July Art Muse Contest Winners and Finalists


Congratulations to our winners and finalists.

A big thank you to our July judge, Bev Jozwiak.





Master Class Winner

Philippe Gandiol, Main Street, Small Place: Great design, love the cools with the touch of red. Wonderful brushwork. Nice story, this painting just has it all.  


Master Class Finalists:  

Lucas Bonoi, Pigeon: Pleasing composition. Nice simple shapes. Intriguing figure.  


Poppy Balser, Parrsboro Weir: Beautiful Watercolor. Nice wet in wet technique, and dry brush. The landscape showing through the netting on the left is really well done. Strong composition and clean color.  


David Boyd, In at First Light: Love the painterly quality. This painting tells a story without getting bogged down in the details. Nice unity and color dominance.  


Adam Clague, Babysitters: Such a typical scene, (just a slice of life) that doesn’t seem posed at all. Wonderful brushwork, composition, and story.  


Jane Hunt, Autumn Aspens: Subtlety of color draws you in. The strong light on the trees makes this piece.  They really stand out, against the cool of the mountains in the distance.  



Emerging Artist Winner 

Cecile Morgan, On the Ready.  Complex piece. Not having all the dogs in the light, made a stronger composition. Full of movement, and light, with a great narrative.  


Gallery Representation Finalist

Layne Johnson, Storm Approaching: The bright blue sky, with the more muted landscape makes for a powerful piece. There is no denying this artist can paint.  


Emerging Artist Finalists

Kristen Santucci, Edgewater Sunset: Different color combination. The Pink clouds are perfection. It makes me feel something, perhaps a bit lonely or isolated.  


Alex Kelly, Lizzie: Wonderful skin tones, just enough cools to set off the warmth in her face. Lovely painterly quality.  


Amber Blazina, Avocado Half: Great brush strokes, such a simple subject that could have been boring, but the paint application and subtle color changes made it inviting. My only concern was the avocado is dead center, but the dark shadow to one side helps to overcome that problem.   


Charity Anderson, Cache Valley Delight: Nice landscape, like the dominance of cools. The creek leads you to the horizon line, and the reflections in the water help tie this whole piece together.


Merit Award

While Kelley and I don’t have any say in who wins an award each month (that’s entirely up to our judges), we do however, get to choose an artist who did not win an award but we feel entered work that merits recognition.

Wow, July had a ton of fabulous work in our Master Class and it made it impossible for us to not choose from those entries. We usually pick one piece to highlight but with the amount of excellent work we struggled to focus on one piece. Instead, we decided to look at the totality of each artists' submissions. Not that it made it any easier. While there was strong work that could have been awarded from the Emerging Artist's category, when we looked at the Master Class it was apparent that the entries strongly elevated the subject matter. We had more than 4 artists vying for our attention. Our choice? 

Diane Frossard. From her excellent draftsmanship, solid design, expert painting handling and the way she depicted the light quality and sense of place is outstanding. Her nocturne piece conveyed the sense of peace and quiet found at the end of the day and the two horse paintings captures the vitality of the animals in the setting. Excellent work, Diane. 

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July judge, artist Stanka Kordic.

Monthly Cash Prizes - $500 Master Class - $400 Emerging Artists - $100 Budding Artists
$25/2 entries or $35/3 entries

Click here to enter TODAY! 

Have you heard about our new contest "abstracted". Contest runs through Sept. 30th. Larry Moore is our judge.  Click here to learn more about "abstracted".

Art Muse Contest February Winners and Finalists




A huge Thank You to our judge, Kevin Courter and congratulations to our winners and finalists.



Master Class Winner, Mike Barr, Franklin to Flinders


Mike does a masterful job using subtle shifts in both temperature and value to create this mysterious street scene. He also has a good understanding of editing complex scenes down to their most basic elements to create a compelling painting.

Master Class Finalists:

David Griffin, Just West of Eden

Finalist: David Griffin - Just West of Eden. Along with it's beautiful tonal quality and painterly application of paint, David did a great job in capturing the dramatic light found in the desert.

Debra Huse, Island Tradewinds

Finalist: Debra Huse - Island Tradewinds. Not only did Debra do a wonderful job in conveying the energy of the sea & sky, but the movement of a fast moving sailing ship as well. Nicely done Debra.

Ned Mueller, Hanging in There

Finalist: Ned Mueller - Hanging in There. Ned does a wonderful job using the elements in the painting to move the viewers eye through the painting. His use of color reveals that beauty can even be found in old, hardworking fishing boats at rest.

James Crandall, Bootleggers

Finalist: James Crandall - Bootleggers. The looks on the faces tell the story of these Bootleggers. James does a great job in telling this story with simple but effective brush strokes. I also enjoyed the use of a single color to tell the story as well.

Emerging Artist Winner, Chris Benavides, Pioneer Daughter


Winner: Chris Benavides - Pioneer Daughter.  This piece simply tells a story that I want to know more about and the eyes of this young pioneer girl invites us into that story. What have those eyes seen? What has been her experience as a daughter of a Pioneer? I love being invited into a story and this painting does just that. Well done!

Emerging Artist Gallery Representation Finalist:

Arena Shawn, Elegance

Finalist: Arena Shawn - Elegance. This piece is a beautiful example of a classic figure painting with beautiful light and equally beautiful pose. Simple and beautifully executed. Well done Arena.

Carole Belliveau, Lunaria

Finalist: Carole Belliveau - Lunaria. I really enjoyed how Carole incorporated the traditional aspects of the figure and the abstract background with all it's energy to create a compelling piece of art. Great use of of what appears to be silver leaf as well.

Denise Antaya, Catching Light

Finalist: Denise Antaya - Catching Light.  Denise does a good job of conveying not only the cold, brisk day but the warmth of the sun as well.

Aaron Johnson, Winter Solitude

Finalist: Aaron Johnson - Winter Johnson - Winter Solitude. This painting has the appearance of being completed in about 15 minutes, and I mean that in the best possible way. Aaron did a great job in capturing this scene quickly and with paint strokes that are fresh and energetic. Well done Aaron.

Merit Award Winner

While Kelley and I don’t have any say in who wins an award each month (that’s entirely up to our judges), we do however, get to choose an artist who did not win an award but we feel entered work that merits recognition. This month’s Merit Awards goes to…

Christine Mercer Vernon, After Death, Life

Christine's After Death, Life piece is on the surface a beautiful and technically strong painting, however, dig a little deeper and discover that this artist has a lot to say about the cycle of life. The muted color palette supports the main idea with pops of white that keep the eye moving through the piece..Poetry in paint. Well deserved, Christine. 


March judge, Allan Duerr, co-publisher of Art of the West magazine . Enter and be eligible to win 1 of 3 Trekell gift certificates. 

Click here to enter TODAY.

Art Muse Contest January Winners & Finalists


Thank You to our judge, Jason Sacran and congratulations to our winners and finalists. 

First, I want to say how honored I am to be the January judge of such a fine bunch of works. It was pretty tough and I had to pass up many deserving pieces, but in the end, after much consideration, I finalized my choices. Thank you. Jason




Master Class Winner, Philippe Gandiol, Break in the Rain

I love how Philippe handled this piece – subtle, yet bold in its execution. The shapes and colors were orchestrated like music notes, singing their song, through a rainy night on a busy city street. The artist uses the abstract in such a fine way, like puzzle pieces, which he makes us piece together and we (the viewer) become part of the symphony. Beautiful, Philippe!


Master Class Finalists:

Matthew Cutter, Light and Shadow

A very dramatic composition. The great contrast of value and subtle color make this painting dynamic and exciting. It’s like Isaac Levitan’s Birch Grove meets Gustav Klimt’s Farmhouse with Birch Trees, but with more subtlety in color and harsher perspective.  Fantastic piece(s), Mathew!

Mary Pettis, North Shore Mantra

A fantastic take on a subject (coasts and waves) painted many times by many artists. This is composed and executed so very well and the colors feel so naturalistic. This could only be the product of much observed study and mastery. Great Job, Mary; a real beauty!


Anna Rose Bain, Judy in Blue

From the very first look at this painting I thought, “Wow!” This is a great portrait that’s executed and handled so very well. Anna is such a great portrait painter, and this is no exception to her skill and artistry. You feel more than just the subject in this piece, you feel the artist. Bravo and great job!

Jill Basham, Heating Up

Such a strong painting, with visual impact similar to a Franz Kline painting with its bold stark light and dark shapes. The painting first gives the viewer an abstract appeal before realizing it is in the representational field. In my opinion, that is the backbone of most great paintings. A lovely variety of textures and subtle complimentary colors make it all the more intriguing. It has a feel of monumentality, like it belongs in a big space.

John Lasater, Brilliant Crane

A great painting of a typically not so great subject…a rusty old crane in an un-kept field or part of town. This is a great example of shapes and masses over subject matter. This piece has fantastic color choices, it is well composed, and the way John held back on going too dark or light and utilizing appropriate temperature shifts in the dark and light areas is magnificent. One of my favorites of John’s! A masterpiece!   

Ned Mueller, Puerto Escondido

A masterful piece composed of color shapes and orchestrations. Ned makes painting people look easy and color look fresh with the way he simplifies and puts just the right amount of detail in his painting. The scene is somewhat reminiscent of a Sorolla beach scene with a modern touch. Beautiful!

(Just an FYI, Three that almost made the cut: Kelli Folsom , Ramona Youngquist, and Julie Beck…so impressive! I wish I could’ve given them awards as well. They deserved one!)


Emerging Artist Winner: Gavin Chai, Afternoon Light

Gavin was the easiest choice I had for the entire judging process. Honestly both of this artist’s works were in the running for the best in this category. The harder choice was picking which one. At first, I did not realize the two were from the same artist because they displayed such diverse looks and there are no names or titles to go with the images. I had already chosen them both before finding who painted them, which says a lot for this artist. In fact, I believe this painting would’ve won for all the categories. Sorry Master Class L. The thing I find most interesting about this particular piece is that it stands so strong in the abstract. Beautifully handled shapes/masses of color and lines dance around the painting making the viewer interact. There is a perceptual quality to this painting and I love that I think I can see the under work from the beginning, the struggle or maybe better said, the process of making this piece. Gavin has obviously studied works and artists of the past and contemporary artists, which I believe is important. Great painting!

Emerging Artist Finalists:

Gavin Chai, Self Portrait in School Uniform

I should call this one co-best in class…it is a stunning portrait! This looks like it belongs in the line up of finalists in the annual Portrait Society of America’s competition. It is simple in composition yet masterful in its restraint. It’s detailed in the most appropriate places and held back in others. This “emerging artist” is going places and I am looking forward to watching his career unfold.

Danny Griego, Mexico Nocturne

This is a stunning night scene with thoughtful repetition and convincing visual movement creating energy in his piece. Danny has such an individualistic style to his work – so crisp and confident with clean concise color and a mixture of volume and linier delineation. A real treat!

