Public judges annual People’s Choice Show

It was difficult to pick three in one category considering that many of the artists had outstanding work. Those who did not win boasted strong work. For example, Bev Bowman’s sense of color shone in her ethereal Koi with white sweeping brush strokes depicting her fish moving across her canvas with pops of coral. Her Yellow Pitcher filled a small canvas with bright, bold colors.

There were more pastels and colored pencil this year. Newcomer Nancy Lovallo had two small pieces depicting dogs, but it was her I’m Worried They Forgot Me that captures the onlooker’s heart in the expression on the boxer’s face. She won second place in the new category of small works.

Also in that category, Deborah Nixon walked away with first for her acrylic beach scene Did You See It? Nixon’s impressionistic style and her use of lighting captures the warmth of a summer day on the beach. The work features a mother and child sharing a moment.

Another newcomer, Susan Walker, won third in that category for Sky, a soft, silvery cat in watercolor pencil. In the novice category, she won first for her Wistful Snow Leopard Cub, in pastel and pastel pencil. One had to wonder why she put herself in this category after looking into the innocent and penetrating blue eyes of the cub. There are no hard edges in Walker’s work; she softens and blends flawlessly.

Also in the novice category was newcomer Linda Mullin, who won for her Summer’s Day. There was nothing timid in Mullin’s use of color in her sweeping farm landscape. Newcomer Cheryl Kasper took third in this category with her African Village-Kenya, in pencils, pastel and charcoal. Kasper has a primitive style which works well for the movement of the villagers in her picture.

Page Gifford can testify to the feeling of winning a Best in Show and a couple of Honorable Mentions but never first, second or third in a category. This year she won first place in the intermediate category for Zen Fashion, an intricate piece in pen and ink and competing patterns with colored pencil.

Tom Ellis, who sculpts in wood, won second for his Rivanna Food Chain. His carving of fish and their movement and color were watertight. Most cannot tell they are carved from wood because they look like ceramic. Also worth mentioning is his Golden Eagle, which captures the majestic essence of the bird with its sharp features and hawkish glare.

Some follow their inner voice and stick with their own style, like Sarah Gondwe, whose vibrant colors and dancing trees are always a delight to view. Loan Nguyen, like Gondwe, features bold colorful work and took third place in intermediate with her landscape Beautiful Fall in the Virginia Countryside. She brings colors into her landscape that may seem unconventional, but it works for Nguyen, who dispenses with details in favor of sweeping bold colors.

One thing artists learn when looking at fellow artists’ work is the sheer magnitude of their talent, technique and style. Watercolorist William Snow took second place for his exquisite butterfly appropriately titled Delicate Balance. Susan Lang’s Blue Pitcher deserves mentioning for its daring colors and the soft buttery look which Lang strives for in her paintings.

Maria Festa Carter showed humor and took third in advanced with Millie the Cow. But it was another newcomer, Linda Bethke, who took first in advanced with Masons All Dressed Up. Her watercolors are detailed, mostly through the use of a dry brush technique in opposition to Snow, who favors wet on wet. Bethke’s Horton Vineyard VA, was also an eye catcher but did not stand out like the mason jars filled with vibrant flowers.

Others in this category worth mentioning were Fred Gamage’s Mountain Lake Value Study, with very soft subtle shades of blues in pastel over watercolor, and Elizabeth Ryan’s Path to the Sea. Ryan captures the gentleness and solitude of the summer with a wondering path to an inlet into the sea.

All the artists who participated can agree on one thing: Though it is always exhilarating to win, artists learn just as much from the pieces that didn’t win, and how that tells them about their choice of medium, style and subject. Art is subjective, and while one judge can tell artists about their work down to the last detail, having a roomful of people judge one’s work is truly meaningful.

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