"American Artist" Magazine Cover Competition Winners

11 Sep 2008

0810aaccomp1_450x600 Hundreds of artists from around the country sent in submissions for American Artist’s 2008 Cover Competition, and the editors narrowed the selection down to the 10 they thought best captured the skill level and style of our publication. When those paintings were then considered for their strength as cover images, California artist Adrian Gottlieb’s The Auditor was chosen as the winning work.

View the winners of the Watercolor and Drawing magazine cover competitions.

The Winner Adrian Gottlieb


The Winning work:
The Auditor
2007, oil on Belgian linen glued to panel, 40 x 30. Collection the artist.

Figurative compositions are Cover Competition winner Adrian Gottlieb’s passion. The California artist spent many years in Italy studying the traditional drawing and painting techniques of the Old Masters, and it shows. The inspiration for this winning painting was Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait as the Apostle St. Paul, which Gottlieb saw for the first time in 2005 at a special Rembrandt exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum, in Los Angeles. “I was immediately taken by the presence of the piece, its light and color, the composition, and the emotion of the face,” he says. “I had wanted to do a painting that represented my place in life at the time, and I decided that this Rembrandt work would be the touchstone upon which my piece The Auditor would be based. I was in something of a low point in my life. I was seriously questioning its value and relevance, and so I created the auditor to be a judge. I chose a popular Los Angeles art model, Sara Streeter, for her piercing gaze and natural grace. Sara has a terrific energy that artists can draw upon to fill their paintings with great presence.”

Gottlieb first took many photographs to find out what kind of lighting, cropping, and composition he wanted and then did several sketches and color studies. “The camera never sees nature exactly as I do,” he says. “The studies allow me to turn the camera’s multiple physical impressions into my own unified artistic impression.” Using centuries-old techniques he learned in Italy at The Florence Academy of Art, Gottlieb fixed the canvas to panel using traditional rabbit-skin glue. Next, he primed the surface with a titanium oil primer made for working on panel, created by Robert Doak, in Brooklyn, New York, whose materials Gottlieb uses almost exclusively. After drawing the figure directly on the canvas, he built up lead white in the light areas so the painting would not darken and so the lights would glow increasingly as the painting aged. He then worked on the flesh tones with mixtures of sinopia and chrome oxide green to achieve an underpainting flesh tone similar to European approaches from the early Renaissance to the end of the 19th century.


2007, oil on Belgian linen glued to panel, 21 x 16. Collection
the artist.

“Because Rembrandt was my first inspiration in painting, that sense of glow and color has always been extremely important to me, and I have crafted my technique around getting that effect for the past 12 years,” Gottlieb says. “I developed several underpainting techniques, such as the right warm imprimatura (the initial underpainting wash or glaze of thin color), the piambura (the lead-white base that gives the subject greater luminosity), and the verdaccio (the direct painting stage, during which you develop value relationships) as a way of getting the sense of not just luminosity but ‘illuminosity’—the effect of light coming from the canvas itself.” 

Gottlieb believes that an artist’s process is as unique as his or her fingerprints because the artist’s brush is controlled not only by learned art techniques but also by his or her unique lifetime of experiences. “For example,” he says, “every painting I have created since I studied in Italy has been influenced by the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, history, and culture of that experience. In a very real sense, any artist goes through a momentary process to create a painting and a lifelong process to constantly recreate himself or herself.”

For more information, e-mail the artist at adriangottlieb1@gmail.com, or visit his website at www.adriangottlieb.com.


Nonchalant Study
2007, oil on linen, 16 x 12. Courtesy Wendt Gallery, Laguna Beach, California.

Casey Baugh

“I believe painting is a language like speech and music,” says Massachusetts artist Casey Baugh. “In painting, our ‘words’ are the design, drawing (placement of shapes), values, edges, color, and surface texture—all of which are used to validate our content.” The subject of Nonchalant Study is one of Baugh’s frequently used models. “I enjoy the attitude she has about her,” he says. For this piece Baugh started with a basic mood or attitude that he wanted to convey to the viewer. He then visualized as many scenes as he could that would communicate that attitude. After carefully selecting a position and location for the model, he started the painting, always sure to follow his initial vision. “My goal was to paint only those shapes that clearly communicated my content,” he says.   