Tracy Ference, This is Marshall

Another stunning portrait that looks as if it belongs in the finalists’ line-up at the Portrait Society. I want to know more about this piece. A well laid composition, fantastic handling of medium and exquisite subject, mood and execution. A real WOW piece!

Karen Merkin, Yellow Bugatti

I really liked this painting. It is pretty realistic but in an almost surrealistic way with the extreme foreshortening. I also enjoyed the placement of the car, dead center, giving symmetry a run for its money, highlighting the great shape that the car possesses. Beautiful and appropriate (primarily analogues) color scheme for this piece as well.

Christopher Cook, Man on Fire

Such a well thought out and engaging piece - another one I really want to know more about. Perhaps this is a painting of siblings (the artists children?) or young friends or cousins? My guess is the artist was conveying a bond of some sort and utilized his vision to show this. This is art! He was taking reference from the world we know and giving the work life from within. I was first drawn to the abstract directional shapes and contrasts. Personally, I’m not usually attracted to works that are all together saturated and bright in color, but Christopher handled it in such a way that it glows with a personal touch, showing color maturity. I also admired the wonderful variations of both visual and literal textures.

Kim Smith, Something Magical, Gallery Finalist

This painting is very cool. I really liked the cropping of it and beautiful color arrangements. It has a nice subtle continuation to it with the intersecting and converging lines and ornament top pointing in certain directions leading your eye all around the painting. Its a charming piece.

Budding Artist Winner: Geraldine Ryan, Turnip and Pots

A very skilled hand and beautiful still life. I was told the best way to learn was to take your subject and paint/draw it to its fullest polish. It is like conquering grammar before going on to write poetry. Once an artist (painter) knows how to paint with tremendous skill they are ready and able to express themselves in whatever way they want. Whether it is non-objective abstract or hyperrealism, and Geraldine is a poet well on her way. Beautiful, Geraldine! I wouldn’t have believed you were “budding” if you were not in the category. Such a very well composed still life and your ability to refine and execute it is impressive.

Budding Aritst Finalists:

Geraldine Ryan, Staged

Here is another example of Geraldine’s skill of painting the still life. I like how the artist handled symmetry in this piece. The line and arrow in the middle and handling of the green drapery are fantastic. And I like how Geraldine put the objects on opposite ends of the table almost like they are about to battle it out. The painting has a nice mixture of visual textures and complimentary colors.

Carol Hein, Coffee Roasters

Carol did a nice job with this painting. I thought she handled the composition and mood very well. It feels like an early morning walk to the corner café.  Adding the people on their phones and bicycles really gives it a sense of today as well. Great job, Carol.

Jeff Thompson, 3 Buds

Jeff’s, rose is very well done. His draftsmanship is beautiful and great job on the subtle temperature shifts in the shadows and light. A very nice piece, Jeff.

Merit Award Winner: 

While Kelley and I don’t have any say in who wins an award each month (that’s entirely up to our judges), we do however, get to choose an artist who did not win an award but we feel entered work that merits recognition. This month’s Merit Awards goes to…

Julie Beck, Not My Circus

Bravo to Julie Beck's "Not My Circus". Where to start? Exceptionally painted, it marries the technical with a strong storyline. Technically sound work doesn't merit an award. The work must go beyond the skills of simply replicating subjects. Julie's painting dares you to ignore it. The dark foreground helps anchor the painting and the palette moves to lighten the mood. It's like when a conversation gets too intense and then someone makes you laugh. It's conversational, playful, confrontational and draws the viewer into the narrative. Well done. Kim and Kelley

February's judge is Kevin Courter. Enter our contest and be
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Art Muse Contest Annual Award Winners Announced

Master Class Annual Advertising Award Winner

Award - 2 Full Page Ads in Southwest Art Magazine

Jason Sacran

The Old Mill

The Old Mill

Emerging Artist Gallery Representation

Jack Meier Gallery has chosen not one but two artists for representation

Congratulations to Julian Tejera and Zac Elletson

Congratulations to all our 2016 Winners and Finalists. 

Enter our monthly 2017 contests for your opportunity for cash prizes,
product and career enhancing awards.


Art Muse Contest December 2016 Winners and Finalists




A huge THANK YOU to our judge, John Wentz and congratulations to our winners and finalists. A great way to end our first year at Art Muse Contest. 





Drum roll.......

Master Class Winner: Mike Barr, Autumn Holiday

What immediately grabbed my attention was the strong sense of design in this piece. The composition is comprised of very strong verticals and horizontals. With the strongest elements being the horizontals, the calm and relaxing atmosphere of the beach is really emphasized. The verticals of the “legs” of the pier are echoed in the verticals of the beach goers, which, because of scale, are placed around like musical notes on a score. All of these elements are offset by one diagonal in the yellow umbrella under the right side of the pier. I also really enjoy the minimal use of color and the almost entirely primary color scheme. The majority of the picture is the blue of the sky with the accent of the yellow umbrella and the wonderfully placed figure in red on the left of the picture plane. With all of the formal elements in place, this painting also has captured that atmosphere and “feeling” of being at the beach in the fall. It very much reminds me of the beaches in Australia that time of year.

Master Class Finalists:

Alexandra Averbach, Peppermint Sweetness

A beautiful composition with a limited palette. I love the centering of the candy jar and the curve the candy creates at the top as it overflows from the jar. With the jar in the center it visually works like the fulcrum of scale. At first glance, having an even number of candy on either side doesn’t seem to work. To make it visually interesting, convention says to use odd numbers. However, the lid of the jar works as a third element adding interest and just enough visual weight to off center thecomposition.

Kevin Courter, Sanctuary's Last Light

This piece really captures the flow of light and tranquility of the scene. A beautiful value pattern and wonderful play of warm and cool colors dominate the composition. The arc at the top of the trees creates a beautiful arabesque, which contrasts nicely with the strong horizontal of the horizon. My favorite element of the entire composition is the bit of light falling on the water in the bottom left corner. Wonderfully placed and well thought out.

Rani Garner, River Flow

What draws me into this piece is the number of spirals and arabesques lying within the rush rapids dominating the picture plane. Strong value pattern, vigorous brushwork and nice interplay of colors really emphasize the feeling of rushing rapids. All of this is wonderfully balanced in the top right of the composition by the calm water depicted in cool blues and violets while the two rocks work nicely tokeep the viewer’s eye in the composition.

Emerging Winner: Tanya Harsch, Cathersis

What first grabbed my eye was the very strong value pattern and wonderful limited color scheme. The strongest value contrast in this composition is at the top right corner which both serves to bring the viewers eye into this area and then to the face of the model but also to lead our eye around the composition in a spiral motion. I’m not sure if this is intentional, but I also love how the darkest part of the sky at top echoes the shape of the model’s arm and hand. I love the handling of blues and oranges that dominate the painting. The most saturated blues are at the top with the rest leaning towards a blue gray which lets the warmth of the orange bring life to the painting. The model is superbly and confidently painted. The gesture of the left hand has both confidence and the feeling of weight while the gesture of the feet has a delicate balance but the feeling that the model may spring into action at any moment. The strongest element for me though is how the model is gazing forward; ready to move on in this cathartic moment with little to no concern for what she is ready to drop.

Emerging Finalists:

Aaron Johnson, Genesse Farm

Confidence and energy permeate throughout this piece. I’m drawn into the picture with the S curves of the ground plane while the clouds create strong, implied diagonals which bring my eye to the focal point of the white architecture in the distance. The brushwork in the sky and the clouds is so strong and really brings vitality and life to an otherwise quiet scene.

Kathy Lindert, MM Therapy

Well thought out composition and stunning technique. The open bag on the left creates a strong vertical in the composition while the bag on the left is a nice, complimented horizontal. The candy spilled into the foreground creates a wonderful implied horizontal while at the same time adding interest and variety in color. I really love the pattern created by the green M&Ms which brings my eye across the picture plane from end to end. Plus, who doesn’t love M&Ms?

Aaron Johnson, Moscow Mountain Alpen Glow

Fantastic format choice, which really emphasizes the vastness and quietude of the scene. The quickness and confidence of the paint application really adds to the feeling of frigidity in this composition. The accents of orange on the top really work to add interest and move the eye around the painting. Lovely color scheme.

Julian Tejera, Quiet

I love the cluttered feeling of the bottom portion of this painting juxtaposed against the calm and quiet of the model. It really reminds me of painting the model from life. Below we see the creative mind at work...or the remnants at least. Above is the muse quietly doing her thing, which could be a break in between poses. My eye first goes to the model then travels down her arm and slowly winds down to the palette in an S curve. The palette at the bottom really works to keep the eye in but my favorite is how it abstractly echoes the model and the background. Really love the touch of blue.

Susan Perrish, The Birthday Garden

I love the simplicity and delicate quality of a black and white image. Sometimes the absence of color can add a somewhat psychological quality to a picture. The arrangement of values really balances the off center placement of the figure. The rendering of the subject is subtle and handled wonderfully. What I enjoy most is the eyes gazing to the side as opposed to making eye contact with the viewer. We are looking into this subject’s world that is full of joy and imagination.

Budding Winner: Verlinde Doubleday, Peaceful Place

This painting wonderfully captures the flow of light across the scene, especially on the water. The lily pads create a nice implied diagonal which mimics that of the boat all of which contrast nicely with the horizontal of the horizon and the vertical of the picture plane. A nice variety of greens throughout with beautiful accents of red and pink in the boat and flowers. All in all, the water is handled wonderfully. It really has the “feeling” of water, which creates a nice textural contrast with the impasto handling of the trees. Great sense of calm and quietude.

Budding Finalists:

Vanessa Dowden, Hopper

Wonderful detail and attention to anatomy in the head. The colors and value range contrast nicely with the cool background giving a sense of space and coming into the foreground. The diagonal of the reins and the bridle help move the eye around the picture. With all of this wonderful attention to detail, I think I would love to see some of the legs added to really give a sense of life.

Jeff Thompson, Monday Morning

Good placement and cropping on both the top and bottom of the figure. Wonderful gradation of the background which adds space and atmosphere. The choice of shirt is perfect for the overall orange and blue color scheme. Skin tones are handled wonderfully and the drawing and proportion are solid. The pose couldn’t be more fitting for the title!

Jerell Meyer, Christmas Angel

Wonderful pose which creates a very strong diagonal towards the bottom right. The upright of the figure complements nicely with a dominant vertical. Nice choice of colors, which add a calm and ethereal quality to the overall picture. The finished quality of the figure against the looseness of the background contrast beautifully and adding visual interest and great unfinished quality. 

