October 15, 2007


Watercolor 70th Anniversary Competition Winners

by Karen Stanger Johnston


After the Harvest
by Gail M. Wheaton, 2003, watercolor, 30 x 22. Collection Evan and Patricia Harter.

First Place: Gail M. Wheaton

Arizona artist Gail M. Wheaton completed this painting while living in Michigan. She started by making a light graphite sketch of a grapevine in her backyard using a full sheet of watercolor paper. “I use my graphite sketch as a guide rather than as an exact road map,” Wheaton says. “I use many glazes of color to achieve as close a replication of nature as I can using on-site observation.” She begins with the lightest color glaze and leaves the white of the paper for the whites. Her sky and background are painted last.

Read about the semifinalists in each category, and vote, by October 30, for the Readers' Choice competition winner on our message board, Artists' Forum.

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Colored Pencil
Grand Prize Winner
Mixed Media

“Sometimes when painting a particular area, I see objects and color on the white paper surface and paint what I see,” says Wheaton. “It’s like a vision; it is inspiration taking over. It’s an ability based on educational instruction, life’s experiences (including a love of nature), and inner vision. I liken it to following a road map, and then the road suddenly ends, and you have to continue on your way making your own road. The process is a wonderful, rewarding, and exciting adventure that brings total fulfillment to my life. If I can give one viewer a sense of joy and peace, I have accomplished much.”

Wheaton’s work was featured in the winter 1997 issue of Watercolor magazine, and one of her paintings appeared in Splash 6 (North Light Books, Cincinnati, Ohio). She has exhibited her watercolors both nationally and internationally, winning numerous awards.

For more information on Wheaton, visit her website at www.watercolorimages.com.

Second Place:


Golden Ruhl
by June Pryor, 1999, watercolor, 22 x 30.

“In choosing a subject, I always look for exciting compositions in nature or man-made artifacts,” says Connecticut artist June Pryor. “For me, what makes a scene exciting is that it has pizzazz, or a vibrant color scheme. Although I am a realist, I look for abstract qualities.” Pryor photographs scenes that interest her and paints from the photos. She explains that saving the whites is “a must” for her because she believes that showing the paper is an important part of watercolor painting. “I always look for a design that will draw you into it from a distance and then compel you to look closer at the details to see how the painting was executed,” the artist says.

Pryor earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Southern Connecticut State University, in New Haven, and a master of fine arts degree from Columbia University, in New York City. She has studied with Edgar Whitney, Caesar Cirigliano, Walter DuBois Richards, and Barbara Nechis, all of whom have inspired her throughout her painting life. Pryor’s watercolor paintings have been accepted into juried shows held by the Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport, in Mystic, Connecticut; the Silvermine Guild Arts Center, in New Canaan, Connecticut; and the Salmagundi Arts Club, in New York City, among others.

For more information on Pryor, e-mail her at .

Third Place: Gordon France


Wrigley Rain-Out
by Gordon France, 2002, watercolor, 18 x 28. Collection Larry Uitermarkt.

Illinois artist Gordon France began painting full time in 2000 after retiring from a 40-year career in advertising. France’s favorite subjects are sports, cityscapes, and urban life. He completes smaller on-location paintings alla prima and usually carries a digital camera and a sketch pad to capture reference material for larger studio paintings, particularly if figures are featured. For these, he often starts with a few black-and-white sketches, digitally assembles the images on a computer, and then displays them on a large monitor in his studio. France says this method provides better color and depth than a flat photograph.

“After composing the subject, the challenge is to capture that moment in time, quickly and without a lot of fussy detail,” the artist says. “My watercolor-painting technique is fairly traditional, involving a lot of wet-in-wet. Watercolor has a mind of its own, and the skill is in knowing where it’s going and what it’s going to do when it gets there. My goal in painting Wrigley Rain-Out was to describe Chicago urban activity in a wet, hazy atmosphere. Although I also paint in oil, watercolor seemed the right choice because of its fluid, spontaneous nature. The medium does a lot of the work on its own.”

France studied painting at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is represented in Illinois by the LaGrange Art League Gallery, in LaGrange, and the Peoria Art Guild Gallery, in Peoria; he is also represented by Phyllis Lucas Gallery, in New York City.

