Painter of the Year Comments and Critique, May 9, 2016 

Jim Nelson "WhiteTail Deer"

Ruth Ellen Hoag, an artist, teacher and juror from Santa Barbara, California, judged our Painter of the Year competition and offered helpful and gentle critiques of the paintings submitted for consideration.  In order to be eligible, an artist needed to have won a ribbon at one of our Painter of the Month competitions this season.  There were 17 entries for Painter of the Year, and the winner was Jim Nelson for a painting of a deer.  1st Runner Up was Moira Johannessen for a painting of two girls, and 2nd Runner Up was Nancy Rizzardi for a night landscape.

These were some of Ms. Hoag's comments:  "As a teacher, I'm always thinking about how to move ideas forward for each individual artist without imposing on them my own style of painting.  At the same time, I want to teach good painting techniques in watercolor or acrylic.  So I look for themes that I believe to be universal.  For instance, I was listening to the 'From the Top' NPR program of fabulous young musicians.  The conductor of the National Youth Orchestra, Christoph Eschenbach, said, talking about musicians, 'Technique must be at the service of saying something.' This got me thinking, this is just as true for a visual artists as it is for musicians.  We ask ourselves first, 'What do I want to say?' Then, 'What techniques do I still need to develop to express my ideas more fully?'

'Am I satisfied with rendering what it looks like? What can I bring to my painting that hasn't been done before?' Now that may be asking a lot, but the point is to say what you FEEL about the subject.  How do you respond to what you see?  It's as true about abstract as it is about representational paintings, and it has nothing to do with the medium.  Watercolor, acrylic, oil, collage, assemblage; it has everything to do with your own self-expression, in whatever medium.

I have a good friend and mentor, Skip Lawrence.  I'm sure many of you know him well.  Many years ago, after a trip to France,  I was painting my French chickens (at a time when everyone was painting chickens) and he said, 'Unless you bring some particular chickenhoodness to your painting, why paint them?  It's been done!' That was about 18 years ago and it still rings in my head.

My approach to jurying is to ask questions.  'Is this a new idea, or has it been done before? Is the medium handled with confidence? Did the artist take a chance?'"

Ms. Hoag also offered the advice that in composition, it's good to have "a lot of something" (color, type of shapes, sizes of shapes, values, etc.) against "a little of something (that is different)."  She advised using the biggest brush you can, for as long as you can, and to attach your center of interest to the edges (two or three edges) as quickly as possible.

She also cautioned about framing.  She said, "Be aware of the impact of framing.  It's the presentation of the art and if it isn't equal in quality to the art, or not complimentary, or in support, or just dirty or ill-fitting, it becomes a distraction to the work."  Fortunately, she said she saw only nice framing jobs on the works submitted for her consideration!

We thank Ruth Ellen Hoag and all the artists who submitted work for a very interesting program.  We all learned something!

Robin St. Louis, Program Chair

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