Merit Award Winners:

While Kelley and I don’t have any say in who wins an award each month (that’s entirely up to our judges), we do however, get to choose an artist who did not win an award but we feel entered work that merits recognition. This month’s Merit Awards goes to…

Once again Kim and I couldn't pick just one, so we have two winners. 

Nancy Bass, Annie and Her Calf

A wonderful example of the effective use of high key painting that elevates the subject. The subtle value shifts are expertly handled. This is a subject that could easily become overly sentimental but, the way Nancy has composed this painting she has prevented that from happening. She has created a piece that could live in the western, contemporary, traditional and/or impressionistic world of painting. Well done! - Kim & Kelley

Kathy Falla Howard, Najavo Totem, Land of the Dine

A nice balance of verticals and horizontals along with a strong lead in, Kathy Fall Howard's painting is designed to lead the eye through the landscape. The warm hues in the rocks vs. the cool shadows give a sense of heat to this desert scene. The vertical rock formations could have easily overpowered the painting, yet, Kathy has designed this so expertly that they support the entire piece.  
Wonderful! - Kim & Kelley

January's judge is Jason Sacran. Enter our contest and be
eligible to win Jason's full set of Rosemary Brushes. 

Click here to enter TODAY.

Art Muse Contest January 2016 Winners and Finalists

Thank you to everyone who entered our first month’s contest! We would like to thank our sponsors who have been incredibly generous in their support and have just begun to share all wonderful things that they have provided. We are working hard to make this a great contest and appreciate your support. Believe it or not, we started from scratch in September and went on to announce the contest in December. We didn’t get much sleep and many crossed eyes occurred since we started, but we are so excited to have had such a wonderful response. We want to grow this contest in a big way and would appreciate your feedback, your continued submission to the contest and help with spreading the word. We have big plans for you and with your continued support we will roll out some wonderful things in the near future! Now head to your easel and start painting your February submission.

Our judge Ken DeWaard would like to share a few words with you about his judging process –


January Judge Ken DeWaard

“First, I would like to thank Kim VanDerHoek and Kelley Sanford for this wonderful opportunity to kick off the Art Muse Contest!

Right off the bat I must say there really was some amazing work and a lot of it!

I have judged numerous shows over the years and always say I will never do it again and then somehow I forget the anguish I go through selecting the winners and find myself right back at it again. In spite of that, I am thrilled to have had this opportunity, but, it was no easy task.

Art Muse Contest received hundreds of entries and only ONE can be selected from each of the three categories. That being difficult enough, you throw in the multitude of styles as well as subject matter, color, tonal, impressionistic, super realistic, etc. – shall I go on? Surely, you get my point.

Please keep in mind that as far as judging goes, and believe me I have been on both sides of this, if I did not select your painting it is not a reflection of you as an artist or the quality of your work. The Art Muse Contest will have a different judge every month with a different set of criteria and preferences.

Artistically, I am drawn to many different styles and approaches, have had many influences during my three decades of painting, however, with all of that, design is the one factor that continually comes front and center for me, no matter what the style may be, design will always stand above all else.

One final technical note. Please make sure you send in quality images, high enough resolution and large enough in size. Some images from the Budding and Emerging categories were small and difficult to see.

Without further ado here are the winners and finalists for January …

Budding Artist Award Winner –


Winner, Carol Hein, Christmas in the City

Carol Hein “Christmas in the City”

 Ken has written brief notes about what appealed to him in each painting he selected –

“Yes I am a northerner and probably spent way too many winters in the windy city, however “Christmas in the City” is a wonderful cool yet warm and inviting piece.

I chose this piece due to that cozy feeling as well as a very strong design which employs a good use of uprights against a well defined horizontal including the great line of secondary figures, as well as managing all of the corners keeping the eye in the painting. The two dominant figures serve as a great lead in as well as focal. The choice of color palette utilizes a wonderful use of grayed color, very well balanced and very natural and yet not too grayed and boring. Great job!”

Budding Artist Finalists –


Finalist, Janette Gray, “November Dawn”

Janette Gray “November Dawn” – “Great sense of air and light as well as values in this painting, very natural and believable! Would have been helpful to have a larger image, image was very small.”


Finalist, Joan Murray, “Venice Traffic”

Joan Murray “Venice Traffic” – “A very complicated scene yet a very strong design of well connected shapes and an absolutely wonderful play of sensitive color shifts in the water as well as the waters edge, beautifully handled!”


Finalist, Kelly Devany, “Wedge Water”

Kelly Devany “Wedge Water” – “Beautiful color within the water and the feel of translucency, very nice handling with the broken edges of brushwork to suggest all of the movement of the cresting wave. Well done.”

Emerging Artist Award Winner & Gallery Representation Finalist –


Winner, Cindy Avroch, “Tulip Trio”

Cindy Avroch “Tulip Trio” – “Fantastic use of edges in the sense of color vibration! This piece by way of values and color saturation really explores and utilizes it to best advantage, very exciting and well done. To get the sense of light by studying what happens on those edges to try and give the illusion of it is always a challenge and I feel it was very well done here. Great job!”

Emerging Artist and Jack Meier Gallery Representation Finalist –


Finalist, Lyn Williams, Sweets

Lyn Williams “Sweets” – “Love it! Playful, clean, simple, yet well placed and very direct!”

Emerging Artist Finalists-


Finalist, David Kapszukiewicz, “Claudette’s Garden”

David Kapszukiewicz “Claudette’s Garden” – “A wonderfully charming little scene, very dramatic and well balanced. Playing in a field of so many darks can usually lead to many problems, here I felt it actually paid off.

Great balance within the design of lights and darks, a nice suggestion of the flowers within the garden without letting them overpower the bigger picture here. Very charming!”


Finalist, Lauren Kuhn, “Molly’s Ebb”

Lauren Kuhn “Molly’s Ebb” – “Great use of abstract shapes and placement. A delightful and compelling gaze. Great temperature use as well!”


Finalist, Erica Norelius, “Waiting”

Erica Norelius “Waiting” – “Wonderful play of shapes! Very mindful of the corners and great placement of the focal, very nice color palette as well!”


Finalist, Fred Moss, “Gliding Gondola”

Fred Moss ” Gliding Gondola” – “Absolutely charming color palette as well as brush handling! Very clean and uplifting.”

Master Class Award Winner –


Winner – Rachel Pettit, “Riverfront Nocture”

Rachel Pettit – “Riverfront Nocturne” – “This was tough, any one of these finalists could have won this award.

However, after much consideration “Riverfront Nocturne” by Rachel Pettit was chosen.

A very well executed full bodied painting with a strong design, very beautiful, simple yet very complicated and elegant. Wonderful play of temperatures and great use of values, keeping a sense of air in what could have easily been very heavy handed. Excellent job!”

Master Class Finalists-


Finalist, Patrick Lee, “Light Up Night#2 “

Patrick Lee “Light Up Night #2” – “Wonderful play of shapes, temperatures and brushwork!”


Finalist, Kyle Ma, “Sunset at Stockton Street”

Kyle Ma “Sunset at Stockton Street” – “Great color and brushwork, wonderful use of edges!”


Finalist, R W Cooke, “Still Life”

R W Cooke “Still Life” – “Love it! Complimentary color vibrations, absolutely exciting!”


Finalist, Lori Putnam, “First Fall”

Lori Putnam “First Fall” – “Wonderful winter colors and sweet little design, great temperatures – as always!”

Merit Award –

While Kelley and I don’t have any say in who wins an award each month (that’s entirely up to our judges), we do however, get to choose an artist who did not win an award but we feel entered work that merits recognition. This month’s Merit Award goes to…


Merit Award, Anette Power, “My World”

Anette Power “My World” – “Wonderful job abstracting and simplifying the background to enhance the focal point. Beautiful color harmony in a scene that could gotten very complicated color-wise very easily. Stunning use of light. This is a subject that could have easily become overly sentimental but because of the solid decisions the artist made it is a joyful painting that is a delight to view. Congratulations!” – Kim & Kelley

Art Muse Contest February 2016 Winners and Finalists

A Note from our judge, Greg LaRock


Why Enter an Art Contest?

Well for one thing, you might win a couple bucks! But the real reason to enter contests regularly is that it makes you a better artist. When we’re forced to choose a painting to enter or paint one specifically for a contest, our best choices must be made. We know we’ll be up against stiff competition, so it forces you to be extra certain it’s a good piece. If it’s going to cost money too, choosing something on a whim won’t be a good idea.

Plus, friends and colleagues will see these, so being extra conscious of entering well-thought out works and why you think they’re winners become paramount.

If you’re fortunate to be recognized as an award winner, you’ll be able to build a resume as an award-winning artist. Also seeing what the judge had to say about the painting may shed light on things you may or may not have noticed about your piece, and you’ll remember it as you grow. It may open our eyes to new ideas and concepts about painting, composition, value, brushwork, etc.

The judges comments about the other winning entries will also give insight as to how another artistic eye sees and what they value in a particular painting. All of this information, no matter how trivial it may seem is great insight on how to become a better artist and ways to grow your work to new levels. So don’t sit on the sidelines, enter the game and get rewarded!

Some notes on judging that may help your artistic decisions: Every show I’ve judged has had many more deserving pieces than awards to give. It’s always tough and I don’t take my decisions lightly. Plus, I personally know most of the artists that enter, so it’s disappointing not to be able to recognize everyone for their amazing talents and abilities. The vast majority of the work entered is expertly crafted, and skillfully done. That being said, what I look for is something that jumps out for whatever reason. Sometimes there’s a slightly different take on a composition, mood, textural element or an idea that seems unique to me. So, take the extra step to ask yourself why you’re painting this or that. What can you bring to the table that stands apart? How can you take an ordinary scene and transcend it into a work of art? These are heavy questions that have no easy answer, but that thoughtfulness will help us all improve our craft and grow as artists. My sincere wishes to all on your successful advancement in the arts! Greg LaRock

Here are this month’s winners and finalists. Greg has been gracious to include a brief note about each painting. Congratulations again.

Budding Artist Winner


Anna Toberman, Purple Tutu

Masterful drawing ability with no flaws in the figure. You’ve created a wonderful simplification and transparency in her purple skirt which is difficult to do without going overboard. I also liked the subtle change in the slightly warmer wall color to slightly cooler sofa color. They read well as unified masses to complement the figure. Great painting!

Budding Artist Finalists


Candice Rene, Early Morning Light

Moody with a nice color harmony. I love the warm notes in the dominantly cool mountain areas. Good handling of hard and soft edges in your brushwork. Nice reflection too!


Carol Hein, Dockside

Great compositional grouping an massing of the boats without getting into too much detail. Love the simplification done in the background mountains and the clouds coming over them. Also the dominant cool temperature with just a few warm notes was well thought out. Great Job!


Anna Toberman, Colorful Scarf

 Nice portrait. Well drawn and an excellent handling of focal areas in the face and scarf. I especially enjoyed the massing in the hair and the lost edges from the hair to the background. Well done.

