6th Annual Artist’s Choice Monthly Winning Artists – April 2021

The top five artists in each category were given awards in the 6th Annual Artist’s Choice international online art exhibition.  Below are the biographies and/or artist’s statements along with the artist’s websites or emails.

To contact these artists directly for purchase inquiries or to see more of their work, please visit the 6th Annual Artist’s Choice Exhibition page for contact information.

Congratulations again to all the winners and thank you for sharing your talent with us.

Best in Show (Traditional) – Yue Zeng – “Night Watcher Black Panther” – oil

Best in Show
Yue ZengYue Zeng’s painting practice sees her producing a diverse range of imagery in a fantastically detailed and, at times, photorealistic technique. Recent projects include a particular focus on mythical creatures and magical scenery. She also specializes in imagery of wild animals in oil as well as in pencil.

She thrives on challenging projects, creating a range of visual effects and meticulous textures within her paintings, often working with complex reflective ocean surfaces, animal fur and dappled light. Her landscape and seascape paintings are expansive and atmospheric, showing open vistas over fields and waves, and closer views of mossy trees.

Zeng uses a variety of media including oil paint on stretched canvas, delicate gouache on paper and beautiful, monochrome pen and ink drawings.

Yue Zeng’s webstie is https://yuezengartstudio.com/

Best in Show (Photography & Digital) – Juan Cavalleiro – “Social Wall” – digital drawing on aluminum sheet canvas

Best in Show
(Photography & Digital)
Juan CavalleiroMy work revolves around the celebration and the examination of social justice, nature, movement, society (good or bad sides), and humans, with the use of fantasy as emphasis. I love using my graphic design background and creativity to give my works that extra something that I believe is there but can’t be seen with naked eyes.

Juan’s work can be viewed on his Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/a.c.jc


Best in Show (3 Dimensional) – Douglas Aja – “Football Buddies” – bronze

Best in Show
Douglas AjaDouglas Aja has been sculpting African wildlife since the late 1990s. Since that time he donates a portion of the sales proceeds to various conservation organizations as well as donates sculptures for fund raising events. Though he sculpts a variety of species, he specializes in the African elephant. Many elephants are known individuals from Amboseli National Park in Kenya. He has been a longtime supporter of Amboseli Trust for Elephants, ElephantVoices, The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Action for Cheetahs in Kenya and Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF).

Aja’s bronze sculptures are in the private collections of elephant researchers Cynthia Moss and Joyce Poole, wildlife cinematographer Martyn Colbeck, the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, the Bennington Center for the Arts and NBA great and Basketball Hall of Famer Sam Jones.

Traveling to Africa for the first time in 1978, Doug took part in a wilderness education program with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). There he studied wilderness and mountaineering skills, outdoor leadership, minimum impact camping and Kenya’s culture. He continues to visit East Africa regularly to take photos, gather reference material and to further his knowledge and understanding of his subjects. He often backpacks on Mount Kenya, through Maasailand and has climbed Kilimanjaro.

Doug’s website is https://gallery.artistsforconservation.org/artists/1238/gallery/all

2nd Place (Traditional) – Cher Pruys – “Kissing Cousins” – acrylic

2nd Place
Cher PruysCher Pruys was born in Regina. Over the years she lived in many places including Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Fort Frances, settling into her present home in Devlin, on the banks of the Rainy River with her husband Mark, 4 dogs and 2 cats.

By age three, Cher was seldom found without a drawing tool in hand. She worked in pencil, charcoal and ink over the years, until, she picked up a paintbrush at the age of 35. Beginning with oil paints, she found her chosen mediums in acrylic, watercolor and gouache.

Although self-taught, her dedication and talent has seen her work juried into 99 International exhibits, as well as exhibits in numerous non-juried shows. She has won 75 awards for her work at the International Juried Exhibits. Included in these awards, the first recipient of a major Canadian National Award, The Mary Pratt Crystal Award of Excellence at the 2014 SCA Open Juried Exhibition, The SCA 1st place award of distinction twice respectively, 2016, and 2017 at The Canada’s 150 show. The Gold Medal recipient for Figurative Painting in The Mondial Art Academia’s International 2018 Competition. The Aviation Week & Space Technology Award Best of the Best, and the ASAA Award of Distinction for the best painting in the ASAA International Space & Technology Exhibit & Competition, consecutively for 2 years. She has had 14 solo exhibits. Cher is also an avid fused glass artist, and a certified teacher of piano and guitar.

Her painting “The Bubble” had the honour of being part of the Masterworks from The International Guild of Realism Tour. She was elected to the American Society of Aviation Artists as an artist member in 1996, and eventually was elected as a Foreign Affiliate Artist Fellow, one of only two Canadians receive this honour. Her work has graced the covers of 3 books, 14 magazines, and has-been featured in over 50 international publications. Cher’s works have found a permanent home in private and public collections worldwide.

