The excitement is building as April approaches and one Grand Prize winner is to be announced in the PleinAir Salon, earning $15,000 and international exposure. Susan Simpson Gallagher, the owner of Simpson Gallagher Gallery in Cody, Wyoming, will judge the last contest in the salon — the last opportunity for artists to earn a chance to take home one of the annual awards. So what will Simpson Gallagher be looking for in a painting? 

“Although I have committed much of my work life to the promotion and sale of art, I have never been compelled to create it myself,” says Simpson Gallagher. “It’s one of the things that I am mindful of as I critique artists’ work. It’s one of the things that enable me to be more objective. I am not focused on, as I judge, how an artist has succeeded in composing a landscape or replicated atmosphere or approximated depth. I just know for myself when a piece works. I know when I am able to travel into a painting and when I am stuck at first glance. As I judge I am reminded, although I believe in connoisseurship and that there is such a thing as ‘good art’ in every genre, that art is subjective. No matter how hard we viewers try to take ourselves out of the picture, so to speak, we can’t. So I approach the judging of the next PleinAir Salon contest with excitement and trepidation. I am eager to see what has been created and submitted, and I am nervous about judging the work, knowing that some will not be happy with my judgment. And then after it’s all over, I will second-guess myself, because judging another’s vision is never easy or completely clear!”

Simpson Gallagher’s choice as judge of the PleinAir Salon makes a lot of sense if you know her history. “I have been a plein air painting enthusiast for most of my life,” she explains. “From the time I was a little girl, I was enamored with the French Impressionists. I was moved by the atmosphere, the color, and the brushwork in their paintings. I was aware of their love and respect for nature. As I grew and pursued the study of art history, my appreciation of outdoor painting remained.”

In April, $21,000 in prizes will be awarded to the annual winners at the 2015 Plein Air Convention & Expo. The PleinAir Salon consists of six bi-monthly contests, with the First, Second, and Third Place winners of each contest, and the category winners, automatically entered into the annual competition. First prize in the annual competition is $15,000 cash and the publication of the winning image on the cover of PleinAir magazine, along with a feature story. Second Place earns an artist $3,000 and an article in the digital edition of PleinAir magazine. Third Place yields $1,500 in cash. Three additional finalists win $500. Aside from First, Second, and Third Place overall, categories include Best Oil, Best Pastel, Best Watercolor, Best Acrylic, Best Plein Air, Best Building, Best Figure in the Landscape, Best Floral, Best Landscape, Best Outdoor Still Life, Best Nocturne, Best Water, and Best Artist Under 30.

The winner of each bi-monthly contest is featured in this e-newsletter and profiled on Again, the current contest has a deadline of March 15. This is the last chance for painters to become eligible to win the grand prize for 2015. Enter now at the Salon’s website.



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