Doug Malin, “November Grey,” 2017 (First Place) — About this piece, Malin says, “The atmosphere — gray and misty, along with the subtle colors attracted me to this scene. The quiet solitude of the location added to the painting experience.”

Minnesota plein air painter Bob Upton takes the responsibility of being a plein air competition judge seriously. In his opening remarks as judge of the Roseville Parks Plein Air competition in Roseville, Minnesota, on December 20, he outlined his seven “C”s criteria for judging artwork.

In December the Outdoor Painters of Minnesota recently sponsored a plein air landscape painting competition in honor of Roseville Parks in Roseville, Minnesota. Participating artists have been painting in Roseville Parks and public spaces since September 2017 and competed for prizes, which were awarded during a reception on December 20 by judge and accomplished plein air painter Bob Upton. An exhibition of the paintings will be mounted at Roseville City Hall through February 28, 2018.

Tom McGregor, “Morning Mist,” 2017 (Second Place) — McGregor is attracted to the most fleeting of effects. In this case, the morning mist burned off before he had a chance to set up his easel and sketch out his composition. Tom quips about how fast things change in nature, “I’m lucky if I’m painting what I actually see 10 percent of the time. It seems like 90 percent of the time, I’m either anticipating a lighting affect or remembering one that has just passed.”
Greg Lecker, “Around the Bend,” 2017 (Third Place) — Strolling a wetland boardwalk, Lecker was tempted by seemingly solid, though waterlogged, islands of mixed vegetation. Duckweed and algae punctuated the curve leading “around the bend.”
Allison Eklund, “November’s Last Light,” 2017 (Honorable Mention) — Eklund fought the elements to achieve this painting. She says, “It was the last sunny day in November, and cold. Standing at the edge of Roseville’s Reservoir Woods, I shivered in 10 degrees and gusts of 20 mph wind. The painting flew off my easel and landed in the bushes twice. But the view through shadowed trees across a marsh to distant sunlit trees was too lovely to leave unpainted. Receiving recognition after that level of effort to make a painting feels good.”

As mentioned above, Upton takes his responsibility seriously and graciously outlined for PleinAir Today his seven “C”s criteria for judging artwork, offering our readers invaluable insight into what many judges likely consider.

  1. Compelling — An irresistible visual impact. It’s memorable. Often hard to put into words. You can watch people walk up to it. They are drawn to it like a magnet. You say, “I keep coming back to this. There is something about this piece.”
  2. Craftsmanship — Drawing, values, skill of the medium, paint handling, presentation. You say, “This is really well done. It reads right. It’s painted beautifully.”
  3. Composition — The unity of a painting. The whole impression. Design, balance, movement, rhythm. It’s thoughtful, not accidental. You say, “This works together as a whole. Everything is in the right place.”
  4. Color — Not just bright color, but color harmony. Color relationships. Color balance. It can be subdued color or strong color. The effect of light permeating a piece. You say, “I like the color; it feels right.”
  5. Creativity — Not common. A unique perspective or voice. Outstanding — stands out from other works. You say, “I haven’t seen this before.”
  6. Capture — Truth is presented. Not photographic, but real. You feel something. Capturing the light. You say, “This really captured that moment. It’s like I’m there in the scene.”
  7. Challenge — This piece takes on and overcomes the challenges of painting outside. Weather, fleeting light effects, simplifying dizzying chaos, and dealing with dubs, bystanders, and blustery wind. You say, “How did they paint this outside? I’d like to hear the story of this painting.”

So what did this mean for the paintings? First Place was awarded to Doug Malin’s “November Grey” while Tom McGregor took Second Place for “Morning Mist.” Third Place was taken by Greg Lecker and his piece “Around the Bend.” Three Honorable Mentions were also awarded, to Allison Eklund for her painting “November’s Last Light,” Naomi Tiry Salgado for “Retail Therapy, Gray Day,” and Jim Henly for “Wise Tree.”

Naomi Tiry Salgado, “Retail Therapy, Gray Day,” 2017 (Honorable Mention) — Salgado says, “There’s always a silver lining if you look for it. Sure, it can be downright miserable to paint on a cold, rainy November day, but the silver lining is that the rain softens all edges and gives harmony to the colors. The wet pavement creates these fun reflections that would otherwise not be there, and compositionally, make for great leading lines. While this piece was not very enjoyable to paint at the time, it was worth it in the end. I’m happy that I powered through —despite the wet feet!”
Jim Henly, “Wise Tree,” 2017 (Honorable Mention) — Upton liked the painting because of the beautiful reflected greens in the trunk of the tree and the old, gnarled look of it.
Greg Lecker, “Light It Up,” 2017 (OVALumination award)

Greg Lecker also received the OVALumination award for best painting of the 2017 holiday lights display at the John Rose Minnesota Oval. This was a separate competition judged by the Roseville Visitor’s Center, which will make posters of Lecker’s painting to promote the City of Roseville and its holiday tradition of lighting its popular outdoor ice skating facility.

Artists Doug Malin, Tom McGregor, and Greg Lecker

This article was also featured in PleinAir Today, a weekly e-newsletter from PleinAir magazine. To start receiving PleinAir Today for free, click here.


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