"American Artist" 2007 Cover Competition

6 Jun 2008

0705aacovercomp8_600x600_1The winner and semifinalists of our annual cover competition reveal how they created paintings that captured the attention of our judges.

Frank J. Strazzulla Jr.


Studio Interior
2003, oil, 18 x 14. Private collection

“One of the compelling themes throughout the history of art concerns artists in their workspace—where they’re surrounded by models, easels, pigments, palettes, and brushes,” says Massachusetts artist Frank J. Strazzulla Jr. when explaining the idea behind his oil painting. The judges of this year’s competition were impressed with the way Strazzulla used this time-honored theme to describe himself and his studio in a way that connected his work to that of other painters.

It’s not surprising that Strazzulla explores traditional subject matter. He has been strongly influenced by European masters since his first trip to Europe almost 30 years ago when he was a student at the Massachusetts College of Art, in Boston, and through his continued study at the Villa Schifanoia and the Studio Cecil-Graves, both in Florence, Italy. “I make my own oil paints and work very directly without doing any underpainting or glazing,” he says, describing his creative process. “I mass in the large areas as I concern myself with getting the relative values and color temperatures correct, as well as capturing the atmosphere in a scene.”

Strazzulla is a member of The Copley Society of Art and The Guild of Boston Artists, and he exhibits his paintings in shows organized by those organizations as well as galleries in Massachusetts and South Carolina.


Robert J. Barber


Morning in America
2006, oil, 24 x 18. Private collection.

Robert J. Barber’s plein air landscapes have won the Best of Show award in the Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters Association (MAPPA) competition three years in a row, and they were also chosen for the People’s Choice awards in 2005 and 2006. That’s quite an accomplishment considering some of the top landscape painters in the Northeast participate in that annual event.

Morning in America is similar to the Pennsylvania artist’s award-winning views of historic homes in Annapolis, Maryland, where the MAPPA event takes place each fall. “A gallery that represents me was organizing an exhibition of flag paintings for Memorial Day, and this street scene in Alexandria, Virginia, seemed like an appropriately sober, optimistic, and patriotic subject to paint for the show,” Barber says. “Working with Gamblin and Rembrandt oil colors and filbert-shaped bristle brushes, I developed the picture from thin washes to thick applications of paint, paying particular attention to edges, transitions, and textures.”

Barber earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in studio art at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Art Center College of Design, in Pasadena, California. He worked as a freelance illustrator until 2004, when he became a full-time fine artist. He is a member of Oil Painters of America, the Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters Association, and the Washington Society of Landscape Painters.


Mia Bergeron


2005, oil, 36 x 24.
All artwork this article collection the artist unless otherwise indicated.

“I met the subject of this portrait in Florence, Italy, and I was immediately taken with her uniquely classical profile, so I asked her to pose for me,” remembers Georgia artist Mia Bergeron. “I was even more fascinated by her as we got to know each other during the sittings. I painted on Belgian linen using materials and techniques I learned while studying in Italy in the Charles H. Cecil Studio, in Florence. For example, I used the sight-size method of having the model and painting appear the same size from a measured distance from the easel, and I modified the oils with a medium made from Canada balsam, sun-thickened linseed oil, and turpentine.”

Bergeron studied at the Rhode Island School of Design, in Providence, and the Charles H. Cecil Studio, in Florence, Italy, before establishing herself as a professional artist in Atlanta. She has received commissions to paint portraits for clients throughout the South.


George A. Gonzalez


2005, oil, 14 x 11.

“I often create paintings based on a play of words,” says Texas artist George A. Gonzalez. “This is actually the third in a series on the words ‘lemon-aid.’ I worked on a prepared Masonite panel with Winsor & Newton oils, modifying the paints with a medium made from stand oil, linseed oil, damar varnish, and turpentine. I sketched the image on tracing paper, transferred it to the panel, blocked in the composition with raw umber and titanium white, and then applied semiopaque colors to the highlighted areas and thin glazes to the shadow regions. The final applications of oil established the highlights and strongest shadows. Once the painting was completely dry, I coated it with Liquin alkyd medium.”