Cher’s artistic style can be described as Realism with a hint of Abstract in her latest works.

Cher’s website is www.artbycher.ca       

2nd Place (Photography & Digital) – Daniel Forster – “Until Tomorrow” – photography

2nd Place
(Photography & Digital)
Daniel ForsterThe history of me with a camera is not a long one. I took a black and white film photography class in high school and didn’t pickup another “real” camera again until just a few years ago. I mainly shoot landscapes and nature throughout Colorado. I have really enjoyed traveling and exploring, but I really love creating photographs that tell stories and share the beauty of this amazing world we live in.

Daniel’s website is http://danielforster.photography/

2nd Place (3 Dimensional) – Irene Sirko – “Anticipation” – soapstone

2nd Place
Irene SirkoIrene’s sculptures are a response to life’s balance between control and freedom. Working with a structurally challenging medium, she utilizes a visceral and intuitive process to work the stone into free forms, constantly testing her own understanding of structure, movement and flow as she perceptively feels for the stone’s ability to accept or reject her applications. Intrinsic to her artistic practice is the sculpture’s simplicity, diversity of shape and organic state. Through constant sensorial reactions, such as touch and sight, Irene curates an immersive experience for her viewers.

Irene’s website is http://www.irenesirko.com     

3rd Place (Traditional) – Francisca Posadas – “Trapped” – graphite

3rd Place
Francisca PosadasFrancisca “Frankie” Posadas is a nineteen-year-old queer Hispanic artist with high school art training. Her works typically delve into representations of mental health, the perception of the self, and nonsensical wonder. 2D art is her specialty using mediums of paint and pencil.

Francisca’s work can be seen on her Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/frankenberrytired/


3rd Place (Photography & Digital) – James Ritchie – “Night Lights No. 36 – Fuel, Edition of 9″ – photography on aluminum

3rd Place
(Photography & Digital)
James RitchieJames Ritchie has always had an interest in art and photography, but it wasn’t until retirement that he was able to devote himself to serious artistic endeavors. He has since taken an autodidactic path from snapshooter to fine art photographer. His award-winning work is exhibited internationally, and owned in a growing number of private and corporate collections.

In 2019, his recognition expanded to the Big Apple, winning the Chelsea International Fine Art Competition Excellence Award, and exhbiting at George Billis Gallery. International Photography Awards (IPA) named him 2019 IPA Special Photographer of the Year, awarded First Place for his “Night Lights” series, and recognized at the prestigious Lucie Awards at Carnegie Hall.

Mr. Ritchie’s “Night Lights” series explores what lurks in the shadows of the haunting and mysterious half-light of dusk and night. With the harsh and distracting light of day extinguished, unexpected beauty is revealed in the dim, silent and serene solitude of night.

These images present a sensation of unfamiliarity within familiar situations. Subtle details or odd juxtapositions of mundane elements break the passivity of spectators, inviting them to participate in the art by drawing on their personal experiences and form their own interpretations.

James’s website is http://jamescritchiefineart.com/        

3rd Place (3 Dimensional) – Oleg Kedria – “Tropical Rhino” – mixed media

3rd Place
Oleg KedriaOleg Kedria is a sculptor who was born in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine.  As a child, he enjoyed playing with plasticine and when an exhibition by Antoine-Louis Barye, arrived in the city where he lived, the sculptor in Oleg came to life.

His love of animals, nature and history are his primary inspiration for his sculptures. Most of his sculptures are created in Bronze, but he also works with precious stones.  With his experience of cutting out of wood and stone, in 2013, Oleg created a historical chess set out of mammoth ivory found in North Russia.

Oleg has recently been invited to participate in creating a collection of artwork that is dedicated to the commanders of Kievskaya, Russia. A different artist from around the world will create each piece.

In 2013, Oleg moved to the USA, where he now lives and works. Oleg’s goal is to create interesting art that is not just beautiful but art that will send a message to future generations about their past.

Oleg can be reached via his email.    

4th Place (Traditional) – Huaqi Li – “Puzzle” – oil on canvas

4th Place
Huaqi LiLi Huaqi is a Chinese artist, born in 1981 in Guangxi and now lives in Beijing. He graduated from the Department of Painting, Academy of Fine Arts, Tsinghua University. He serves on the boards of many Chinese artistic organizations including as the President of Oil Painting Academy of Zhongguancun Academy of Art, Vice Chairman of China-Russia Oil Painting Association, Vice Chairman of China-Hungarian Artists Association and the Vice Director of Office of Beijing Oil Painting Academy of China Xu Beihong Painting Academy. He is a member of American Portrait Painting Association and a member of Beijing Oil Painting Society.

