Anatomy of Art Competition – 5


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It’s amazing to think that something that started as insignificant as a small “thumbnail” drawing in my sketchbook, has turned into a painting currently hanging at the Oil Painters of American National Juried Exhibition at the Southwest Art Gallery in Dallas Texas. The exhibit and convention were really exciting and fun. It was an honor to be juried into the show (translation: “I didn’t win an award.”) BUT nonetheless – I am already planning for next year!

In previous posts I detailed the application and approval process; varnishing, framing and shipping and this post will highlight just some of the many exhibition/convention activities I attended. Thanks OPA, Southwest Gallery, the great state of Texas and thanks to you for “hanging” with me while sharing the anatomy of an art competition.

Me and my painting "New Shoes" at the Southwest Gallery's opening night.

Me and my painting “New Shoes” at the Southwest Gallery’s opening night.

A demonstration by OPA Master Qiang Huang.

OPA Convention demonstration by OPA Master Qiang Huang.

"New Shoes" in the exhibition catalog.

“New Shoes” in the 2016 OPA National Juried Exhibition catalog.

Kevin Macpherson OPAM, taking a break during his demonstration.

Exhibit Judge Kevin Macpherson OPAM, taking a break during his demonstration.

The exhibit judge, Kevin Macpherson OPAM cleaning his palette after a demonstration.

Exhibit judge, Kevin Macpherson OPAM cleaning his palette after a demonstration.




Anatomy of Art Competition – 4


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Shipping artwork is like putting your kindergartener on the bus for their first day of school. It’s exciting, stressfull and somewhat expensive. All you can do is be prepared, trust the professionals and be fairly confident that they’ll get where they need to go.

This series of blogs shows the behind-the-scenes activities of entering an art competition. My painting “New Shoes” was accepted into the Oil Painters of America (OPA) National Juried Exhibition and now it’s time to ship.

OPA’s national exhibit is hosted by Southwest Gallery in Dallas Texas. After being juried into the exhibit, OPA sends the artist information about the exhibit activities, schedules, shipping guidelines and deadlines. Included in the information is an identification card that the artist attaches to the back of their painting. The gallery staff must take the current artwork off their walls, receive and unpack the new art, and then hang the OPA exhibit. The gallery will have 210 paintings arriving between April 20 – 26.

The back of my painting has: the identification card, a check to the gallery (unpacking/packing costs), Terri’s Frame Shop sticker and my business card.


Back of “New Shoes” with info.

My shipper is Pkgs. in Clive. Owner Dave weighs the painting, measures it and calculates the insurance based on the painting’s value. He’ll make a box sturdy enough for shipping the artwork to and back from Dallas.


Dave weighing “New Shoes”

The gallery will store 210 shipping boxes and reuse them to ship the paintings back to the artists.

Next time: Road Trip


Anatomy of Art Competition – 3


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I thought it would be fun to show my collectors and friends the behind-the-scenes activities of entering an art competition. My painting “New Shoes” was accepted into the Oil Painters of America National Juried Exhibition and the piece was completed Jan. 24, 2015. After approximately three months of dry time I’m ready to varnish and pick out a frame.


Original oil paintings are not framed with glass and painters use varnish to protect their work. Not only does varnishing protect it also brings the dried oil paint back to life making it appear fresh. If you click the image below you can see how the paint under the puddle of varnish appears wet. The varnish will dry overnight and be ready to take to the framer the next day.

Varnishing brings protects the painting and brings the dry oil paint back to life.


The next day is field trip day! Framing is actually pretty fun because 1. field trips are fun, 2. I get to have an actual conversation with someone during the day and 3. I get a sneak peak at how the finished painting might look. Once on the table at Terri’s Frame Shop, Terri and I agreed it needs a frame with some action (scrolls) and we need to match the gray-violet of the dress. After trying a few samples, I chose the one below:


When framing for a competition, I do take the judging into consideration. I don’t want the frame to overpower the painting, so I choose more conservatively. Terri has a good eye and understands what looks the best with the work. She’s also framed a lot of my work and knows my taste.


The framing will be done next week which puts me ahead of schedule (see Anatomy of Art Competition – 2) and that’s great!

Coming up next: figuring out shipping requirements (paying both ways) and another field trip to the shipper: Pkgs.


Anatomy of Art Competition – 2


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In the end it will have taken approximately seven(ish) months, counting from the day I took the photo reference with my iPhone, to viewing a finished painting in Dallas.

I thought it would be fun to show my collectors and friends what the planning and schedule looks like behind the scenes to enter art competitions. I enjoy timelines, so for the second part of this series I thought I’d show you the basic timeframe to submit a new work to the Oil Painters of America National Exhibition. It would be somewhat different if I submitted a painting that was already completed.

Join me on the rollercoaster of inspiration, panic and celebration! Panibrate!