Emerging Artist Winner


Annie Salness, Bike

I really love the uniqueness of this painting. The way the bike is cropped and the way the arrow lines in the street direct you to the bike but the handle bars and front chassis keep your eye from going off the page. This is great thinking outside the box using the bike as a linear element and designing around it. Plus the energetic brush strokes an color palette harmony gave this painting a feeling like no other. Wonderful job!

Emerging and Gallery Representation Finalist


Toby Davis, Kenny & Zukes

This painting has such strong, dynamic visual architecture that’s presented in an exciting way. Great drawing and understanding of perspective but what makes this painting sing for me was the handling of the outside vs. inside. The outside, which is not important is kept minimal and almost monochromatic. Then as your eye moves inside, all the colors of the cafe come alive. It’s busy but not at the same time. I like the graphic feeling that reminds me of the golden age of illustrators. Cool painting!

Emerging Artist Finalists


Cheryl Magellen, Spa

This is a nice example of a portrait using minimalism but still having power and expression. I like that it really stresses how much can be said with so little but also clear that the artist understands the form of the head well. The use of the rust background against the blue of her headdress really pops and contrasts beautifully with the lost edge of her cheek into the background on the opposite side. Simple and well thought out. Beauty!


Denise Hawkins, A Regal Presence

Normally I don’t care for singular objects in the center of the canvas, but this little bird has a charm about it that I kept coming back to. I think the way the artist kept the bird painterly and didn’t get carried away in too many details. I especially like the way the branch and the background merge into each other and does not distract from the bird’s head and beautiful contrast of the black around the beak against the bright red plumage. Thoughtful edge handling too. Well done!


Ling Strube, Autumn Happiness

Here’s a very well executed still life that’s complex but not overstated. All of the fruit is painted convincingly with wonderful edgework and shadows. The vases don’t upstage the fruit and the background cloth and leaves take a back seat to the focal pieces as well. I liked the wandering circular path your eye takes as it observes each piece of fruit and even the apple stems guide you along and direct you which way to go. Beautiful reflection in the large vase too. Nice!


Annie Salness, Curiosity

This is another figurative painting that is compositionally interesting. I especially enjoy the way the three “adults” are cut off and are basically just used as shapes to frame the little girl. Also the body language and expression of the girl have a believability to it. We’ve all seen kids posture in this way! It keeps the painting dynamic and interesting to look at. Nice painterly feel but still a strong understanding of the figure. Good job!

Master Class Winner


Anne Blair Brown, Welcome Home

I love this painting! It has a quiet mood to it that I can’t get away from. My favorite parts are all of the background elements. There are wonderful subtle color and temperature changes that create that simple support that holds the whole painting together. The focal area of flower vase and table highlights are clear and well thought out. And the entire scene has a beautiful painterly quality. Everything is interesting but holds its place and the scene is expertly cropped. Brushstrokes have meaning and the color harmony is exquisite. Relaxing to look at. Beautiful job!

Master Class Finalists


John Lasater, Coming of Age

This portrait of the young girl has a sense of “roundness” to the form. I can really feel the fullness of the features. The head turns well to the right side and the luscious cool green/blue notes in the flesh tones compliments well with the warm notes. The angle and treatment of the brush strokes is unique. There’s a beautiful swirling movement throughout the form, extends into the background and finishes off its statement in the wisps of hair. Plus you can’t get away from the eye as a focal grab. There are a lot of subtleties going on in this work that I enjoy. Great painting!


Suzie Baker, Mud Man

Here’s a beautiful little painting that oozes confidence and understanding of form and brushwork together. I could have easily gave Suzie’s other figure entry a finalist award but I chose this one because it has more power. Each brushstroke creates a statement and they are placed perfectly without being overworked. The feeling of sunlight, the squinty glare of his expression, the attack of the brush mark. There’s pure feeling in this piece. It probably only took her 30 minutes to complete, but it’s backed by a lifetime of figure study to understand how to do it properly. This is how you do it folks, it’s a gem!


Lori Putnam, Getting an Early Start

Here’s a perfect example of how to take an extremely busy subject and simplify it down to a work of art. Great masses and just enough suggestion to give that feeling of dappled light on an old building with figures adding a nice touch to enhance the focus. Plus what I love about this piece is the complimentary color palette of the warm yellow sunlight next to the cool purples and greens in the shadows. The color harmony in this work is exquisite. This says just enough communicate the idea and then lets the imagination of the viewer fill in the rest. A true painting that engages on many levels. Expertly done!


Mary Maxam, Montana Spring Creek

This scene has a wonderful movement throughout the composition. You are guided into the scene well without losing the focal point of the fisherman. He as the subject is clear and has a nice believeable “feel” to his stance and gesture. But the beauty is in the greens: Simple, varied and not overstated. That’s tough to pull off, and one of the things that I admire about this piece. The brushwork has a lot of bravado that’s not overworked and helps guide your eye too. Well thought out and put together!


Karen Blackwood, Storms End

I get the chills every time I looked at this scene. You can feel the cold ocean and icy air! I love the mood that’s created and the feeling of power in the waves. The massed rocks on the right and how they merge into the structures is beautifully handled and expertly painted. There’s also a lot of subtle varieties in the white wash of the waves that is done masterfully. That’s a big area of white that still retains interest. A difficult task to pull off. Great sky too. Love it!

Merit Award Winner

While Kelley and I don’t have any say in who wins an award each month (that’s entirely up to our judges), we do however, get to choose an artist who did not win an award but we feel entered work that merits recognition. This month’s Merit Award goes to…


J.M. Brodrick, Morning Glory

The strengthen of JM’s drawing skills pulls you into the painting and yet she didn’t feel the need to draw in every single detail.  We both appreciate the refined drawing of the horse and textural quality of the background. This piece combines representational and abstract aspects of painting in an effortless manner in addition to capturing beautiful light. Kim and Kelley


Art Muse Contest March 2016 Winners and Finalists

Thanks to our March judge, Eric Bowman.

Here are this month’s winners and finalists. Eric has included a brief statement about each painting. Congratulations again to all the winners and finalists.



Master Class Winner


Jill Basham, Crash

Why: I love the lip on the wave, the reflections, movement and overall abstract shapes and handling of the white water.

Master Class Finalists


John Lasater, Lahaina Glow

Why: Nice handling of the town lights and overall atmosphere and colour.


Jason Sacran, Off North Ponce

Why: Perspective light streaks and nostalgic backyard feel.


Elizabeth Pollie, Halfway Home

Why: Excellent drawing and handling of subject with abstract accents.


Romona Youngquist, Summer Sky

Why: Overall feel of evening sky & light, colour and hierarchy of edge work on focal elements.


Rachel Pettit, Days End

Why: nice harmony of colour and handling of atmosphere in the background.

Emerging Artist Winner


Kimball Geisler, Before it’s Gone

Why: Well composed with nice handling of foreground detail and atmospheric colour in the distance. Overall a solid western landscape.

Emerging Artist Finalist and Gallery Representation Finalist


Barbara Berry, The Prayer

Why: Colour temperature and anatomy — using pastels like a boss!

Emerging Artist Finalists


Kathy Cousart, The Catcher

Why: Abstract handling and simplification of elements. Nice light and colour (especially the sky reflection in the water)


Kathryn Fisher, Fire and Ice

Why: Bold use of colour and expressive brushwork.


Chris Zambon, Inner Spring

Why: I like where this takes me; the colour and overall feel.


Cheryl Magellen, Nellie

Why: Nice, muted tones in the skin and overall colour harmony.

Budding Artist Winner


Dina Stumpf, Brazilian Breaktime

Why: Nice drawing, paint handling and colour harmony–I liked the expression on her face; very pleasant picture!

Budding Artist Finalists


Arena Shawn, Simple Grace

Why: Well rendered for black & white drawing, appropriate title.


Jerell Meyer, Faith

Why: Nice handling of facial features with hierarchy of loose brushwork-to-tight portrait detail.


Candice Rene, Waiting at the Dock

Why: Paint handling, texture, under-painting and colour harmony.


Debra Yerger, A Walk in the Park

Why: Nice colour and handling and back-lighting effect.


Anita Maher, Ashley

Why: Drawing, expression, colour harmony and edge handling.

Merit Award Winner

While Kelley and Kim don’t have any say in who wins an award each month (that’s entirely up to the judges), they do get to choose an artist who they feel merits recognition. This month’s Merit Award goes to…


Jesse Lane, After the Storm

Can you believe this is colored pencil? Neither could we! While our ascetic is typically not photo-realism this piece made both a visual impact and a statement about the subject. Jesse’s strong drawing skills and mastery of the medium laid the foundation for an emotionally powerful piece. Photo-realism works best when mastery of technique is used as a vehicle to tell a story and not just to convey the technical ability to accurately record something. Well done, Jesse! Kim and Kelley

Art Muse Contest April 2016 Winners and Finalists

Thanks Kim Lordier for agreeing to judge our April contest.

Here are this month’s winners and finalists. Kim has included a brief statement about each painting. Congratulations again to all the winners and finalists.


Kim’s notes regarding selections.

I am honored to jury the Art Muse Contest for the month of April. Every painting entered, regardless of skill level, merits considered evaluation. First and foremost, I believe judging artwork is subjective. Important elements that I look for are the fundamentals that artists continually strive to get a handle on throughout their creative journey, such as draftsmanship, line quality, use of values, color harmony, and concept/mood. Most important to my subjective eye is design. I look for a strong impact of shape and value regardless of subject matter or style. Many of the paintings offered this month took my breath away, many more than what I am allowed to award. I encourage everyone, no matter what skill level you are at to strive for excellence and paint what you love.

Important Note: When entering digital images for consideration, please make sure they are of the best quality, and do not have mattes or frames showing. Several pieces were too small to see and appreciate the fine work.

Budding Artist Winner: Anna Toberman “Innocent”


Anna entered two equally strong portraits for this contest. Both images deserve this award. I have selected her drawing, “Innocent” to be the winner of the Budding Artist category. Strong draftsmanship, great observation of textures and values, and a lovely expression bring this piece to the front of the submitted paintings. Her oil, “Winter Memory” is just as beautifully executed. It was very difficult to choose. Congratulations on your fine work, Anna!

Budding Finalists:

Kelley Hails “ The Painful Reign of the Ego”


This compelling painting by Ms. Hails screams for attention. The expressive brushwork helps to tell the story, and doesn’t let us down. The complementary red and green color harmony battle against each other, and the intense cadmium red notes in the cheeks and finger are exclamation points. Great execution of concept.

Alfredo Medrano “Cast of Voltaire”


Alfredo Medrano

Mr. Medrano employs solid use of values and placement in this cast drawing.

