What made John Lasater’s piece work? The artist and the juror tell all.

Lead Image: “Blacksmith Yard,” by John P. Lasater IV, 2015, oil, 14 x 18 in. Best of Show at the Sedona Plein Air Festival

First, let’s hear from the judge of the Sedona Plein Air Festival, Randall Sexton. “The task of judging a show like the Sedona Festival (and many like it) is a daunting task,” says the noted San Francisco artist. “The quality of the work overall was so strong — it was very hard to select a handful of winners. However, aside from all the formal strength of the piece, the wonderful and engaging composition, the strong design, the Gold King Mine itself, the craftsmanship of perspective and drawing and so forth, it was the quality of light and the mood that hooked me in and wouldn’t let go — and kept me going back to it. It was great to meet John afterward, too, humble and accessible person that he is.”

Lasater recalls painting the winning piece: “It was a rare period of sunshine. I just loved how the foreground before me was framed in by shadow, yet invited me to walk right through it. And I loved how the right light transforms anything into a beautiful subject. The only challenge with the piece was fighting off the goat that could crane his neck out of a nearby fence to try and snag my palette box.”

He didn’t breeze to the win. Lasater explains that it was a typical plein air experience. “The weather in Sedona was a big challenge,” says the Arkansas artist. “There was a constant chance of thunderstorms, so they would pop up at unexpected times. It kind of ruined my goal to paint the red rocks in all their glory, which I was initially looking forward to. Plus, having J. Brad Holt around, I knew they would be painted magnificently without me.”

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