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Abstract/Experimental Winners from the 28th Annual Art Competition

Abstract/Experimental Winners from the 28th Annual Art Competition

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Congratulations to the 30 winners of Magazine‘s 28th Annual Art competition! Here (and in our December 2011 issue) we celebrate the winners from the Abstract/Experimental category. By Ruth K. Meyer


First Place
Tom O’Hara

Orlando, Florida •

Prior to moving to Florida and becoming a full-time artist, Tom O’Hara had a career in the creative side of hotel and resort management, working with other artists and designers in New York City. In his new life, he gets inspiration for works like Sea Bed from roaming the beaches, finding the skeletons of sea creatures and then imagining them as ancient fossils. The technique of assemblage creates a three-dimensional, high-relief surface that’s sculptural and tactile. Assemblages resemble sculptures more than paintings and may be either freestanding or, in the case of Sea Bed, may hang on the wall. The dramatic effect of this work arises from the realistic “fossils” and the centrally placed fish that was constructed from rawhide and then painted to resemble bone. O’Hara also uses objects scavenged from the shores, such as beach glass and plastics worn smooth by the waves and sand. For the foundation of Sea Bed, O’Hara created layers and textures with a plastic-fiber building wrap used by contractors, which can be shaped by folding, wrinkling, gluing and modeling into an uneven but permanent surface. Using acrylic gel medium, the artist attaches the uneven surface to the canvas support, then paints the work with both thick and thin layers of acrylic for a final effect. As a former New Yorker, O’Hara is familiar with the city’s art scene and recalls many of the artists who’ve encouraged his ideas. Among those he admires are the German neorealist Anselm Kiefer and the provocative sculptor and filmmaker Matthew Barney. Louise Nevelson was a powerful, early influence on his sculpture, and recently O’Hara has found much to admire in the works of Chakaia Booker, who scavenges materials along the highways and has worked with rubber tires. Assemblage, like collage, has been used since the early 20th century by experimental artists like O’Hara, who want to heighten the tactile and objective content of their art.

Second Place
Carol Frye

Lakeland, Florida •

Carol Frye identifies herself as a layerist, her term for the way in which her paintings are “built” and not gently stroked into being. Primarily working in watercolor, Frye recently began to combine gesso with her watercolor pigments to give more substance and body to the applications of paint. The resulting painted surface permitted her to scratch into it with colored pencils and tools to bring sharper definition to loosely composed foundation areas. Slated as an Abode is a spontaneous landscape—not a view of a place, but an imaginary scene that groups houses and commercial buildings around a large, slate-colored field. Carol says that the gray area at first fell short of her expectations until she began to see it as central to a village; then she could bring it into existence by defining its perimeter. Slated as an Abode is from a series entitled Stone Phoenix, which resulted from experiments with Daniel Smith’s Prima Tek watercolors, which she thinks of as “painting with semiprecious stones like hematite, amethyst and azurite.” The Daniel Smith literature describes the paints’ components as “mineral pigments mined directly from the earth.” These minerals produce an exaggerated granulated effect when combined with gesso and water. Flecks of pigment float, separate and settle into textures within the Arches 300-lb. cold-pressed paper, creating a scintillating, rich surface.

Third Place
Kristy Gordon

Toronto, Canada •

Rise is a portrait painter’s experiment in visual kinetics: how to capture the essence of movement on a static picture plane. Like an old, time-lapsed photograph, a be-gowned female figure moves from a crouch to a fully upright stance. The stages of movement are ghostlike, but the final posture is dramatically erect. In Rise, Kristy Gordon gives us a metaphor for personal growth or self-discovery, ongoing processes in her personal life and her art. The model’s red gown glows vividly against a neutral background of wall and floor planes; in this context, she is an emblem of vitality. The artist says, “Of particular interest to me has been the acceptance of uncertainty and impermanence in my life. I focus on transitory periods, and my work embodies change, movement and transformation. With a combination of blurred and sharp edges, my oil paintings blend resolution with dissolution, ambiguity with clarity.”

Ruth K. Meyer is an art consultant and writer who lives on the banks of the Ohio River.

Free preview See an award-winning artists’ approach to experimental acrylics. Click here for a link to a free preview of Patti Brady’s Rethinking Acrylic: Encaustic Effects with Acrylic Paint from


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