In this occasional feature, we examine a painting that won an award in competition and explore its genesis and attributes. This week, we look at a piece by Suzie Greer Baker that recently won Best of Show at the Kerrville Outdoor Painters’ Event in Kerrville, Texas.
First, let’s hear from the judge of the competition. “Suzie Baker’s winning entry for the Kerrville Outdoor Painters’ Event was a show-stopper,” says Rusty Jones. “Well designed, superbly painted on a square format, it has all the elements any judge looks for in a winning piece. A First Place or Best of Show should not only stand out from the rest of the entries, it should command center stage with bravado, and Suzie’s painting does that.”
From the artist: “The orange tailgate emerging from the shadow of the shelter was the inspiration and key to this piece,” says Baker. “I kept the orange pure by using a clean brush and fresh Gamsol and mixing my orange with some transparent Indian yellow so that it could show through to the bright tone with which I stained the canvas. I knew I needed to get my drawing accurate so that I wouldn’t noodle with the color. Once it was down, I wanted it to stay there.”
The scene Baker depicted
Baker says part of the allure was the contrast of the orange in the truck and the complement of blue in the sky. But she still had to solve a few things. The peak of the roof and the position of the sun meant that the shadows were going to change drastically and quickly, and the roof also presented a compositional test. “I made the decision to not put the implied point of the roof in the center of the canvas,” she says. “The bright, warm-blue sky made for great color harmony, and the repetition of strong shapes relate to each other and are anchored by the orange. It was a fun painting to paint. The light did change dramatically by the time I finished the painting. I knew that the sun wasn’t going to stay there very long; I could tell by the shadow from the peak of the roof. I took a picture about what struck me. The challenge would be hanging on to that original inspiration and not changing when the light changed.”
The last compositional issue to deal with was the elements to the right of the shed. “There was a lot going on there to the right,” recalls Baker. “The main compositional idea and the color were easier than figuring out how to prevent the mess on the right from overcoming the painting. There was chicken wire and junk, rusted corrugated tin. I had to somehow keep it clean and not overwork it.”
Baker complimented the organizers of the Kerrville event for finding great spots to paint. “They did a really good job,” says the artist. “This was private property, the Neunhoffer Ranch. The man who owns it has old classic cars all over the place, along with some barns. It’s a painter’s dream because of the variety and interest of the subject matter. I was having my lunch break in the shade with another painter when I saw this particular view of the truck and thought, ‘Oh, that looks great!’”
The result was an award-winning painting.