In the Judges Seat

Armand Cabrera
Yesterday I was the judge at the first Paint Great Falls Plein Air Competition and Quick Draw hosted by The Arts of Great Falls. It was a small event with a good group of artists participating. Before the presentations I do a little speech about judging art shows. I’ve had the honor of judging many shows over my career and I take the responsibility very seriously.
I like to explain to the participants what I look for in a painting. Some of the shows I’ve judged are not plein air, but I think there are some common requirements for an award winning painting if the show is representational art. Here is my list of things I look for to narrow the field when I judge.
A grasp of the fundamentals
John Carlson says in his book on landscape painting “if you attend a concert at Carnegie Hall you expect the musicians to be able to play their instruments.” This also applies to painting. The fundamentals of representational painting have been well established over the last two thousand years. A sense of light, clean color, perspective, and proportion are all basics for good representations of the natural world.
This still leaves plenty of room for individual style and interpretation of those basics.
A unified statement
A good painting needs to have a strong focus; it makes a statement and is not confusing. The design elements are given the proper emphasis and the handling of the fundamentals and the materials add to the overall effect instead of detracting from it.
Bringing It All Together
If these things are in place then the painting must do three things that are more subjective. The artist must choose their best painting for inclusion in the show to be judged, it must be better than the other artists in the show and the judge or judges must recognize that fact. The same painting that wins an award at one show could be overlooked for inclusion in another show or not be as good as the rest of the entries. That is how subjective painting can be. I like to remind the participants of this to help them assuage any disappointment they feel if they don’t win.
Spring Afternoon Blueridge  12 x 16 oil on linen
Outdoor painting by Armand Cabrera

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.