I judged a plein air show in Kansas City, Mo this past week. It was a very good show benefiting Penn Valley Park. Its a great older park to paint in, the trees are large and old (the best kind to paint) and the awards were pretty generous, as well as treating the artists very well, hope they have it again next year. Best of Show was by Patrick Saunders When I judge a show I have a list of criteria that I follow, or look for, it can't be a random selection of my personal likes or dislikes or what piece makes the best political statement. I start with the composition or how the canvas is designed with the shapes or planes of a painting. Next is the use and understanding of values, then how color is used and lastly how creative or unique the view of the subject is. You might think creativity and uniqueness would be the first criteria considered but a creative view that isn't supported by an understanding of design, values and color won't get the point across. This way of viewing. (Or in my case judging) paintings doesn’t mean rigid restrictions. Understanding design allows you to make the composition simple or complicated, drawing becomes more about proportion and shape than about photographic rendering and understanding color allows you to mix colors that best represent the light instead of just copying what you see. So a good understanding of the structure of painting allows you more freedom to express your self (what ever that means.). A painting with a solid foundation can lean towards abstraction. As a matter of fact a good representational painting should have abstract qualities in it.
Below are 2 paintings by Victor Higgins. He was a member of the Taos Society of Artists in the early 20th century. These 2 landscapes have a very strong design quality to them that, almost abstract but at the same time representational.
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