Baugh uses the following palette of oil colors: Rembrandt ultramarine blue deep, cobalt blue light, viridian, ivory black, transparent oxide red, yellow ochre light, cadmium orange, and cadmium yellow light; Winsor & Newton terra rosa, alizarin permanent, cadmium red, and Indian yellow; and Lefranc & Bourgeois titanium white. His brushes are Royal & Langnickel No. 5590 in all sizes, Robert Simmons filberts and flats in all sizes, and an assortment of small, round watercolor brushes for details.

For more information, visit the artist’s website at www.caseybaugh.com.


Redwood Cathedral
2007, acrylic, 36 x 24. Collection the artist.

Greg Fetler

California artist Greg Fetler says painting has become an act of worship for him. “Lately, I have been called to worship at the foot of trees, and I seem to be in the middle of a series of ‘tree portraits’,” the artist says. “I like Andrew Wyeth’s idea: I walk around with ‘blank brains’ until I see something that really knocks me out. I need an emotional attachment to carry me through a large project. I had wanted to paint this scene for some time, and when I saw the late-afternoon sun warm up the usually gray bark, I knew that was it!” Fetler wanted to convey the massive size of the redwoods and their weighty presence so he composed the painting with the trees extending beyond the frame and featured an explosion of branches, which enlivens his simple composition.

Fetler uses Liquitex acrylic (usually black, white, and just three colors) and says he loves the new Fredrix watercolor canvas. His technique, which he calls “acrylic gouache,” involves painting mainly with acrylic and employing gesso for tints. “Working wet-in-wet is essential for my skies,” he says, “and the drybrushing that follows has the feel of egg tempera—I use lots of little strokes with a size 1 brush. The acrylic gouache produces a different kind of sky; it gives me plenty of freedom but excellent control. The drybrushing satisfies my drive for extreme detail—not photographic detail so much as atmospheric detail that contributes to the emotional impact of the piece.”

For more information, e-mail the artist at grefet@aol.com, or visit his website at www.fetlerart.com.


Ukrainian Girl
2006, oil, 36 x 24. Collection the artist.

Mau-Kun Yim

Mau-Kun Yim prefers to paint portraits from life. “Direct interaction enables me to gain a better understanding of the model and render depth into the portrait,” Yim says. “A portrait painted from life is a fusion of the painter’s in-depth study of the model and knowledge of the model as a person.” A native of the Ukraine, the model for this portrait visited Yim’s website and contacted him about modeling. “I liked her simplicity and energy,” the artist recalls. “I painted this portrait using loaded brushstrokes and removed any extra paint using a palette knife.”

For oil paintings, Yim often uses Belgian canvas and Rembrandt and Winsor & Newton paints. When working on preprimed canvas, he usually applies a thin layer of painting medium before blocking in shapes. The artist says he begins sketching the subject with ultramarine blue because it won’t turn dirty when mixed with other colors later on. “I sometimes mix a lovely brown for the block-in and make a detailed sketch of the head before applying paint,” he says. “After handling the big patches of different foundation colors in the painting, I refine the image by working on the midsize patches of color within each block of color. I then address the small patches of color within each midsize patch. Finally, I unify all the color patches in one environment of color and light.”

For more information, e-mail the artist at iris_usc@yahoo.com, or visit his website at www.yimaukun.com.


2001, oil on wood, 12 x 11. Collection William Cone, Wilmington, North Carolina.

Pamela duLong Williams

Maine artist Pamela duLong Williams says her working method is based on the teachings of Robert Henri and other impressionist masters of the last century. “The book The Art Spirit [Basic Books, Boulder, Colorado] has been my bible and major influence for 35 years,” she says. DuLong Williams always paints from life and created this piece as a demonstration in a portrait-painting class. Working from the model, Jared, she began by drawing the basic anatomy of the head in charcoal. After spraying the drawing with workable fixative and wiping off the excess, she laid in the large shadow shapes in oil paint diluted with Turpenoid. She then continued painting from dark to light, moving from the large shapes to the smaller ones.

