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
eligible to win a LIFETIME MEMBERSHIP for Artwork Archive

Click here to enter TODAY.