For more information on France, visit his website at www.gordonfrance.net, or contact the Phyllis Lucas Gallery at wwww.phyllislucasgallery.com.

More Semifinalists


Squatter’s Rights
by Don Harvie, 2007, watercolor, 30 x 38.

“When I retired fifteen years ago, I took a watercolor class and it engulfed me,” says California artist Don Harvie. Now a signature member of five watercolor societies, Harvie started entering juried shows four years ago and notes that he recently had a painting accepted into the hundredth show. One of his pictures will appear in Splash 10 (North Light Books) next year.

Harvie discovered the subject of Squatter’s Rights while on a painting trip to Mexico with Judy Morris, whom he calls his “guru.”  The artist recalls, “I gravitate toward painting people, and when I saw this man sitting there, glaring out at the world, daring anybody to take any other part of that bench, I just knew it would make a great painting.” Harvie took notes and several photographs of the scene from different angles, creating the painting in his studio when he returned home.

For more information on Harvie, e-mail him at .

Paul Jackson


by Paul Jackson, 2005, watercolor, 40 x 26.

“The symbolic power of a white dove, combined with its elegant movements, compelled me to acquire a pair of doves to study and paint,” explains Missouri artist Paul Jackson. “In Release, the dove expresses a release from fear, anxiety, pain, and sorrow. The intricate backdrop for this event is the exterior of Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. Creating this scene in transparent watercolor required a multi-layered approach and some masking fluid to protect the dove while painting the background.”

Jackson earned a master of fine arts degree in 1992 from the University of Missouri in Columbia. His paintings have earned top honors in national and international competitions and have appeared on the covers of dozens of magazines and books. He is a signature member of the National Watercolor Society and the American Watercolor Society, in whose 2006 show one of his paintings won the Dong Kingman Award.

For more information on Jackson, visit his website at www.pauljackson.com, or e-mail him at .

Penny Johnson


Autumn Falls by Penny Johnson, 2005, watercolor, 15 x 22. Private collection.

North Carolina artist Penny Johnson lives in the mountains, where she says inspiration is all around her. Johnson was particularly attracted to the location that is the subject of this painting because of the way the fall foliage led the eye down the waterfall. “I love the lights and darks in a landscape,” she says.

After taking digital photographs for reference, Johnson prints them and makes a sketch of her chosen image. She begins a waterfall picture by negative painting around the water shapes with transparent, clean color. She then paints the other elements, layering color to achieve the darks she wants. She finishes with some detail work in the focal point and some dry brushing.

Johnson is a signature member of the Watercolor Society of North Carolina and an exhibiting member of the Georgia Watercolor Society.

For more information on Johnson, visit her website at www.brushstrokesbypenny.com.


Autumn Wind
by Yimeng Ling, 2006, watercolor, 11 x 14.

After moving to New Jersey from California last fall, Yimeng Ling became intrigued with the natural beauty of the East Coast. “The tree leaves all over surprised me every day,” Ling says. “I’d stand under a tree for a long time, watching the sunlight coming through the leaves and making them sparkle in different colors.” One sunny, windy afternoon, realizing that the leaves on one of the trees she liked to look at might soon be gone, she photographed their fading but beautiful colors and created this painting.

Ling works wet-into-wet and finds watercolor exciting for its unpredictability and spontaneity. “But here I was careful to control the colors so they mingled and flowed to form the effects I wanted,” the artist says. “I tried to vary the shapes, spaces, colors, lines, darks, and lights to keep the viewer’s attention and convey the feeling of autumn.” Ling is a member of Watercolor Artists of Sonoma County, Artist’s Workshop of Sonoma, Artist’s Round Table of Santa Rosa, and the Edison Arts Society.

For more information on Ling, e-mail her at .

Judy Metcalfe


by Judy Metcalfe, 2006, watercolor, 20 x 28. Courtesy The Walsingham Gallery, Newburyport, Massachusetts.