Gonzalez is largely self-taught and has spent a considerable amount of time studying paintings in books, magazines, and museum collections. He is a member of the American Society of Classical Realism, Oil Painters of America, the American Artists Professional League, and the International Guild of Realism. He is represented by Bentley Publishing Group, in Walnut Creek, California, and Galaxy of Graphics, in New York City.


Margery Hume Ammon


Venetian Sky
2006, oil, 24 x 20. Courtesy Christopher Hill Gallery, St. Helena, California.

This painting represents a departure for Californian Margery Hume Ammon, who usually focuses on the Napa Valley landscape near her home. “I was so taken with the windows of Venice and Tuscany that I painted a series of 11 oils of them and mounted an exhibition of those pictures at the Christopher Hill Gallery, in St. Helena, California,” she explains. “I worked primarily from photographs and recollections of the locations, trying to capture the colors, shapes, and textures. I toned the canvas with a wash of pale ochre acrylic paint and then built up layers of oil color, allowing each to dry before applying the next.”
Ammon studied art at Dominican College, in Orangeburg, New York; San Francisco State University; Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore; and the California State International Programs, in Aix-en-Provence, France. She is a member of a number of art organizations and exhibits in galleries throughout California.


Ying-He Liu


Girl With a Silver Headband
2005, oil, 32 x 20.

Having spent more than 20 years as a professional portrait painter, Ying-He Liu was happy to apply her skills to create this portrait of her daughter, Ming Min. “We experimented with different ballet costumes, lighting situations, and locations before I found the composition that best captured her personality,” the artist explains. “Furthermore, I liked the casualness and lack of strain that often typify commissioned portraits. I developed the oil painting by building up layers of paint, going from thick, scumbled layers of color to thin, transparent glazes.”

Ying-He Liu was born in Shanghai, China, majored in fine arts at Stony Brook University, in Stony Brook, New York, and pursued graduate study in illustration at the School of Visual Arts, in New York City. She became an American citizen in 1986. Her portraits are included in the collections of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, in New York City; the Children’s Hospital Boston; the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, in Kansas City, Missouri; Washington University, in St. Louis; and the Groton School, in Groton, Massachusetts.


Thomas C. Adkins


Pink Federal Flowers
2006, oil, 30 x 30.

“This painting is similar to other works that focus on the geometric shapes found in the landscape,” says Connecticut artist Thomas C. Adkins. “Square shapes echo throughout the painting—in the window, widow’s walk, and building, for instance; and the blue sky gives a serene feeling while complementing the pink flowers.”

Adkins is adept at working on location and in his Southbury, Connecticut, studio, and he has had a successful career as an art director, graphic designer, and illustrator. His most recent paintings have focused on the landscape of New England and are influenced by the 19th-century Impressionists he admires, as well as by contemporary artists such as Peter Poskas.

Adkins graduated from Paier College of Art, in Hamden, Connecticut, and took graduate-level courses at the School of Visual Arts, in New York City. He is a member of the Connecticut Plein Air Painters Society, the Old Lyme Art Association, and Oil Painters of America, and he exhibits with galleries throughout Connecticut.


Camille Engel


Sunflower at the Old Factory
2004, oil, 24 x 24.


“I am amazed and fascinated by the color, texture, and splendor of even the most ordinary subjects,” says Tennessee artist Camille Engel. “I want to capture the richness of life in everything I see. With each brushstroke of oil color, I try to communicate the beauty of the subjects I paint, building up layers of color over weeks and months. I use a variety of techniques, gradually building the richness, depth, and intrigue with seven or more layers of paint.”

