Anatomy of an Award Winner: Lon Brauer’s “Grandpa”

“Grandpa,” by Lon Brauer, 2016, oil on panel, 18 x 16 in. Winner of the online Associates show sponsored by the Outdoor Painters Society

How do you get into the Outdoor Painters Society’s Plein Air Southwest Salon? One of the harder ways is the way Lon Brauer did it.

Brauer won the online competition sponsored by the OPS called the Associates show, and the top prize gets you into the salon. “This is always a great show, and I am excited to be able to attend,” says Brauer. “As artists we look for validation by our peers and the public. It keeps us on our toes and makes us work all the more diligently to hone our craft.”

The Illinois artist painted the winning piece during the EnPleinAirTEXAS event in San Angelo in October. “Mid-week, we were directed toward the small town of Christoval,” Brauer recalls. “Small towns are great for subject matter, and this one was certainly no disappointment. Up on a side street, in a driveway, I found this 1948 Chevy truck. The front tire was flat on the left side, which gave the vehicle a nice tilt to port. This was a once-strong machine, now retired and resting on the side of the drive.

A very early stage in Brauer’s award-winning painting
A very early stage in Brauer’s award-winning painting

“I lined up for a straight–on view — bi-lateral, low angle. The tilt of the truck juxtaposed against the verticals and horizontals of the house behind created tension. Of course, without a strong drawing, this doesn’t work. After the drawing was established, I found I could hang paint all day long and the thing would paint itself. Drips and runs, thick over thin, put it on, take it off. As I was finishing up on this, the sun moved enough to glare out the windshield on the drivers side. It reminded me of a set of pince-nez perched on the nose of a grandfather from the past. I put it in. Changing light can often work in our favor.”

Judge Bev Boren said choosing was difficult, but Brauer’s piece was insistent. “When I jury an art competition, I look for paintings that first attract my attention with excellence in composition, technique, and confident brushwork,” says Boren. “When more than two or three paintings grab my attention, I ask myself, Which one has the ‘wow’ factor? Is it unique, fresh, and unusual? There were several paintings that spoke to me, but in the end, Lon’s painting kept demanding that I return to it. There were several paintings that were skillfully made and deserving of an award as well, but in the end the simplicity and uniqueness of Lon’s piece was a winner for me.”

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