October 24 – Before my son’s wedding I took a photo of my granddaughter on my iPhone.

November – Thumbnail sketch for composition and scaled drawings to fix iPhone lens distortion.

December – Small-scale “oil “study” to set color scheme.


January 24 – Finished full-size painting.

January 25 – Digital Photography

January 26 – Upload digital image to Juried Art Services (online submission website) and pay fee.

  • Panic. Received error message (ironically in error) that the deadline is past for this competition.
  • Re-check exhibit prospectus: deadline Jan 29. Whew!
  • Email Oil Painters of America and Juried Art Services regarding the error.

January 27 – Email from Juried Art Services correcting deadline. Resend submission. Digital file accepted online. Panibrate! (Panibrate: verb, pan-e-brate, to simultaneously panic and celebrate. To observe an otherwise happy occasion with both joy and panic.)

January 29 – Deadline for submissions.

February 25 – Approval Deadline. Check OPA website for my name on the acceptance list. Celebrate!

Upcoming Deadlines:

March 24 – Varnish deadline (3 months dry time.)

March 28-April 8 – Framing deadline. (I like to allow a couple weeks for this as material needs ordered and I can’t know how busy the framer will be with other customers.)

April 18 – Shipping deadline.

April 20-26 – Delivery deadline for artwork to Southwest Gallery, Dallas, TX

May 13 – Exhibit Opening Night. Celebrate!

Coming up next: Fun with fumes (varnish) and a field trip to Terri’s Frame Shop.

Anatomy of Art Competition – I


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When I first started working full-time as an artist, I applied for membership into the Oil Painters of America (OPA). I filled out an application, payed a fee and submitted samples of my work for review. Luckily, I was approved and became an entry level associate member. The next step is to become a Signature Member. To do that, I must have exhibited in three national OPA shows (or two national OPA shows and three regional shows.) To this point, I’ve been juried into two regional shows and one national show.

I chose OPA because members are reviewed and it provided more than one or two opportunities to exhibit and win prize money. I liked that it was somewhat exclusive and I liked that they wanted to get award money in my pocket.

What I want to do here, is create a series of blogs to show collectors and friends what the anatomy of an art competition is like. I was talking to my artist friend Kathleen Coy and we agreed it’s like a rollercoaster ride. I want to share with you things like:

  • Deciding which piece to submit along with varnishing, framing and photographing the art
  • uploading to Juried Art Services (online service where jurying committee reviews and accepts/rejects submissions)
  • Approval/Rejection (both involve adult drinks)
  • Shipping/Packaging (trusting your hopes & dreams to FedEx – two ways)
  • Attending the Exhibit opening (seeing/comparing your work Associate & Signature Members and Master artists)
  • Attending the demonstrations (this is my favorite part, unless I win something, then this is my second favorite part.)

Up to this point I haven’t won an award from OPA, but I have found that all my work improved when I committed myself to submitting at least one piece to an OPA exhibit. (It’s like threatening yourself!) When my work is accepted the drive to be better becomes even stronger and I hold my next pieces to even higher standards.

I hope you enjoy learning the anatomy of an art competition.

The War of Art


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“Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.”

That’s my favorite quote from Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art. I have it on Kindle and it’s the first highlighted bookmark. My second highlight is, “Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.” To quote Charlie Brown, “Rats.”

When working on submissions to juried shows or competitions, artists have to  sometimes plan almost a year in advance. For about a month I’ve been working  on designs for one of these competitions. I have a safe design and a creative design. I picked the creative design because what’s the fun in being safe? I finished my proposal and was creating a timeline, working backwards from their deadline, when it suddenly hit me – Resistance.

I spent a few minutes talking myself out of submitting a proposal. Resistance had good points: 1.) “They won’t like your creative design” and 2. “If they do you’ll never get it done on deadline.” Well played Resistance – well played. But, I’ve ignored you many times Resistance, and each time it was important to my artistic “soul’s evolution”. I learned that even when I fail I win. How’s that? I fix flat tires really good by having lots flat tires.

My third highlight in the book reads, “Resistance has not strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us. We feed it with power by our fear of it. Master that fear and we conquer Resistance.” Sure, being rejected still stings, but like I said, even when I fail I win because I overcame Resistance and kept moving forward. “It ain’t about how hard your hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving’ forward.” – Rocky

Do you have a creative “call to action” that you are resisting? Make’em say no.



Upcoming Exhibit: Spirit of Place


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"Maestro", oil on canvas

“Maestro”, 8×16, oil on canvas

What is “spirit of place”?

The ancient Romans believed each location had a genius loci or spirit of place. It was often depicted as a guardian animal or a protective deity. Today, spirit of place refers to a location’s unique character. It is as much the invisible weave of culture: stories, art, memories, beliefs, and histories as it is the distinctive architecture or geography. I believe a genuine sense of place comes from discovering the greater spirit of place.