“My objective is to enhance reality, to take a common object and--with lighting, composition, and paint--make it something extraordinary,” says Massachusetts artist Judy Metcalfe. “For this painting, I arranged the fabric folds so that the insets of lace and the two strong diagonal shadows would add movement and direct the eye from the edge of the painting to each of the two roses. One final fold of fabric at the top left stops the eye from wandering off the edge. To keep the background uncluttered, I allowed the leaves and stems to blend into shadows. In addition, I used a limited color palette to insure that the roses would not be upstaged by the background.”

Metcalfe masks the whites when she paints so the white of the paper becomes the white in the finished painting. She uses only transparent watercolors applied in thin glazes so that light reflects from the surface of the paper and through the pigment, bringing a luminous, life-like quality to the painting.

Metcalfe is a member of the New England Watercolor Society and the North Shore Arts Association, in whose shows her paintings regularly win awards. Her work appeared in the spring 2006 issue of Watercolor magazine. Metcalfe is represented by The Walsingham Gallery, in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

For more information on Metcalfe, visit her website at www.judymetcalfe.com, or contact The Walsingham Gallery at www.thewalsinghamgallery.com.

Robert C. Steinmetz


Blue Barrel
by Robert C. Steinmetz, 1996, watercolor and acrylic, 13 x 13. Private collection.

Unlike many watercolorists, Robert C. Steinmetz takes a slow, systematic approach to painting. “Most people think of watercolor as a fast, virtuoso painting performance, usually en plein air,” Steinmetz says. “My process is more or less the opposite.” First he photographs potential subjects, often using a zoom lens to obtain a close-up, partial view. He then projects the chosen image onto hot-pressed watercolor paper and develops a three-value acrylic underpainting. Next he applies watercolors, working from light to dark and left to right, and mixing most of his colors on the paper wet-into-wet. Preferring saturated, vibrant color, Steinmetz often uses many glazes to build up the pigment’s luminosity. Although he is a realistic painter, he says he usually paints the colors and values he sees in the photograph instead of those found in the natural world.

Steinmetz most often works on series of paintings with a common theme or subject matter, such as historic architectural subjects, working watercraft, and related maritime subjects. He generally finds his subject matter where he lives or travels. A former practicing architect who divides his time between Maine and South Carolina, Steinmetz is represented by Elan Fine Arts, in Rockport, Maine.  His work has appeared in many solo and juried group shows, won awards, and is in corporate and private collections in Bermuda and the United States.

For sales-related inquiries, visit Steinmetz’s gallery’s website at www.elanfinearts.com; for other information, e-mail the artist at .

Thomas Valenti


5th Ave. and 14th St.
by Thomas Valenti, 1996, watercolor, 43 x 36.

New Jersey artist Thomas Valenti’s New York City upbringing has had a profound effect on the way he views the world and on his painting. “I am at home in any urban setting,” Valenti says. “There is something special about the way light plays upon the surfaces of concrete, stone, steel, and blacktop. Shadows that seem to come from nowhere create the most interesting design patterns. The view for this painting is from the top of the Parsons The New School for Design building in New York. The unusual perspective makes for a very different and provoking image.”

Valenti works from photographs. Once he has chosen the scene he wants to paint, he says he studies the photo carefully in order to “etch” the subject into his mind. He then makes a sketch on drawing paper or illustration board, taking measurements, comparing proportions, sometimes using a grid. Next, he transfers the sketch to watercolor paper (or canvas if he is working in oil). Using what he “the tonal technique,” Valenti first paints all of the shadow elements in middle-tone warm and cool grays. He then paints the darkest darks before applying color, from broad washes to fine details.

Valenti is the president of Allied Artists of America, an honorary member of the Salmagundi Club, and a member of several other art organizations. In addition to teaching at the Ridgewood Community School in Ridgewood, New Jersey, he gives demonstrations and workshops and serves as a juror for major art competitions. His paintings are exhibited widely and have won numerous awards.

For more information on Valenti, visit the artist’s website at www.thomasvalenti.com, or e-mail him at .

American Artist would like to thank the following sponsors for making our 70th Anniversary Competition a success:

Blick Art Materials
General Pencil
Hartford Fine Art & Framing
Jerry’s Artarama
Legion Paper
Savoir Faire

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All of these paintings are absolutely stunning. I am inspired.

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