Carol Hein “Harbor Sunrise”


I selected this painting by Carol for the strong simplified composition in an otherwise complicated scene. There is a nice handling of rhythm in the vertical and horizontal lines.

Emerging Artist Winner: Christopher Cook “Silent Messenger”


Mr. Cook’s “Silent Messenger” is simple in its complexity. It does not “jump” off the page, but entices the viewer to look closer. The monolithic formation could easily overtake the idea in this painting, but his handling of the medium with rhythmic texture and considered values places a deep space between the viewer and the immensity of the shape. This painting moves like a musical score. Modern, yet historic at the same time.

Emerging Finalists:

Julia Aspin “Still Life with Spring Green”


Ms. Aspin entered two equally beautiful still lives for this contest. Her indirect lighting, and attention to edges creates a quiet, contemplative mood. Clean color and a strong value structure builds interest in her composition.

Jacqueline Dunster “ The Greek Artist”


I selected Jacqueline’s painting, “The Greek Artist” for her solid draftsmanship and careful attention to the warm and cool light sources illuminating her subject. She had an equally strong female portrait, but this piece struck a nerve with me in how she captured the subjects’ gaze.

Sean Michael Chavez “Nothing Gold Can Stay”


Again, two strong entries by Mr. Chavez. What strikes me with Sean’s work is his thoughtful attention to design. Great shapes and movement through out both pieces. “Nothing Gold Can Stay” moves ahead in this category for the subtle muted color harmony and solid use of values to emphasize the poetry of the tree.

Chris Zambon “Foggy Morning”


Ms. Zambon moves us through her painting with confident fluid strokes and low-key values creating a mysterious environment. Each shape is unique and flows into the next with expressive color, abstract in nature but grounded in representation.

Elizabeth Rouland “First Night in Paris”


Bam! Love the drama and rich colors of the night. Small light shapes mingle and dance throughout the dominant dark values of this painting.

Master Class Winner: John Wentz “Imprint No. 78”


Parallel worlds collide in this mixed media portrait. I am fascinated with the classical underpinning that supports the expressive line and confident paint application. This piece is intricate yet bold, thoughtful in observation yet chaotic. Love it…

Master Class Finalists:

Kevin Courter “Warm Welcoming Light”


Subtle temperature shifts and delicate texture in the ground plane merge to lead the viewer’s eyes to the warmth of the foliage and the complimentary color of the home. The muted/grayed colors, while still rich, take a back seat to the intense cadmium yellow note of the light in the window, drawing us further into the painting. This painting is all about edges, and evokes a serene mood, inviting me to stay and explore.

Ned Mueller “Low Tide Mevagissey, England”


Love this composition! Dynamic and complex, Mr. Mueller makes it look so easy. I thoroughly enjoy the tetradic color harmony with the dominant red note. Clearly the artist knows his subject.

Alexandra Averbach “Afternoon Tea”


Stacked and balanced in design and composition, “Afternoon Tea” is exquisitely painted. If you remove one element the painting falls apart. Beautiful observation and draftsmanship in the two paintings Ms. Averbach submitted for this contest.

Damien Gonzales “La Bajada Sunset”


This painting sings with warmth. Lovely gradating temperature shifts create a vast depth on a two dimensional plane. The cool note of the mesa is just the right balance to harmonize the melody.

Laura Zuccheri “The Dancer”


To be honest, this painting was vying for the top spot in this category. Exquisite watercolor, dry brush effects, quality of line and composition create an intriguing story for the viewer.

Merit Award Winner

While Kelley and Kim don’t have any say in who wins an award each month (that’s entirely up to the judges), they do get to choose an artist who they feel merits recognition. This month’s Merit Award goes to…

Susan Kutnitsky, “Once Upon a Time”


Strong narrative with a painting rule broken in the right way with a centered focal point. Deft handling of textures and color. For all these reasons, it’s an eye catching piece. Well done, Susan. Kim and Kelley

Art Muse Contest May 2016 Winners and Finalists

Many thanks to our awesome May judge,

John P. Lasater, IV.


Announcing our May winners and finalists. Thank you to everyone who continues to support our efforts to create a great contest. Congratulations to all the winners and finalists.

Master Class Winner:

Damien Gonzales “Tyesi Canyon”



Even if you divorce yourself from the emotional appeal, this painting causes goosebumps on the technical level. It has a magnificence that goes beyond words.

Master Class Finalists:

Lisa McDill “Shadow of a Sycamore”



In my opinion, the landscapes took it in the Master category. This sycamore piece has an elegant design structure that I’ve enjoyed studying. It also has honest noon coloring that doesn’t rely on exaggeration to be warm and appealing. While others were napping till the golden hour, this artist was hard at work glorifying the ordinary.

Jason Sacran “Charlie’s Gold, Rainy and Cold”



This is a sterling example of honest appreciation for the subject. It exhibits both love and sadness for the decaying past in a flawless design.

Kevin Courter “Ghost Ranch Light”


Beautiful painting with an authoritative use of values for drama and pleasing eye movement.

Ned Mueller “Rock of Ages””


A masterful arrangement of shapes, both in shadow and light.

Emerging Artist Winner:

Mason Kang “On the Hill”


It’s refreshing not to be tricked into liking a painting. I kept coming back to this because it has an honest appeal in the spirit of Andrew Wyeth. Bravo, bravo. It would be grossly unnecessary for me to explain its technical merit.

Emerging Artist Finalist and

Gallery Representation Finalist:

Erica Norelius, “Streets of Havana” 


The design and confident paint in this piece are admirable, even if the atmospheric perspective is a little flat.

Emerging Artist Finalists

Guenevere Schwien “Sweet Silver” 


Dignity and thought is given to this little gem of a painting. Expressive lines don’t always have to have expressive paint quality.

Cathy Boyer “Snowy Creek”


Nice natural color and organic line. It borders on cluttered but is helped by a good handling of values.

Kim Smith “Chasing Dreams”


It’s not easy to paint sunlight and shadow convincingly, especially with such abstract shapes. I don’t even mind that it’s a riot of color…there are some hidden grays that make it work well.

Michael Bajer “Frozen River”


I love the technique and organic line in this piece primarily.

Budding Artist Winner:

Kelly Devany “Draped Shadows”


What a succinct and believable painting. The intriguing long shadows keep me from yawning at the use of a road as a lead in.

Budding Artist Finalists:

Fred Moss “Cliffside View of Vernazza”


Excellent composition, and what it might lack in natural color, it makes up for with vicarious appeal. Nice paint quality also.

Elisha Dasenbrock “Side Eye”


An appealing combination of shapes, colors and textures. Oh look, it’s also an adorable giraffe.

Candice Rene “Shaker Door”


This exhibits a letting-go that fits the subject and makes it more about the light and the paint. Thank you for not over-drawing this; I’ve seen ten thousand of these doorways in my lifetime, and know how to fill in the blanks visually.

Merit Award Winner:

While Kelley and Kim don’t have any say in who wins an award each month (that’s entirely up to the judges), they do get to choose an artist who they feel merits recognition. This month’s Merit Award goes to…

Danny Griego “Turf Club Strada”


Danny‘s composition subtlety draws the viewer into the painting using both design and light. His careful use of color, detail and edge work keep the viewer engaged. Overall, a winning piece. Kim and Kelley

Art Muse Contest June 2016 Winners and Finalists

A huge thank you to our June judge, Lori Putnam.


Announcing our June winners and finalists. Thank you to everyone who continues to support our efforts to create a great contest. Congratulations to all the winners and finalists.

Budding Artist Winner:

Arena Shawn, Defiance


It is immediately clear that this artist has technical ability and understands the structure of the head. What makes this more than just a great drawing, however, are the subtleties of tone. The artist chose to tighten the value range rather than emphasize contrast here, and it is carried out extremely well. If I compare the value of the reflected light on the side of the face in shadow, with the value of the gentle transitional value between the nose and cheek on that same side, the lighted plane is only about 5% lighter than the shadowed (reflected light) plane. Additionally, a variety of appropriately soft and hard edges gives the work a sense of form and air.

Budding Artist Finalists:

Lizz Card, Al Studies


This painting is strong because of the artist’s clear visual statement of light and shadow. The work demonstrates an understanding not only of value but use of warm and cool to suggest subtle plane changes such as those on the front-lighted arm and the face in shadow. There is also confidence in the brushwork, color, and edges. Just enough is said with singular strokes of paint to describe the hands, arms, and fingers. The facial expression so accurately tells this young man’s story.

Janette Gray, Orchard View


Reality with notes of abstraction are perfect for a subject such as this. As a viewer, I am immediately struck by the lights and shadows, particularly in the fruits in the foreground. But what is also interesting, and what keeps me looking and searching about, are those areas that are not fully described. The balance of both “fully rendered” and “only suggested” is just one of the strong points of this piece. Another is the appropriate use of warm, orange tones in some of the leaves, and cool violet colors reflected from the sky. Those two, subtle choices, provide color harmony. Otherwise, the greens might appear too strong in contrast to the reds and pinks, and the sky too blue against the yellows and oranges.

Tom Afflerbach, New Snow


Great use of warms and cools in the snow on this painting. There is a tendency to use too many colors and value shifts in snow shadows, but this artist has kept those areas more silent using only very subtle changes. What is also clear is the light pattern. The addition of the color of the sunlight to the snow is chromatically perfect. It gives me a clear idea of the time of day and setting.

Emerging Artist Winner:

Erica Norelius, Dreaming of Sargent


This artist’s use of light and shadow AND light/dark pattern certainly make me think of Sargent, which is, as noted, used in the title of the piece. One of the rare cases where the word “derivative” is not at all a derogatory term, this work is confidently painted, well drawn, and has beautiful color harmonies throughout. The warm colors in the shadows of the chair mimic those underneath the chin and around the neck in shadow, causing a beautiful lost edge and flowing seamlessly into the jacket. Also, with regard to color harmony, the color on the pillow in light is repeated in parts of the neck’s local color. In the face, the artist enjoyed more saturated color and contrasting tone, and by placing the hand alongside the cheek, brings the subject’s face into an intentional focal point. Conversely, the hand at the chair arm is more simply stated, and its angle repeats the lighted shape of the pillow on the left.

Emerging Artist Gallery Representation Finalist:

Tracy Ference, Leah


Obviously a beautiful portrait and a precious subject, but upon close examination, this work demonstrates knowledge and sophistication in the artist’s use of color, value, edges, and drawing. The delicate shifts in the eye sockets, along the turn of the cheeks and jaw, and along the hairline bring living, breathing flesh to this painting. Lost edges where the chin and blouse meet provide the entrance point from the bottom of the canvas, up along the front of the face and head and into the hair. A hard edge between the back of the neck and the background pulls the subject forward. Warm and cool transitions in the shadow side of the face provide fullness and form. Wonderful.