Iowa’s native people survived by their intimate relationship with the: climate, soil, water sources, plants and animals. Iowa’s early settlers and turn-of-the-century citizens were closely familiar with nature, seasons and their food sources (e.g. fields, livestock and markets.) Today, more than any other time in human history, our activities are indoors and our interactions are with machines.

About the Exhibit

The exhibit features paintings of wildlife (primarily bison & elk) and turn-of-the-century rural scenes which represent Iowa’s spirit of place. The goal of this exhibit is to initiate the inner dialogue, inspired by the spirit of place, that leads to a genuine individual sense of place.

The exhibit will be displayed at the Refuge from June 6–30 and is free to the public during the Refuge’s regular business operating hours. The Refuge’s visitor center and art gallery are open seven days a week and is handicap accessible.

Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge

I feel Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge is a cultural asset. The Refuge isn’t just protecting, restoring and reconstructing the Iowa’s natural flora and fauna – they’re protecting, restoring and reconstructing Iowa’s unique spirit of place. This is why I exclusively referenced the wildlife at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge to create the wildlife paintings in this exhibit, and why a percentage of proceeds from artwork sold during this exhibit goes directly to the Refuge.

I hope you’ll join me as an advocate for the Refuge to help protect, restore and reconstruct Iowa’s unique spirit of place for future generations to discover.

Thank you for your support.

NOTE: A special RSVP opening night preview will be held on Friday, June 5 and corresponds with Friends of Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge’s annual Concert on the Prairie (Music, Art, Nature). This event features: preview of my art exhibit Spirit of Place, outdoor concert featuring Big Blue Sky band, wine tasting hosted by Wines of Iowa, food provided by Magg Family Catering and a guided twilight walk on the Refuge’s Overlook Trail. This event is $50 per person and seating is limited. Registration closes Jun 1, 2015. For more information on the concert/special opening preview and to purchase tickets go to:



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“Tish-ah!” said the grass … “Tish-ah, tish-ah!” … Never had it said anything else – never would it say anything else.” – O.E. Rolvaag, Giants in the Earth

Hands down, the best opening lines in any book I’ve read. The novel follows a young 19th century Norwegian couple, Per Hansa and his wife Beret, as they travel across the  American Tallgrass prairie to settle on the Great Plains. Beret grows more and more homesick for Norway. Her melancholy grows into “prairie madness”, a condition many settlers experienced from the extreme levels of isolation on the vast, open prairie.

I’ve had this subject in the back of my mind ever since I read the books (it’s actually a trilogy) about 10 years ago. I was reminded of Beret about two years ago from a photo my wife took. At the beginning of this year I started doing preliminary drawings and last week I started the final painting. The working title of the painting is “Melancholia” based on one of the four temperaments. I know I geeked out a little by having a backstory for this painting, but it really helps to make it more meaningful to me. Below are the steps to painting Beret’s hair.

Progress for Beret's hair.

Progress of Beret’s hair for painting “Melancholia”.

Print Offer – The Home Place


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The Home Place


I’m offering an open edition print of my recent painting The Home Place.

I’ve been on the fence about offering prints of my work. I was encouraged by the comments when I shared this painting on social media. Your comments really matter and so I decided to take the leap.

Click here to view the new Open Edition Print section on my website. Click on the painting image and you may order: a canvas print, framed print, art print, poster or even greeting cards. If you wish to frame and mat, click through the choices and you’ll see a preview of what the finished product will look like.

I think art is simply thought imbedded into material. When I read the comments on this painting, I felt like the viewers and I had a nice conversation. I believe that’s how art works and I’m grateful it’s working well between us.

Click the thumbnails below for details of The Home Place:


The Home Place (detail 1)


The Home Place (detail 2)


The Home Place (detail 3)




Spirit of Place


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Every company I’ve ever worked for had employees write annual goals to help the company fulfill it’s mission & vision. It’s good to do, even for a sole proprietor business, so I still do it. I thought I’d share my art mission, vision and a 2015 goal:

Mission: To create, illuminate and translate the American Midwest’s spirit of place – the undomesticated essence of the region where I live.

Vision: To create body of work that successfully communicates the American Midwest’s spirit of place and connects the viewer to the Midwesterner’s sense of place, the intimate bond and awareness of where we live.

Goal: Create an exhibit of new artwork that depicts the undomesticated essence of the Tallgrass prairie and the turn of the century agrarian people who chose to make it their home. I believe a sense of place manifests itself from the spirit of place. That intimate connection guides us to discover and communicate our unique identity.

Spirit of Place will include oil paintings of Iowa’s native landscape, wildlife and turn of the century agrarian people and livestock.

Click here for more information on the exhibit.


Oak Savanna Sunset, oil on canvas, 8×24