After working as a graphic designer for a number of years, in 1999 Engel shifted her attention to oil painting and has since received awards and recognitions in exhibitions throughout the country. One of her sunflower paintings is currently in a traveling museum exhibition, “The New Reality: The Frontier of Realism in the 21st Century,” that will be presented in 10 cities during a two-year period.


Fred Fields


All Wrangled Out
2001, oil, 20 x 16.

“I was new to Arizona in 2001 and didn’t know any real ranchers I could hire as models, so I talked an artist friend, Dennis Kauth, into posing in a barn coat, kerchief, and hat that I owned,”  Fred Fields explains. “Trouble was that the hat was too big for his head, and I had to stuff a T-shirt under it so it would appear to fit, and I propped a cane under his arms so I could work his hands into the portrait. I’ve always been interested in painting pictures with a Western theme, although I sometimes paint figures that don’t necessarily relate to this part of the country.

“I painted the picture of Dennis on canvas stretched over a Masonite panel,” Fields says. “I first blocked in the cool and warm areas with light washes of ultramarine blue and cadmium orange acrylic paint, then I punched in the darks with burnt umber oil color and gradually built up the middle and light values with progressively thicker applications of paint.”

Fields grew up in a small town in Kentucky and began painting at age 9. He studied at the Central Academy of Commercial Art, in Cincinnati, and, after graduating, worked for major advertising agencies in Chicago and a publishing company in Wisconsin. Eventually he moved with his family to Arizona and established himself as a professional artist specializing in the people of the West and an era that is rapidly becoming a memory. He is a member of Oil Painters of America, and he exhibits his work with galleries in Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, and California. Mill Pond Press of Venice, Florida, publishes limited-edition prints of his paintings.


Joyce E. Lazzara


Tahitian Sunset
2006, oil, 12 x 12.

“I was in the middle of a parking lot in the Greek Isles when I saw a beautiful rosebud that was asking to be noticed,” remembers Florida artist Joyce E. Lazzara. “I took photographs of the flower and later sketched it in charcoal on a square canvas when I got back to my studio. I fixed the drawing, blocked in the values with burnt umber and burnt sienna, and then brushed in the midtones and highlights. The subject and proportions of the finished painting seemed appropriate for the magazine’s cover, so I entered a slide of it in the competition.”

Lazzara worked in the fashion industry and operated her own art gallery after graduating from the University of South Florida and attending workshops with Daniel E. Greene, Frank Covino, Thomas V. Nash, John Howard Sanden, David A. Leffel, Nelson Shanks, Joyce Pike, and other nationally known artists. Her paintings have been included in exhibitions organized by the Tampa Museum of Art, the National Oil & Acrylic Painters’ Society, and the American Society of Portrait Artists. She teaches workshops during the summer and exhibits in a number of galleries.

To read more features like this, subscribe to American Artist today!

Related Posts
+ Add a comment


Steven Hawke wrote
on 3 Nov 2007 10:53 AM
I, like most, love to look through the pages of each American Artist that comes out. You continue to evolve and just keep getting better.
kailas yeolekar wrote
on 10 Dec 2007 11:23 AM
don harvie wrote
on 6 Jan 2008 10:31 AM
Hi: I am a subscriber to both of yuour magazines.. I just read where you had extended the date for entry into the magazine cover contest. Is that true? Or has that extention time passed? thank you don harvie
Bernie Aronson wrote
on 7 Jan 2008 3:58 PM
You can tell from my email address my media of choice, however I do appreciate all media and enjoy the offerings of both American Artist and the Pastel Journal.
Raymond Quenneville wrote
on 13 Jan 2008 9:46 AM
Hi As a canadian artist can I participate to the Anmerican artist cover competition ?? Please let me know how to register Thanks Raymond Quenneville
Will Rafuse wrote
on 30 Jan 2009 8:18 AM
Hello I would appreciate if you would do a piece on my work and my updated website. Thank you! Regards Will Rafuse http://willrafuse.blogspot.com www.willrafuse.com