DuLong Williams prefers Winsor & Newton, Rembrandt, and Williamsburg oil paints, choosing her colors by the intensity and permanence of their pigments. For flesh tones she uses a simple mixture of red, yellow, and blue, the exact combination of which is determined by the local color and temperature of the model. She usually works on a white-primed surface to preserve the intensity and transparency of her values. “The birch panel I painted this piece on provided a pleasing surface that softly grabbed each brushstroke,” she says. “I find it exciting the way shapes with distinct color, value, and temperature work together to create the whole form.”

For more information, e-mail the artist at dulongwill@gwi.net, or visit her website at www.pameladulongwilliams.com.


The Duet
2007, oil, 30 x 24. Collection the artist.

Alexandra Tyng

Self-taught Pennsylvania artist Alexandra Tyng says she uses complementary colors to create a relationship between the light, atmosphere, and shadow within a painting. She tackles a variety of subject matter, including aerial landscapes, buildings, figures, and portraits. When doing a portrait or figurative painting, Tyng usually starts by making thumbnail sketches. She then takes lots of photographs that she uses to plan the composition and to refer to later, and then makes an oil sketch. Finally, she stretches the canvas, tones it with umber-gray, and refers to her reference material as she paints.

This painting evolved slowly over time. One day about six years ago, Tyng walked into the music room and saw her children practicing a duet for a concert. “The lit-up curve of the harp against the dark hallway was so dramatic, and I loved the energy of the music and their collaboration,” the artist recalls. “I grabbed my camera and took lots of photos. This evolved into an early version of the painting. Over the years I became dissatisfied with the color, and last year I reworked it, repainting the setting and skin tones. The second version has a lot more life in it.”

For more information, visit the artist’s website at www.alexandratyng.com.


Italian Plums I
2007, pastel on paper, 9 3/4 x 11 1/2. Private collection.

Anne McGrory

The objects New Hampshire artist Anne McGrory paints are often borrowed from friends or are treasures she finds at yard sales and antique shops. McGrory’s daughter picked the plums in this painting from a local orchard. “I had her clip some of the branches and leaves along with the plums with the intention of painting them,” McGrory says. Back home she arranged the plums with some blue-and-white china and an Irish linen tablecloth that had belonged to her husband’s grandmother. McGrory works both from life and from photographs, and she took several photos of the setup to use as reference material. 

The artist begins a piece with a clear vision of what she wants to express. She roughs it out quickly, blocking in large areas of color and working out value relationships. She then refines the drawing, developing the light and shadow areas, layering colors to build the forms, and adding details. She brings the focal point near completion and works outward from there. For this painting, McGrory chose La Carte pastel paper by Sennelier. “I love the tooth of this paper. It holds so much pastel,” she says. She began with harder pastels, but as the painting progressed she used softer ones to achieve depth and richness and for highlights. She rarely uses fixative because she doesn’t like the way it tends to flatten the color and dull the image.

For more information, e-mail the artist at anne@annemcgrory.com, or visit his website at www.annemcgrory.com.


Carolina Shore
2008, oil on linen, 36 x 24. Private collection.

Hilarie Lambert

“I am a true believer in the idea that 99 percent of life is just showing up,” says South Carolina artist Hilarie Lambert, “which is why I travel and paint a lot en plein air—you meet great people and find wonderful subjects when you get out there.” Lambert paints a wide variety of subject matter, from vintage toys to figures and landscapes. This painting came about when Lambert and a fellow painter took a writer friend to the beach one morning to model for a photo shoot. “She posed with my collection of paper umbrellas, and it was one of those great hazy mornings with cool colors,” Lambert recalls. “I was particularly drawn to this shot because I love to use temperature in my paintings, and it gave me an opportunity to play on the cools and warms.”

