I was packing up the last few bits and pieces from my downtown studio with the plans of moving everything back into my home studio when I received an email from a friend congratulating me as one of the finalists for Raymar’s July 2012 Fine Art Competition.
Raymar’s Fine Art Competition is one of the largest and prestigious online competitions and the quality of the work which is submitted is high. (Yes, my painting was executed on a Raymar panel but you don’t have to use their product to win. That’s nice of them, isn’t it?) I never assume my work will rise to the top because all the top players in the plein air game throw their best at this contest every month.
I don’t enter these things often but when it was announced July’s judge would be Jennifer McChristian I decided to opt in. I respect Jennifer’s work a lot. I admire her technical virtuosity, but even more so, her ability to choose what you or I might feel is a mundane subject and find the lyricism within it.
Who else can paint the concrete of Los Angeles and make it beautiful?
Who else can paint a stairway descending from an elevated expressway, and add a chain link fence, and still make it stunning?
She does it by painting the light, not the thing. And that is something to remember. Jennifer’s depiction of light is what I admire about her work. Anybody can paint a pretty picture of Tuscany or Provence. The internet is littered with such subjects. Jennifer can roll out of bed, set up in front of a beat up Kwik-E-Mart and convert it into High Art. (She can paint Tuscany or Provence too!)
I‘ve met Jennifer a couple of times at various competitions. Even painted along side her. She is quite approachable and I picked up one of her smaller QuickDraws from a recent Laguna Beach Plein Air Invitational. I think she’s the closest thing the West Coast plein air movement has to Sargent sketching in the field. Look at her values. Look at her neutrals. Look at her muted warm and cools. Look at her simple and economical brushwork. She lays down a solid thumpin’ bass line and then plays the right notes on top. She’s pitch perfect. She makes it look easy but it ain’t. That much I know.
Thank you Jennifer for the Raymar call-out. Much appreciated. And thank you for the following comments about my painting. You nailed my aesthetic intent. Even down to the ducks, who entered the picture just as I began to tear the easel down. I hemmed and hawed a bit about whether to include them but the painting would not have been the same without the ducks. It’s nice to know you think so too.
Judge’s Comments: This immensely delightful and airy plein air says so much with so little. Aside from capturing the freshness and vitality of a ‘new day’ the artist has managed to simplify and edit his shapes beautifully, giving this painting a bold and abstract quality. While some plein air painters simply recreate or copy a scene, Thomas translates this scene to it’s core essence by using simple flat shapes, a serene composition, and luminescent colors. Subtle value shifts and painterly brush strokes along with a sumptuous color palette are used to capture the nuances of morning light. The opulent and vibrant strokes of pinks and mauves sparkle against the predominate complementary greens. The delicate balance of warm and cool greens creates a sense of depth and atmosphere. The group of ducks gently floating in the calm waters complete the painting by adding a sense of scale and whimsy. – Jennifer McChristian
Hey readers, on September 20th I am off to Spain on a private painting trip! First Madrid, where I will visit the studio of Joaquim Sorolla-Battista, the Prado and the Sofia museums to view their Velasquez, and of course paint in the streets. Then I head down to Granada by car to paint the Alhambra. Then, to Northern Africa to the Moroccan Berber town of Chefchaouen (google it!). Then, back to the White Hill Town of Ronda in Andalucia – What was the setting for Hemingway’s 1940 novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.
Follow me on these travels by subscribing to this blog. (in the upper right column) That way you will see all the posts and paintings as I go. Without missing anything! Assuming I have ‘teh internets’ to connect to!…