of it results in a rich and varied surface pleasing to the eye. And through it all Mark maintains absolute control over his light and shadow masses and color temperatures – the binding forces which prevent his painting from flying apart. - Thomas Jefferson Kitts







   Finalist
Award Sponsor: RayMar Art
Judge: Thomas Jefferson Kitts

Persimmons on a Wood Crate by Elizabeth Floyd
12 x 24 Oil

Judge's Comments: This is one of the two most traditional paintings I’ve picked for November. It is a lovely example of trompe-l’œil, a school of painting that goes back hundreds of years to the Baroque era, if not all the way back to the walls of Pompeii. Its main intent is to fool us into thinking that what we are seeing is real. But while mimesis is central to the art form, an artist’s success at creating it is largely measured by how skillful they are at concealing their hand. And Elizabeth succeeds. Formally, this painting is not about persimmons, leaves, or apple crates. It is about the picture plane and specifically, how and in what way a painter should violate it. (The picture plane is the surface a painting is painted on. Think of it as a transparent window you can see the image through. The painter uses her skills to either push an object into, or pull it out of the picture plane – an issue that has preoccupied artists for centuries.) Before Elizabeth even picked up a brush, she aligned the crate in such a way that it represented or became the picture plane and then stacked persimmons in a pyramid along the top edge just behind it. All very classical and quite restrained. However, to increase visual interest, and more importantly, to create a shallow sense of form and depth, Elizabeth then hung a single fruit below the edge of the crate so its rounded form would cast a shadow across the face of the box, revealing the side light. In addition, she carefully laid a twig with curling leaves at an angle to further extend a sense of spatial depth and placed similar leaves behind the box as rhythmic echoes. All of Elizabeth's efforts at modeling the form tells us where everything sits in the picture plane – either in or out. You couldn’t find a better example of traditional trompe-l’œil. - Thomas Jefferson Kitts







   Finalist
Award Sponsor: RayMar Art
Judge: Thomas Jefferson Kitts

grapplers of reliable recycling by Kirk Larsen
10 x 15 Oil

Judge's Comments: Initially, I flipped past this image pretty quickly but kept returning to it until I decided to pull it back into my third cut. Here’s why: Reason one: Kirk has chosen an unusual subject for such a loose and gestural outdoor effort. And given the fact the plein air crowd leans decidely towards depicting bucolic landscapes and ladies wearing white dresses in dappled light, the industrial nature of this image appealed to me. But subject alone is not enough to create a strong painting. Reason two: Kirk is using an old-time illustrator’s device in this painting called counter-change. Counter-change is when one part of an object starts off as a light shape against a dark shape, and then transforms into a dark shape against a light shape. Or vice versa. If this confuses you then look at the green crane on our left. The base of the crane is dark against the light of the dirt. The carriage and upward arm of the crane is light against the dark junk pile behind it. Then, the arm turns dark again past the elbow as it heads downwards, against the light sky and the tractor-trailers. Get it? Kirk is placing a dark against a light, a light against a dark, and then a dark against light again. Counter-change encourages the eye to cycle through an image and keep moving about. Look for examples of counter-change in most of the great works of any period. - Thomas Jefferson Kitts







   Finalist
Award Sponsor: RayMar Art
Judge: Thomas Jefferson Kitts

Sentinel by Suzie Baker
10 x 10 Oil

Judge's Comments: This is more than a painting of a ram’s skull. It is really about knitting together large and small shapes, turning and modulating a surface, creating lost and found edges, expressing concave and convex forms, and using light and dark masses in a Yin and Yang way. Suzie had every opportunity to divorce this skull from the ground and she did not take it. In fact, she actively worked at not doing so. Squint at this image and you will see places where the skull and ground appear to merge, both within the light and in the shadow masses. You will also see edges where the skull and ground clearly separate. Where two different colors of similar values meet the eye can travel across the boundary, effectively stitching the skull and ground together. In addition, Suzie is playing with the directionality of her brushwork in a meaningful way. Sometimes her strokes align with the surface of the skull, and sometimes they diametrically oppose it to introduce variety. Also, look at how the marks made outside the skull activate the edges and shapes found within the skull. All interrelated. None of it accidental. All considered. Furthermore, I enjoy the way Suzie progressively moves from larger shapes on the periphery to smaller ones in the middle because that progression leads us to the point of focus. This large to small transformation is an old device used by portrait painters to draw us into the eyes of a sitter. I don’t know if Suzie was conscious of doing it or not, but look how she has set the leading eye (socket) of the skull almost dead center in the painting. This is another device the old masters employed when painting a portrait. A blast from the past. - Thomas Jefferson Kitts







   Finalist
Award Sponsor: RayMar Art
Judge: Thomas Jefferson Kitts

The Carousel by John McCartin
76cm x 100cm Oil

Judge's Comments: John’s work has been celebrated here numerous times for good reason. His paintings combine intimate observation with technical knowledge and great facility. The detail he invests in his images never interfere with the structural underpinnings and the paint handling is descriptive of the thing it represents. John comprehends how the human eye sees. Rather than overly articulate every element in this painting, John picks and chooses what to call out like a film director planning a shot. He puts a fence post on our extreme right to keep us in the frame. Yet he does so without calling too much attention to it so our focus remains where it should. He does the same thing with the dark mass of foliage in the upper left corner. Again, providing enough information to tell us what it is, but not too much for it to become a distraction. John is also taking full advantage of the warm and cool light that nature has offered – warm light from a low sun, and cool light from a partly cloudy sky above. Look at the cows. They tell us everything we need to know about the directionality and temperature of the light. Any part (plane) of a cow that turns towards the sun also turns towards the warmer part of the spectrum, mostly in the form of rim light. Any part of a cow (meaning, a different plane) that turns towards the sky becomes cooler, essentially moving toward the blue part of the spectrum. John demonstrates how temperature shifts don’t need to be as dramatic as what Sargent, Sorolla, or Zorn might provide, they just have to be consistent and unified. Consistent with the feeding carousel, the distant trees, the ground, and everything else in his painting. - Thomas Jefferson Kitts