Lambert primarily paints on linen-covered board when traveling, and she tries to stick to a limited palette of alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow light, yellow ochre, sap green, and sometimes blue black. She paints fast and loose, using Winsor & Newton and Gamblin oil colors, flat and filbert brushes, and turpentine. Having started out painting in pastel, Lambert tends to apply oil paint with the same strokes she would use with that medium, and she does a lot of linear work because she loves to draw. “Each painting is such a treat—you never know quite where you are going until you run the brush across the canvas,” she says.

For more information, e-mail the artist at lambertpaintings@gmail.com, or visit his website at www.hlambert.com.


Five Senses—Touch
2003, oil on panel, 20 x 16. Collection the artist.

Helen Oh

Chicago artist Helen Oh took the concept for this piece, the first in a series of five still life paintings, from the 17th-century Dutch practice of highlighting each of the five senses in serial pictures to impart a moral lesson. Brueghel, for example, painted a series of such works, and his 1618 Allegory of Sight depicts Cupid showing a painting of Christ healing a blind man, a number of optical instruments, and objects that are perceived with the sense of sight, such as paintings, statues, and jewelry. For Five Senses—Touch, Oh gathered a number of familiar objects and a CD cover adorned with a detail of The Procuress by Vermeer as a tribute to the Dutch artists who inspired her.

Working from life, she first drew the composition on tracing paper. Next, she transferred the drawing to a Masonite panel primed with natural gesso and reinforced the contours with India ink. She covered the panel with an imprimatura of raw sienna diluted with Turpenoid. Once the imprimatura was dry, Oh applied a layer of yellow ochre, Venetian red, raw umber, Mars black, and Winsor & Newton foundation white. She worked from dark to light, adding white to increase value and opacity and to speed the drying. “Whether a color permits or prevents light is key,” she says. “To retain the luminous appearance found in Dutch paintings, the shadows must remain translucent.”

Oh painted a second layer with an expanded palette of the first-layer colors plus Indian yellow, vermilion, and chromium oxide green. For the third layer she added crimson lake, sap green, and ultramarine blue. She built up the highlights last with foundation white and Gamblin titanium white. Oh says the paint-layering method of the Old Masters gives her time to make decisions about color saturation and value range gradually as she develops the image. “I think this approach is helpful in rendering complex details and in achieving a heightened realism similar to that of the masters,” she says.

For more information, e-mail the artist at hoh1@fastmail.us, or visit her website at http://www.ohandconklin.com.


Fisher of Men
2007, oil on Masonite, 16 x 14. Collection Mr. and Mrs. Cleve Borth.

Ryan Wurmser

California artist Ryan Wurmser says his choice of subject matter is always based on a problem to be solved, either aesthetically, abstractly, or conceptually. He created this painting as part of a series begun about three years ago, focusing on a group of homeless people living in Santa Monica. “I needed to shift my focus at that time away from the banality of the ‘pretty’ painting to something more creatively stimulating,” the artist says. “It was also my way of throwing a spanner into the mix, so to speak. The galleries kept coming at me with ‘pretty, pretty, pretty.’ This series was my way of saying, ‘Your job is to sell paintings, not to tell me what to paint.’ I have enjoyed painting these wanderers, wayfarers, and iconoclasts. The way many of them see life appeals to my Into the Wild notion of rugged individualism and transcendental bliss.”

When he began this series of works, Wurmser shifted away from an alla prima technique to a more classical approach of layering paint. “I drew much of my influence from the Dutch school, primarily the works of Rembrandt, which were never ‘pretty’ to me but absolutely beautiful in the most sublime way,” he explains. Wurmser’s palette is composed of warm and cool versions of each primary and a few modifiers, or convenience colors, such as burnt sienna, cadmium orange, and viridian green.

For more information, e-mail the artist at rwurmser@yahoo.com, or visit her website at http://www.ryanwurmser.com.

View the winners of the Watercolor and Drawing magazine cover competitions.

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