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Congratulations to the 30 winners of our annual art competition! Here (and in our December 2011 issue) we celebrate the winners from the Landscape/Interior category. By Michael Chesley Johnson
Frederick D. Somers
Northfield, Minnesota • www.fredericksomers.com
Prairie Rainbows depicts Prairie Creek—a frequent subject for Fred Somers—in Minnesota’s Nerstrand-Big Woods State Park. In fact, he’s painted there so often that a ranger recommended that Somers create an image for the 1996 state park sticker because “he’s that artist who’s in here all the time.”
For larger works, those 30×40 or bigger, he creates a complete, quarter-scale painting first. For Somers, who’s been painting both outdoors and in the studio for more than 40 years, Prairie Rainbows is a small piece, so he chose to skip any preparatory sketches and go directly to the painting. “I had the idea of values, large color fields and patterns in my mind,” he says.
Working from his own photograph as a reference, he began on a mahogany panel that he’d first gessoed and then toned with yellow ochre and raw sienna. He wiped a thin layer of Gamsol and Liquin over the panel, then used filberts to apply a thin, transparent underpainting in color. Once this dried, he added more layers, sometimes glazing but also working wet-into-wet. Because he may work on several paintings at once, a surface might be dry for one session and wet the next, depending on how much time has elapsed. If the surface has dried, he applies Gamsol and Liquin to “open” it and make it receptive to the next layer of paint. “As this painting neared completion,” Somers says, “I used glazes to soften edges or, as Rembrandt did, I added thicker paint with a bristle brush or palette knife for highlights.”
Somers often returns to nature for inspiration. “The colors from the sky and the tree canopy reflect and dance on the surface,” he says, “while the varied colors of the glacial stones below appear vivid. I’m inspired by the metaphor of heaven touching earth.”
Aurora, Illinois • www.georgeshipperley.com
George Shipperley takes an unorthodox approach to painting, saying, “I’ve never employed an actual step-by-step process because most of my work is imaginary with arbitrarily chosen color.” He used no photos or sketches for Red Edge. Instead, starting right in with the painting, he made three horizontal lines on a sheet of acid-free board to suggest depth in the landscape. He next painted the darkest darks, focusing on composition, and then expanded the value range and established the major tree trunks and supporting trees. Finally he added a suggestion of foliage and refined the color harmony. “The red splash came at the very end to add a subtle point of interest without commanding all of the viewer’s attention while still creating an impact.”
For this painting, he used a variety of Holbein and Sennelier oil pastels plus a black oil stick. “I chose a workable palette,” Shipperley says, “consisting of colors I like.” His colors included yellow ochre, deep yellow, ultramarine blue, warm and cool grays, reds and browns, plus black and white. Additionally, he used Original Liquin (Winsor Newton) to liquefy the oil pastels when needed and employed shop towels and razor blades to manipulate the surface. It took two afternoons to complete the painting.
“My inspiration came from within,” says Shipperley, “for I had nothing specific in mind other than choosing a limited palette of colors suitable for a landscape. Simply said, the creative spark came while I was painting, not before.” Memories of observed landscapes influenced the creative process.
Spokane, Washington • www.stanmiller.net
A full-time painter since 1973, Stan Miller knows what it takes to make a winning painting: design. To see the essence of an image, he prints out a 1×1½-inch grayscale version of his reference photo and posts it on the wall for days or weeks. “With a grayscale photo there for a period of time, all one can judge are the abstract shapes. It’s the placement and interaction of these shapes that are the most important tests in putting together a strong painting.”
For Venice Calm, he omitted some boats and invented some colors. Knowledge gleaned from his six trips to Venice helped make the changes convincing.
After making an initial drawing on Arches 140-lb. cold-pressed watercolor paper, he used a variety of watercolor brands including Holbein, Winsor Newton, Grumbacher, M. Graham and Daniel Smith. Finishing sections as he went along, he began first with the sky and water, then completed the left side and finally the right. Although the actual painting took only five hours, he says that the most important and time-consuming work was in the preliminary design studies.
Michael Chesley Johnson, longtime contributor and workshop teacher, has produced two videos, Backpacker Painting: Oil on Location and Backpacker Painting: Pastel, both available at www.northlightshop.com.
Winners of Magazine’s 28th Annual Art Competition were featured in the December 2011 issue. Click here to purchase.
Free artistsnetwork.tv preview
See an award-winning artists’ approach to landscapes. Click here for a link to a free preview of Color Harmony for Luminous Pastels with Colleen Howe from artistsnetwork.tv.
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