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    BEST IN SHOW: Essex Tie Up by Mitch Baird

    Above: BEST IN SHOW, Essex Tie Up by Mitch Baird. Read more...

    April 2018 Judge: Suzie Baker

    “Let's take a float around this brilliantly designed composition by Mitch Baird. He immediately directs our eye to the starboard listing focal point of the green boat with its warm interior and cool hull. Its bow points us up and to the left where we might leave the picture altogether were it not for the brown shack that cast us back into the boatyard where we bob around the mast until we make our way down to the planks that circle us back up to that lovely focal point. Add to all of that Mitch's masterful handling of paint, brushwork, hard and soft edges, rhythm and balance between areas of chaos and rest, and "Essex Tie Up" gets my vote for Best in Show."
    — Suzie Baker

    Read more about professional artist Suzie Baker.

    See judge's comments on all 12 finalist paintings below (shown in random order).

    Name of Artist: Deborah Tilby
    Judge's Comment: I wish I were standing here with Debra when she painted it with a mug of hot chocolate. How nicely she has captured this fleeting moment. She has designed the puddle shapes so cleverly in this painting. They lead us in and back to one softly lit window and then, just to the left, a ping of reflected light that tells us there is more beyond. Note her brush and palette knife work, her hard and soft edges her value and temperature control. Well done. Beautifully painted.
    Name of Artist: TaiMeng Lim
    Judge's Comment: Is this painting about Koi Fish? I think of it as a painting about of form and movement. The big dark shapes on the left and right provide a shoot in which the fish are funneled until one guy at the top gets stopped by the ripples of light and turns back to return the movement downward. Aside from the abstract qualities of the painting as a whole, a closer look reveals a masterfully rendered view through dark water to the pebbles below. No easy task when you are talking about tiny value shifts.
    Name of Artist: Ned Mueller
    Judge's Comment: In Ned's description of this painting, he says he was "lucky to catch all this activity one early morning in San Blas, Mexico." He may have been lucky to "catch the activity," but it was his skill as an artist that saw it for it's potential to create this painting. Every player in this composition, save one, is touched by both light and shadow. From warm to cool each figure bobs with the tide. Notice too the placement of the ropes in this painting. They serve the same purpose as the figures, leading us in and around and tying the whole image together.
    Name of Artist: Patrick Saunders
    Judge's Comment: I could go on for pages and not sing this beauties praises enough. Whose in control of this painting? Patrick is! Those little Gerberas aren't the boss of him. Let's just focus on rhythm shall we; I could tap my toe to the notes those petals are playing. In less masterful hands, flower petals can easily take on a monotonous staccato. Not here, Patrick has these three ladies playing notes that swing us around the painting, dipping in-and-out of each warm and cool shadow and ping of light and resting in the shapes between flowers where we can take the full measure of this maestros orchestration. Rock on Patrick!
    Name of Artist: Mitch Baird
    Judge's Comment: Let's take a float around this brilliantly designed composition by Mitch Baird. He immediately directs our eye to the starboard listing focal point of the green boat with its warm interior and cool hull. Its bow points us up and to the left where we might leave the picture altogether were it not for the brown shack that cast us back into the boatyard where we bob around the mast until we make our way down to the planks that circle us back up to that lovely focal point. Add to all of that Mitch's masterful handling of paint, brushwork, hard and soft edges, rhythm and balance between areas of chaos and rest, and "Essex Tie Up" gets my vote for Best in Show.
    Name of Artist: DK Palecek
    Judge's Comment: Let's call this one Hopper meets Mondriaan. DK has nearly reduced the objective qualities of this scene to its most basic structure, boarding on abstract. Here she has given us a vertical and horizontal patchwork of color fields broken only by the sash of light that runs diagonally across the house and parallel to the picture plane. If you feel calm looking at this painting, it is because of DK's handling of shape and form to bring order.
    Name of Artist: Jason Sacran
    Judge's Comment: I've thought about this painting a lot. Jason has done an unusual thing here. He's turned a waterfall painting into a tree painting, or has he? That Tree, quirky and rim lit, cut at the top and bottom, would hold our eye were it not for the atmospheric, misty splash of the waterfall which turns an implied corner and floats us back around to the tree. Then up the tree trunk we shoot again. That's a circular composition folks! The third player in this narrative is the other autumnal tree on the right, rooted above a sensitively painted rocky ledge that is so crusty; I could spread butter on it.
    Name of Artist: Robin Williamson
    Judge's Comment: How do I love this painting? Robin imbues this humble painting with a religiosity. Each figure with a halo and blue Aura of status. And funny, this painting made me smile. The little red guy with his muppet hair stands alone while the two belly-buttoned others decide if he is enough like themselves to be in their grouping. If we indulge ourselves in a bit of societal naval gazing, we could even read a bit of commentary on our tendencies toward ethnocentricity in this little painting. Well done Robin.
    Name of Artist: Aleksandra Lis
    Judge's Comment: Ok, so here are some of the things I look for when judging artwork. Drawing, check. Color Understanding, check. Value Control, check. Paint Handling, check. Expression, check. Edge Variety, check, check, check. It was a surprise to me that this was an oil painting. Here is an artist who knows her medium and handles it with a unique and expressive manner. I particularly appreciate the implied sun in this painting. Her face is turned toward it; her glasses cast a warm to cool shadow on her cheek, the background shifts, ever so subtly from warm to cool (with no value shift) and edges disappear as a result of it. Bravo Aleksandra!
    Name of Artist: Mary Pettis
    Judge's Comment: Look at the control Mary exerts over the elements of this painting. Three arches of various size and value staring above the halfway mark and ending below it. Two bright, smaller arches positioned along the golden section. Horizontal stoppers, dark on the right, light on the left, that keep us from taking that bridge out of the picture. The warm, cool interplay of light and shadow is no doubt an intentional choice by Mary of the time of day to best paint this scene. And finally, Mary has manipulated the weather and used clouds as a design element to angel us into her design of this iconic scene.
    Name of Artist: jaq grantford
    Judge's Comment: I'm going to guess this was painted using photography. Either that or Jaq will need some serious chiropractic intervention. The fisheye skewing is something we are accustomed to seeing in wide angled photographs. Here though, I think Jaq has effectively used that distortion along with an intentional tilt to accentuate the extreme height and angle of the buildings. You might feel vertigo looking at it except that she has balanced the composition with three strong shapes that weight each other nicely. Equally well balanced are all those architectural details that disappear into that blast of textured light.
    Name of Artist: Brian LaSaga
    Judge's Comment: Burrrrr.... everything about this painting invites us into the landscape, but you better have the right cold weather gear. First, you have to ease your way across the ice, circumnavigate the boulder, scramble up the cliff, inch over to the slightly ajar cabin door before slipping inside (finding no relief from the cold) only to realize you don't have the keys. Such is the narrative of this expertly rendered painting. This scene may not be the place we want to vacation, but Brian's skill and choice of element placement lead us in to crunch around in the snow and linger long enough to freeze our toes.

     

     

    Cash award to monthly Best in Show winner. All monthly finalists win a free promoted painting entry, are chosen and critiqued by a different professional artist judge each month, and compete for Grand Prizes awarded in August. Artists may offer to sell their paintings or print reproductions and keep 100% if sold.
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