Emerging Artist Finalists:

Susan Elwart Hall, Little Tug, Big Lug


Love this design. It’s a tough one to pull off, and this artist succeeded. At first, you do not know, or for that matter care, what the dark mass is behind the main boat. Then you see it and it is brilliant. This artist’s use of neutrals placed against stronger colors gives the piece a sense of chroma without overstatement. We know the water in light is colorful, even though when looked at closely, it is a blue/grey mixture. The under-stain of violet in the cast shadow has been tempered with blue green in the same value. When measured, both are quite neutral but they vibrate, resulting beautiful color when placed together. Similar relationships are found in other areas of the painting as well. Additionally, the artist has used lost edges throughout where appropriate to keep the viewer interested, digging, and looking for more.

Nanci Charpentier, Lost


This is just great on so many levels, including design, draftsmanship, and color. The foreshortening of the dog is wonderful, and the way the darks hold together as one piece perfect. I can imagine if that shadow shape was a sticker, I could peel the shadow mass off in one, continuous piece. Having the majority of the color shifts and excitement in the lights and mid-tones while leaving the shadows more simply stated adds to the painting’s strength. The values of the dog’s black in light and the white fur in shadow are so close, yet separated slightly. The same is true of the reflected light on the extreme backside of the dog when compared to the lighted top plane of the skull.

Christine Mercer-Vernon, Skull Study, Elk Cow


Beautifully drawn with wonderful use of gradation and values. The monochromatic color scheme works so well here, and I love the warms against the cools in both the shadows and the lights. The sense of space between the background and the skull is expertly handled. Values in highlights and reflected lights are perfect with out exhausting the entire value scale. This is one of those times when placing the image right in the middle was exactly the right thing to do, and cropping the shadow shape at the left gives this painting a modern edge.

Cheryl Magellen, Screen Printer


This painted is a wonderful example of sacrificing chroma in one shape, (in this case the lighted side), in order to enjoy richer, more intense color in the other shape, (the shadow). That sort of decision shows the artist’s intension and speaks to the general understanding and use of color. The transitional tones and hues as the form rounds from shadow to light are also brilliantly stated without resorting to trite overuse. While the drawing is also excellent, this artist’s real strength is the discipline to exercise restraint in all of the right places.

 Master Class Winner:

Damien Gonzales, Vallecito Mountain, Taos


Masterful use of all of the elements one finds in a great painting. Color saturation and use is harmonic and cohesive. Subtle shifts of warm and cool relationships with hits of both in every plane change give form to otherwise flat, front lighting. A tight value system exhibits a magnificent understanding of light quality. Edges are sensitively managed. Design, line, and brushwork all stack up to a piece worthy of the win!

Master Class Finalists:

Rick J. Delanty, Fortress Cover


The artist delivers so much here. Almost every color is used, but in such sensitively greyed shifts that the piece never once seems out of harmony or color balance. Every shape is unique, a different size than the one next to it, never repeating exactly. That is a most-difficult task and this is an extremely difficult subject in which to tackle it. I also notice that there are very few true dark, darks. A cove like this receives so much ambient light bouncing off of every surface and causing each plane, when hit, to become a new light source all its own. Wonderful success here.

Patrick Saunders, Enter the Garden


I see scenes like this all of the time. They look so simple with clear light and shadow, but they are deceptively difficult to paint. The artist uses a beautiful variety of shapes, marks, and colors here while allowing some passages to remain completely silent. The overall effect is magnificent. Nothing feels haphazardly dashed in, yet the work is very loosely painted. Colors brushed over other colors create vibration in the light shapes as we enter the scene, but it doesn’t stop there. Small hints of color layering in other places give the entire wooden structure texture, while tiny touches of light move us back in space.

Eric Bowman, Night Brings Good Counsel


Clean, simple shapes and beautiful design are what first attracted me to this piece. The color sense and time of day are so clear. After examining the image more closely, I could appreciate the multitude of hues used to create the sky and air even though the paint appears to be thickly applied. Cools and warms gradate not only top to bottom but also left to right, yet the sky feels whole. Calligraphic strokes for the trees, along the road, and under the cloud forms provide variety and movement within the heavily massed shapes. Brilliant. Every value is absolutely correct in this complex puzzle. The large cloud seems so close. It is about 30% darker in value than the bright, crisp moon, which pushes miles and miles between them.

Debra Huse, Island Tradewinds


There is no doubt that this is a masterfully drawn boat. You can feel the wind and the waves rocking and tossing. The colors of the sails and their reflection in the water simply gorgeous. But what really struck me about this painting are the smaller shapes and patterns that are less apparent at first. The swirl of the large cloud opposite the swirl of the large wave and smaller swirls within the water, particularly in the foreground tell the tale. Those repetitive shapes are so elusive at first, and they are the sort of artistic gesture found in classical paintings of the sea. The artist has chosen to use most of the value and color differences in the foreground which is, of course, the subject. That sort of maturity, choosing restraint in the values and colors in the sky and clouds, helps emphasize the real story of the boat, its crew, the sea, and the winds.

Merit Award Winners:

While we (Kim and Kelley) don’t have any say in who wins an award each month (that’s entirely up to the judges), we do get to choose an artist who we feel merits recognition. This month, we had the very hard choice between two entries and we just couldn’t decide on one award, so here are our picks for June’s Merit Award winners…

Jason Sacran, Self Portrait


It’s hard enough to capture the soul in a portrait, but to do so as a self portrait is very difficult. This is a direct piece that seems almost confrontational because of the gaze of the subject, the placement of shapes and the confident handling of the medium. Leaving the background and clothing unfinished lends an immediacy to this piece which only works because of the excellent draftsmanship in the painting’s foundation. The overall feel is that Jason is interested in more than recording his likeness but also in capturing an honest moment of introspection.

Mitch Albala, Snow River


This piece is bold, striking and distilled down to it’s essence. Simple shapes and color harmony create a powerful mood to this particular landscape.The design of the major forms including the cool shadow cast across the bits of snow and inverted triangle of the sky all move the eye up to the saddle in the ridge. Through expert planning and deft drawing Mitch has created a piece that works both as a representational landscape and an abstract painting, something that is very difficult to achieve. Kim and Kelley

Art Muse Contest July 2016 Winners and Finalists

Thanks to our July judge, Allan Duerr.

Here are this month’s winners and finalists. Allan has included a brief statement about each painting. Congratulations again to all the winners and finalists.




Master Class Winner

Cynthia Feustel, Indigo


Great composition, thoughtful expression and wonderful use of diffused light

Master Class Finalists

Abigail Gutting, Dusty Two Step


Strong composition, good action and good use of background.  Well thought out.

Charles Young Walls, The Flutist


So well done, actually very close to my first choice.  Great use of color and expression.

Kathie Odom, Sabbath


Well done, peaceful and almost stylized.  Good proportion to draw the viewer into the painting.

Jill Basham, Morning Fog


Wonderful tonal piece, great use of the pallet to bring home the fog.

Romona Youngquist, Crisp Autumn Air


Very good composition, the coloration sets the mood and lights and darks make this piece come alive.

Emerging Artist Winner

Lisa Zook, Shelling


Wonderful loose style, great use of coloration with the water and the woman and child, creating a well thought out pattern … well done.

Emerging Artist and Gallery Representation Finalist

Barbara Schilling, Inner Glow


Good composition, good color choices and well-done foreground.

Emerging Artist Finalists

David Bassinder, Old Wall


Wonderful loose style, good use of shadows and strong colors.

Barbara Berry, Light Touch


Wonderful composition, great expression and good use of space – very striking.

Michelle Kondos, The Plan


A real fine composition, strong use of foreground and background and good color choices makes this simple painting a strong painting.

Zhamil Bikbay, Sunny Lake


Wonderful use of color, very nice loose style and strong composition.


Budding Artist Winner

Jerell Meyer, Spanish Eyes


Simple, good coloration and very expressive … well done.


Budding Artist Finalists

Elisha Dasenbrock, Seriously


Simple, good coloration and very expressive.

Lizz Card, Self Portrait


Strong – the straight-on look works well and good use of color … not an easy piece to do.

Merit Award Winner

While Kelley and Kim don’t have any say in who wins an award each month (that’s entirely up to the judges), they do get to choose an artist who they feel merits recognition. This month’s Merit Award goes to…

Carl Dalio, Faded Dreams and Midnight Whispers


Carl Dalio’s painting “Faded Dreams and Midnight Whispers” invites the viewer in for a closer look. The color palette suggests the heat of the day giving way to a cooler, quieter Havana evening. A strong understanding of perspective gives this loose painting an accurate drawing foundation. The light areas on the building create a rhythm through the lower portion of the piece and the two lights on the second floor continue to move the eye up and through the rest of the painting. The contrast of warm and cool light combined with reflected light demonstrates this artist’s expert understanding of light effects. Overall, it has a sense of place and time that isn’t overshadowed by the design. Kim and Kelley


Art Muse Contest August 2016 Winners and Finalists

August 2016 Winners and Finalists

August 2016 Winners and Finalists

Thanks to our July judge, Terry Miura.

Here are this month’s winners and finalists. Terry has included a brief statement about each painting. Congratulations again to all the winners and finalists


Master Class Winner

Jason Sacran, The Old Mill


This is a really beautifully executed nocturne. I’m drawn to the quiet mystery of the piece. The old industrial building looks abandoned, but a lone light illuminates a room. What’s the story here? The painting doesn’t give us answers, but invites us to come up with our own narrative. This open ended narrative is the power of this painting, and the artist masterfully engages the viewer by giving us just enough information. By taking full advantage of the limited light, he/she reduces much of the detail to flat, abstract shapes. Still, we understand what these shapes represent because of context. It’s necessary to have absolute control over extremely tight values to pull this off, and not only the artist achieves it, he/she treats us to poetic handling of the brush, and even manages to seduce the eye with subtle color shifts which are so tightly harmonious, they could only be done with a confident hand.

Master Class Finalists

Richard Prather, Guadalupe Box


The rugged landscape is masterfully depicted in this painting. The first thing I notice is the sense of place. The technical aspects are, of course superbly executed – from the dynamic composition, to the use of repetition and variation in the small shapes, to manipulating color, value, and edges to really create the solidity of rock enveloped in atmosphere – these things are all there, but the fact that I noticed first the sense of place and not the technique, is a testament to the mastery of the artist. It’s one thing to be blown away with dazzling technique; quite another to be moved by a painting. Well done!

Sherrie Levine, Seeing Aix


This charming little painting is so simple, yet so effective. I sense a seasoned eye for composition. Editing out details so that we get an impression of the environment, but no more detail than necessary to achieve this statement. The figures are painted with economy,  too, and they are full of life, thanks to the artist’s confident handling of gesture in each figure. The color scheme is uncomplicated, and that’s just what this picture needs. The strategic use of higher chroma blues really makes this painting sing. It’s a little gem!

