Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Judging the PGE Member Show

A few weeks ago, I was asked by Dorothea Schulz of the Pastel Guild of Europe to be the judge for their "Get Dusty" Online Member's Show for the month of April.  I was honored to accept! Past judges from the shows include Jacob Aguiar, Adrian Frankel Giuliani, Jude Tolar, and Christine DiMauro, among many others.

April's theme for the competition was Baby Animals. Awww... who could resist? And based on my own work, I guess I was eminently suitable for judging. Dorothea sent me the link to the entries last weekend, and I enjoyed viewing them for a couple days before making my choices.

There were only 16 entries. They are a small group - but very talented!! It was quite as difficult to decide on the placements as it would have been with 10 times the entries, mainly because almost all of the works were of equal quality, with a variety of strengths in different artistic ways. 

I wanted to share with you here my picks for First, Second and Third Places, and the three Honorable Mentions that were allowed. All of the entries demonstrated strength in values and draftsmanship, so I'll be commenting on the additional qualities that made these six stand out in my viewings.

First Place - "Harley" by Claudia Chimenti
The composition was the first thing that struck me about this precious puppy portrait. The variety of flowing diagonals, enhanced by the strong warm light and the relaxed and trustful pose of the puppy make this a powerful painting. Chimenti is also wise in her choice of a limited palette, using shades and tones of whites to set off Harley's brown patch. The reflected light blues in the shadows are very well done. The simple, un-fussy handling of the background and sleeve fabric are the perfect frame for the more detailed rendering of this adorable face, while the bits of warm salmon-brown color pervading the entire painting allow his brown patch of fur, as the one main area of vibrant color, to still harmonize with the whole.

Second Place - "Explorer" by Dolores Saul
Light, color, texture, and a moment captured in time are what I see first in this little wild Explorer. The subtle handling of the warms and cools within the various tones of fur are masterfully done! The wonderful textural contrasts of the finely detailed fur, to the ripples of the water, the middle-ground grasses, and finally the very loose, gestural rocks in the background, create a convincing sense of depth. I like the unconventional pose withing this otherwise traditional portrait composition (the subject centered within the area of the painting.) The cat is looking off to the left, as if something there has caught his attention, and in a moment he will leave the frame. But this doesn't encourage our eyes into leaving; the sunlight streaming on the cat's face holds our eyes, and the bits of dark along his shadowed side and in the background bounce our eyes around and down the right side, and back up the sunny side to his face...

Third Place - "Triplet" by Elisabeth Blass
This one got the "Awww!" response right off the bat for me, but I might be a sucker for ducklings in the light. Then the more I looked beyond that initial cuteness, the more I liked. The arrangement of shapes and patterns within this square come across as refreshingly spontaneous without being awkward, which makes me suspect they may have been very carefully composed. Even though the two ducklings closer to us are offset in high contrast by the shadowed rock, our eye still jumps back to the duckling above, who, in spite of being mostly the same value as the water, appears to be more strongly bathed in the bright warm light because of the temperature contrast of the blue around him.
Fresh and spontaneous describes the pastel application as well!

Honorable mention - "Ducklings" by Karin Kießling
Balance, contrast and harmony. Incredible color harmony for one; the entire painting looks like it may have been done with shades and tints of just three colors. The balance in this composition is sweetly calming, just as the visual of these ducklings are for our eyes. Almost symmetrical, but not quite. Held in place by the reflection which touches the bottom edge. The amazing detail of the wet feathers is contrasted by the smooth, calm surrounding water.

Honorable Mention - "Guarded Childhood" by Eva Schläfli
Yes, baby animals -- what's not to love? This painting perfectly exemplifies a mother's love and a baby's safe haven. Once again, wonderful color harmony. Excellent detail without looking overworked. The close cropped view with the chimp's face centered is another almost-symmetrical composition, but the subtle variety of angles created by the hand, arm, and head create a sweet cocoon of comfort for this baby chimp, and pull us back to the expression in the face, and most especially, the eyes.

Honorable Mention - "Puppies" by Ute Farr
Speaking of expression... These are the happiest puppies I've seen in a long time! This one's all about the JOY and the FUR! In fact, in spite of there appearing to be no discernible light source (the reference may have been a flash-front photo?) Ms. Farr was able to create a wonderful depth of fluffiness within the subtle varied tones of warm and cool whites, blues and violets that make these coats so believably thick. The simplicity of the background and the sofa edge support the strength of this traditional portrait pose.

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed the show, and check out the rest of the Pastel Guild of Europe's site!



  1. Thank you so much, Rita! I'm so honored of this judgement...
    Claudia Chimenti


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