Lori Putnam, UnBeLeafable


Here is a vibrant and colorful painting that amazes me. The artist puts down the strokes in a decisive, intentional manner and we believe every bit of it. Using colors that are complementary to one another, it’s really easy to get muddy, but there is none of that in this painting. Keep the colors clean while painting wet into wet, keeping the strokes fresh and immediate yet thoughtfully designed. Bold, but never sloppy. What’s not to love? Oh and did I mention how effective the use of grays are to maximize the simultaneous contrasts in this piece? Delicious.

Rani Garner, Summer Bees II



A beautiful sense of light. The painting is filled with color variations, but the artist successfully keeps it unified. When a painting is all green, it’s so easy to end up with all the same boring green. But here, we see many, many variations, and delightful shifts in temperature. That the artist managed to include reds in such a fearless (and effective!) manner is quite an impressive accomplishment. The organic shapes are beautifully designed, too. It may look like it was done quickly, but shapes like that don’t just fall off the brush. A lot of thoughtful back and forth went into those trees, not to mention a lot of experience.

Jane Hunt, Winter Sky


This one really takes the viewer into the painting. The evocative quality is achieved by the tonal treatment, keying down the entire painting to maximize the effect of the dusky winter sky and the setting sun. It’s tempting to push chroma in these situations, but the artist wisely chooses restraint, to great effect. Restrained, but there is plenty of subtle, harmonious color, which ensures that this does not become monotonous. Really nice control of all the formal aspects, but the technique doesn’t overwhelm the statement; a sure sign that the artist has a firm understanding of what makes a great painting.

Emerging Artist Winner

Zac Elletson, Sunflowers on Antique Rug


This painting is full of fresh brushstrokes, yet totally controlled. I love the economy and decisiveness. The design is really well thought out – a little bit unexpected but extremely effective. This artist understands how to manipulate the viewers’ eye, and we are delighted to be manipulated. How he/she combines variety of edges, colors, and shapes to create a believable (realistic even) mass of flowers and leaves at the top, all the while maintaining the compositional statement, is remarkable.

Emerging Artist and Gallery Representation Finalist

Neil Carroll, Peony Light


A beautifully simple still life. The restraint is remarkable. This is such a compelling painting, that I can get lost in its world. Really beautiful handling of the paint, but it’s such a strong image that I almost don’t notice the technique. Sublime.

Emerging Artist Finalists

Richard White, Lexie



What I like about this portrait is that not only does it show a solid understanding of the structure of the human head, the artist manages to imbue a sense of personality. We don’t know who this is, and we have no idea how good a likeness this is. But we can feel something of the character of the subject – not easy to do. Furthermore, it seems to me that the painting works as an expression of the artist’s identity, which is even more impressive than the ability to merely render a likeness.

Arena Shawn, Serenity


This one exemplifies discipline, control, patience. It’s Old School. Proof that you don’t need color to have a beautiful, powerful image. The artist obviously knows what he/she is doing.

Erica Norelius, Crossing Tracks



Great design, movement, colors and mood! Here’s an artist who has a sense of identity, and knows it. I really like the graphic shapes that pushes it towards abstraction, but never compromising the drawing. Awesome job not being a slave to the photo reference!

Han Lee, After Rain



Love the vantage point and the mood in this one. Cityscapes are difficult to do, what with the perspective drawing being so unforgiving, and there’s just so much information that needs to be distilled into a cohesive whole. The artist pulls it off in this painting, by being clear about what he wants to say, and not being tempted by everything that doesn’t contribute to the main statement. Great design doesn’t happen without a clarity of intent–this one certainly has got it.


Budding Artist Winner

Lizz Card, Mahosot Surgery I


One may find the subject matter of this piece unappealing, but I selected this as the winner of the category for its strength in composition and handling of the values, colors, and the medium in general, not because of the impactful subject matter. The photo reference may have already been strong, but clearly, much thought went into how the hierarchy of importance is handled with a brush. The areas of detail supported by areas of looser,  cooler, and darker treatment is very effective. Particularly in the looser areas, I can see that the artist painted the forms with a lot of intent and care. (Not to take anything away from the focal areas, which are rendered beautifully)


Budding Artist Finalists

Lanny Sherwin, Done for the Day



I really like the sense of sunlight in this piece. The angle of the vehicle makes it a big challenge to draw, but the artist did a great job tackling it. The hard edges and detail in the tractor is not rendered to death, but looks very convincing. The realism in the tractor is heightened because of the simple background, a very effective juxtaposition. The simple background can easily become boring, but the artist avoids that trap by making sure there are plenty of intentional brush activity in the trees.

Randy Sprout, Avalon Harbor Early Morning


I love a good pen drawing! This piece combines pen drawing and painting (watercolor? gouache?) in a charming way, without getting cheesy or predictable. The restraint in the choice of colors is very effective in conveying a mood of a certain kind of light, which wouldn’t have been possible with just the pen drawing. I can sense a level of confidence in the artist’s handling of small shapes.

Suma Jayaraman, Emma


I did not select this one because it’s photorealistic. I chose it because the artist effectively takes it beyond “just making a painted version of a photograph”. I can see it in the artist’s handling of the delicate features in the girl’s face, placements of light and dark notes in the background trees, and in the careful organization of value and chroma through the painting.  The edge control is very effective in orchestrating what’s important in this picture. I don’t know how closely the artist adhered to the photo reference, but my guess is that a lot of compositional tweaking went into this picture. Very thoughtfully executed.

Merit Award Winner

While Kelley and Kim don’t have any say in who wins an award each month (that’s entirely up to the judges), they do get to choose an artist who they feel merits recognition. This month’s Merit Award goes to…

Ann Watcher, Vintage Silver


Ann Watcher’s “Vintage Silver” painting demonstrates how economy can create a strong piece of art. Her brushwork suggests each element with laboring over tiny details for maximum impact. Just look at those lost edges on the silver pot and pitcher. Do you miss them? Heck no! In fact, because they are completely gone it gives the illusion of bright diffused light on a shiny surface. Now let’s talk about color economy, because we know that you’ve been staring at that yellow lid, right? Ann has created a painting that for the most part is a study of values. She’s selectively used color notes to move your eye from the bold yellow lid, through the silver pieces, to the green curtain and back again. Many confident decisions went into making this piece and we feel they were all excellent choices. Well done! Kim and Kelley

Art Muse Contest September 2016 Winners and Finalists


September 2016 Winners and Finalists

Thank you to judge Mark Lague.

Here are the winners and finalists. Mark has written a brief statement about each painting. Congratulations to everyone!

Master Class Winner

Thorgrimur Einarsson,  “Haukadalur”


When you study this painting, you can really get a sense of the artist’s confidence. Very skillful knife work here, both applying paint and scraping it away. The puddles on the path are so simply done, and are clearly the center of interest. I could look at this all day.

Master Class Finalists

Charles Young Walls, “Limelight” 

This is a very charming painting. It has a nice value pattern, brought on by a skillful use of alternation. Even though it’s black and white, colour can be felt in the shadows. The uplighting is reminiscent of Degas.

 William Schneider, “The Long Goodbye”

While this is a very well done portrait, it stands up as a well composed painting. There is effortless brushwork and a real economy of means throughout. The confidently placed highlight in the eye brings Sargent to mind.

 John Lasater, “Evening Marina”

A very serene painting that really captures the feeling of a summer evening. The beautifully simplified shapes of the foreground reflections really add interest, and the warmth of the single light serves as an exciting foil to the blue dominance in the rest of the painting.

 Jason Sacran, “The Amen Corner”

This painting is a master class in design. In a departure from his usual work, Jason has broken down shapes to their bare essence. Details are sacrificed for the sake of interesting and varied shapes. I’m feeling an influence from Richard Diebenkorn and even the cutout works of Matisse.

Ned Mueller, “Last Light, Cragnamanagh, Ireland”

By using subtle and subdued cools in the foreground, Ned has skillfully managed to give the boats in the distance the sense that they are absolutely drenched in sunlight. Beautiful.

Emerging Artist Winner

Michael Gillespie,  “When David Heard”

This is a very powerful painting. The hands and face are very well executed, and the 2 strips of light on the wall add a lot of drama.

Emerging Artist Gallery Representation Finalist

Kenneth Requard, “Sublime Sabino”

This painting really gives a feeling of Southwestern sun. I especially like the muted burnt orange on the peaks in the distance.

Emerging Artist Finalists

Jose Pardo “Humanity Fell” 

I generally find trompe-l’oeil paintings to be cold and technical looking, but this one has a warmth and playfulness to it that is very compelling.

Barbara Schilling, “Summer Roses” 

This painting manages to balance the juxtaposition of good drawing and solid values, all the while giving the flowers a delicate feel.


Toby Davis, “E. Grand Avenue, Chicago”

Strong composition and dramatic perspective make this a very successful painting. Also, the monochrome turquoise adds to the feeling of wetness.

Michael Gillespie, “Delanell” 

Nice subtlety in the facial expression, and the hair is masterfully rendered.

Budding Artist Winner

Lizz Card, “Five Children and a Computer in Muangsing” 

This is a very well thought out composition. The direction that the children are looking actually leads the viewer’s eye through the painting in an interesting way. Also, the faces and hands are very well drawn.

Budding Artist Finalists

Lanny Sherwin, “Mane Man”

This is a very unique approach to painting a lion. Nice bold brushwork and very strong figure/ground consolidation, particularly in the mane.

Tom Afflerbach, “Texas Tower”

This painting feels like an hommage to Edward Hopper. Really strong and well defined value shapes.

Jerell Meyer, “Cinderella”

There’s a quiet dignity to this painting. The soft colour harmony is charming, yet stops short of being sentimental.

Merit Award Winner

While Kelley and Kim don’t have any say in who wins an award each month (that’s entirely up to the judges), they do get to choose an artist who they feel merits recognition. This month’s Merit Award goes to…

Susan Elwart Hall, “Whirlwind”


When it comes to painting a big misconception is that loose and expressive brushwork doesn’t mean that the artist has to have an accurate drawing as a foundation, when in fact, the opposite is true. In “Whirlwind” Susan demonstrates how having a solid understanding of proportion is critical to this seemingly spontaneous piece. She is able to capture the essence of the dancer and her movement without including every little detail. The unfinished background makes the painting seem as though we are having a glimpse into a hidden world within the canvas itself. I don’t know about you but I want to join that dance – well done!


Art Muse Contest October 2016 Winners and Finalists

Thank you to judge Haidee-Jo Summers.


Here are the winners and finalists. Haidee-Jo has written a brief statement about each painting. Congratulations to everyone!

Also congratulations to Eugene Kuperman,
the winner of Haidee- Jo’s “Vibrant Oils” DVD.

Master Class Winner

James Crandall, “Fruit Vendor”


In my opinion this is a special painting that once seen will not be easily forgotten. A most worthy winner, this work appears at first glance to be highly detailed and yet is made up of the most beautiful abstract passages of shape and colour. You can take any section of this painting to make a terrific painting in it’s own right. Great drama is provided by the deep dark shadows which set off the fruit and vegetable crates with their highlighted edges and the glimpses of that mysterious enticing interior. The thoughtful pose of the figure provides narrative, and his head is given further emphasis by the placing of that bright light while the position of his arms connects him to the items on display and help to lead our eye around the painting. There is a softness and dream like quality to the finish due to James application of the paint and a wonderful brevity to the scraped back and softened edges.

Master Class Finalists

Kevin Courter, “Sunset Reflections”


A simple landscape subject made into an extra special painting by Kevin’s masterful use of colour. The whole scene is imbued with evening light and tranquillity, his approach so sensitive and restrained. The large tree to the left of center serves as an anchor to the whole piece, tying together the land and sky. That mere trickle of orange in the foreground is just enough and perfectly placed as a hint of the water in the marshes. A quiet unassuming subject and a lesson in subtlety and restraint.

Mary Maxam, “Sun Gold”


This is a painting of sheer exuberant joy. The subject is brought to life by the artists confident brushstrokes and bold use of colour. A humble subject of plants growing in pots but yet interestingly placed, are they inside or outside, on a windowsill perhaps? The background gives us hints and pleasingly leaves us to decide for ourselves. I adore the exuberant and suggestive mark-making and the use of thin and thick passages of paint and glowing colour. The personality of the artist shines through.

Jason Sacran, “Morning Song”


A brave move on the part of the artist to fill two thirds of the composition with the shadow area of the hillside with much of the remaining third a sky area that consists of only very subtle changes in colour temperature and tiny shifts in value. This all serves fantastically well to focus our attention on that small sliver of the painting, the very peak of the hillside which the morning sun has reached and in those few warm brief brushmarks we imagine a whole village bathed in sunlight. A quiet statement about a special quality of light rendered with great sensitivity, nothing is overstated. The winding road leads us into the landscape towards the sunlit peak aided by the vertical trees. I adore Jasons restraint and control in his use of colour, and those tiny touches of higher saturated colour to the left of the peak just above the dark silhouette of the treeline, hints of turquoise, lilac and orange. I’m pretty sure this is a Plein Air painting which to me makes it all the more remarkable as the light effect that Jason has managed to capture is so fleeting.

Ned Mueller, “Tying Up San Blas”


This captivating painting is so well designed and holds together with an orange/blue complementary colour scheme. Everything in the subject is connected and becomes a part of the greater whole – the figures, the boats, the foreground posts, even the land masses in the distance. There is so much life and action and movement in this painting. The rope on the foreshore makes a perfect lead in and the shadow of the man with the hat on the right hand side is a great touch. Clearly Ned has immense observation and drawing skills and can exploit values and counter-change to their full potential. Above all of the interest, detail and activity, the main subject here is the golden light, which the huge cast shadow on the left serves to emphasize.

Linda Alexander, “Peonies”


Better than real life, the flowers in this painting are like seeing a new and vibrant supercharged reality. The unusual use of an eye level viewpoint with the flowers lying down towards me rather than upright in a vase makes me look at the peonies in a new way. Linda’s use of light is extraordinary and somehow all the different stages of petals represented seem to have their own character of transparency and texture. The softness and delicacy of the petals and yet still the weight of the flowers, together with the artists clever use of reflected light and subtle colour changes make this an exceptional painting.

With special mention to Kathie Odom, Dee Kirkham, Rick Delanty and Karen Blackwood.

Emerging Artist Winner

Ginny Pitre-Hay, “Sitting Pretty in New Orleans”


This is such a wonderful painting, beautifully succinct in its capture of the charming subject. I fell head over heels in love with this painting. Light, simplicity, design, drawing, proportions, strong values, composition, colour temperature, this artist is clearly a very accomplished painter. One of the most difficult things to do in a painting of a group of figures like this is to simplify the depiction of a face, and Ginny has managed this beautifully. In my opinion she has said just enough to leave the viewer of the painting able to engage and this is no mean feat. There is just enough interest and variety in the background without competing with the foreground figures, and the crowded effect of the dresses all overlapping and continuing out of the edges of the canvas works so well.

Emerging Artist Gallery Representation Finalist

Zac Elletson, “Sunflowers and Fruit”


This is an ambitious still life arrangement, beautifully tackled by Zac, all held together by an extremely strong design and use of values. The eye is led around the subject and has so much interest to find throughout. No space in this painting has been left unconsidered or wasted. It’s a super composition with sophisticated use of edges.

Emerging Finalists

Greg Clibon, “Golden Hour”


This is a very accomplished painting and the artist has made good use of texture throughout with thick paint, and a dry brush just skipping across the surface together with some beautifully placed, confident marks. Greg has done a great job of desaturating the blue greys of the shadow areas of snow and the icy river in order to get that fantastic contrast of the warm evening light on the river bank. The house in the distance makes a terrific secondary focal point and has been simply stated. A modest subject painted with great interest and impact.

Meisha Grichuhin, “The Grandeur of One”


A simple unassuming landscape, beautifully brought to life with the artists sensitive hand. Meisha has kept a very careful control of colours here from the distant trees to the grassy foreground. The light foreground grasses against the dark area at the base of the tree provide a strong focal point with the merest suggestion of branches providing further interest. The edges of the tree against the sky are rendered with subtlety and confidence. A masterclass in delightful understatement.

Rose Irelan, “The Wish”


The figure is so well drawn and the light in this painting is captivating. The artist has shown in this work a sophisticated understanding of colour subtleties and reflected light. More than technical competence however, Rose has succeeded in capturing mood and poetry in this painting. This is a very successful portrait painting.

Christie Hegarty, “Maybe Next Summer”


I kept being drawn back to this painting again and again, and really what greater praise is there? I found this painting to be an original and captivating idea. There is a narrative here, we can’t help but wonder about the story behind it. The subject is nostalgic, the composition quirky and personal and the use of colour bold. I love to see a challenging subject like this being tackled and Christie has pulled it off with great individuality.

A special mention to Jose Pardo, Chris Baker, Annette Power, Susan Elwart Hall, Lisa Zook, Nora Dempsey, Lynn Ward, Barbara Schilling, Barry Koplowitz, and Dario Falzon!

Budding Artist Winner

Randy Sprout, “Our Heroes Tonight”


This painting has a terrific feeling of the heat and movement of the vast spreading fire and the battle of the lone figure against it. The limited colour palette is used to great effect, and I love the range of drawn marks against the thin paint and thick opaque passages. A really exciting and successful work.

Budding Finalist

Finalist Pat Posillico, “Dusk at Devils Thumb”


Pat has made great use of atmospheric perspective in this landscape painting and those distant mountains really do feel far away. Pat has also done a great job of mixing a range of natural greens, and the sky is well reflected in the water. The fence post in the foreground leads the eye into the composition and I particularly like the marks used by the artist to render the foreground grasses.

Merit Award Winner

While Kelley and Kim don’t have any say in who wins an award each month (that’s entirely up to the judges), they do get to choose an artist who they feel merits recognition. This month’s Merit Award goes to…

Lauren Kuhn, “Ocean Song”


How many times have you heard just paint shapes? Well, Lauren Kuhn has done just that. Her piece, , is all about the the varied shapes, beautiful play of colors and lights vs. darks. That it is a painting of a wave is an added bonus.Lauren takes us on a playful, rollercoaster ride that captures all the action in an wonderfully abstracted way. Well done! Kim and Kelley

Art Muse Contest November 2016 Winners and Finalists

Thanks to our judge, Nancy Franke.


Here are the winners and finalists. Nancy has written a brief statement about each painting. Congratulations to everyone and Happy Holidays.

Master Class Winner

 Francesco Fontana, The Art Lover


This painting is a deft juxtaposition of many elements.  Appearing simple in almost monochromatic color and in composition, it reveals a powerful complexity upon further examination.  A contemplative mood is created with soft light, yet the strong drawing and angular shadows lend drama.   It’s a shining example of the watercolor medium!

Master Class Finalists

Anna Rose Bain, A Fleeting Moment


Gesture and feeling are expressed very skillfully in this painting. The essence of this child is communicated through the use of strong value contrast, combined with soft color.  Edges are expertly varied.

Romona Youngquist, Abandoned


Great drama is created here by the use of complementary color!   The angles in the composition lead the eye through the painting in an almost musical progression, with the crescendo being the sunlit house.

Damien Gonzales,
Sunrise at Antelope House Overlook


An almost abstract painting, this piece glows with morning light, creating pattern and a modern and dramatic effect.  This is an exciting artwork!

Kathie Odom, The Way is a Place


There is a bit of magic in this painting, created by the confident brushwork and unusual dance of the colors.  This one looks like springtime feels.

Sherrie Russ Levine, Fresh from Market


This is a loose, succinct painting, brimming with confident brushwork, complementary color, and a cropped birds-eye view into an intimate scene.

Emerging Artist Winner

Barbara Tschantre, Next Time I'll Smile


Skillful drawing and subtle color add to the impact of this portrait. The artist was able to capture a quiet humanity that has universal appeal.

Emerging Artist Gallery Representation Finalist

 Anette Power, With Grace


Love the use of dramatic, warm lighting in this piece. The message was simplified and strongly stated with bravura brushwork and subtle temperature shifts.

Emerging Artist Finalists

Erica Norelius, Crowded Cuban Street


The close-up view of the old car and the touches of the car color throughout the painting are lively and fun. There is a push and pull here, of subtlety and vibrancy in color and in value, which adds sizzle – perfect for a Cuban scene!

Mason Kang, Morning Light at Namwon


I can feel the cool air here, as the morning fog is lifting.  Very nice use of warm light, cool shadows, and linear elements to tie the design all together.

Anna Toberman, Undeterred


Her drawing skill tells the tale here – and the message of the title is nicely communicated: “Undeterred.”  I really like the combination of strong, contrasting light and soft edge effects.

Brock Drenth, Primary Childhood


This is fun, well done and is nicely composed and nicely observed.  Primary colors shine forth, and the image is strong.

Budding Artist Winner

Valerie Fabie, Pears


Very nice use of light on a simple subject – this painting is soft, yet strong and true.

Budding Artist Finalist

Randy Sprout, High Lake


Shadow and light are nicely stated with the use of complementary color.  The feeling of dancing sunlight and cool air make this painting a stand out!

Merit Award Winner

Deborah Wage, Caroline


Deborah's painting provides a fresh approach to the timeless pursuit of portraiture. The directness of the subject and Deborah's treatment of the edges creates a strong and impactful portrait, daring to the viewer to look away.

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