Huagi Li’s website is http://www.lihuaqi.com/

4th Place (Photography & Digital) – David Horwitz – “Early Morning, Philadelphia” – photography

4th Place
(Photography & Digital)
David HorwitzI don’t like the term self-taught artist and I particularly don’t like the term outsider artist, but I’m a painter who has only taken only one and a half painting classes in his life. When I was kid, I drew a lot. That is what I went to on my own in the way that children seem to be hardwired from almost birth towards certain activities, like sports or the arts or math and the sciences. When I went off to college, I pretty much stopped doing any art and it did not occur to me that I could study art and instead I went to a liberal arts college and then after graduation I went into business. It wasn’t until 2002, that I thought I would go back to something I always liked and I took two night classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia but I didn’t finish the second class because it was formal and I got lost with trying to learn in that manner. Ten years went by and with the continued urging of my wife, who has a degree in painting from an art college, I tried painting again in April 2012 but this time on my own. My wife gave me the book Color by Betty Edwards and I read half of it but like the class at PAFA, it didn’t feel right and I decided to just jump in and teach myself to paint.

I taught myself to paint by following two rules. First, I was going to teach myself how to paint by painting and not by reading about how to paint or by taking classes or workshops. And by painting a lot. In the first five years, I painted over 500 paintings. There are certainly different ways to approach learning how to paint but for me, painting this much and this quickly was a way for me to learn on my own what worked and what didn’t work in a painting; in particular, I was interested in learning how colors worked with each other. In my very first paintings, I painted very small – I call it my Post-It Note Period as some are actually on Post-It Notes – because I wanted to quickly see how colors worked against each other without having to use a lot of paint over a large area of real-estate. Second, I decided to never make a single painting, no matter how small, simply an exercise for something I might work on later. Every painting, every time, I treat as something special and unique that I struggle through in order to get to a place where the painting has energy and power and I, simply said, feel something. My thoughts on this are simple: If I feel something from my painting, then I think the viewer will feel something also.

David’s website is https://www.davidhorwitzart.com/    

4th Place (3 Dimensional) – Daniel Rothenberg – “Found” – ceramics and cement base

4th Place
Daniel RothenbergMy art is based on the ideas of unconscious thought. My art is spontaneous, this type of thought process applies to all parts of the process. From the construction of the piece, to the color it is experimental with a seemingly rushed process.

Daniel’s website is https://dpinkhills.wixsite.com/arttrading



5th Place (Traditional) – Krista Oremus – “Into The Night” – colored pencil

5th Place
Krista OremusA self- taught color pencil artist, Krista Oremus enjoys producing abstract and wildlife pieces. Finely detailed work of creatures in an ancient Bestiary volume inspired Krista to pursue an art medium that would enable her to convey fine details in her own work. Believing that eyes contribute greatly to the emotion of a piece, Krista began creating detailed eye studies of big cats, capturing the intense stare of a tiger or the aloof gaze of a leopard. Trying graphite at first, her art was satisfying but messy, involving spraying the finished works to preserve them. Incorporating color pencil into her artwork, Krista discovered she could achieve details in vibrant color without having to add solvents or preservatives that also can harm the environment.

Her favorite color pencils include Faber Castell Polychromos, Caran Dache and Derwent pencils. She is currently expanding her knowledge with Bonny Snowdon Fine Arts Patreon Group, where she has already made tremendous progress with her color pencil techniques and skills. Krista is a member of Color Pencil Society of America as well as SAA, UK, where her art has been published in SAA’s Paint Magazine.

Encounters with endangered species during her travels have sparked Krista’s passion about conservation. She intentionally creates each piece to convey awareness that will help bring hope, preservation, peace and love for our fellow creatures. Recently, Krista has discovered an affinity with abstract art, creating meditative pieces that echo the textures, shapes and colors within her wildlife artworks. Her art is created in the traditional color pencil method used by the old masters, utilizing only color pencil and paper burnishing techniques instead of finishing sprays.

Krista’s website is https://kristaoremus.com/

5th Place (Photography & Digital) – Merrilee Soberg – “Spellbound” – digital art

5th Place
(Photography & Digital)
Merrilee SobergAfter retiring from a successful career as a professional potter, Merrilee turned to photography and digital art to fill the creative void. She honed her digital art skills in Sebastian Michael’s online courses. As a result, she has been published in numerous editions of “Living the Photoartistic Life” magazine and was featured in the February 2020 edition.

In 2020, Merrilee received first place in Fusion Art’s “Leaves and Petals” exhibition. In addition, she placed second overall (first in the Photography-Digital division) in Light Space & Time’s Nature exhibition and first overall in the 2021 “All Women” exhibition. Many of the photographs used in Merrilee’s compositions were taken at home on Vancouver Island on the west coast of Canada or during her world travels.

She is passionate about photographing wildlife, especially birds, in their natural habitat. As she lives on the edge of a seasonal wetlands, other elements of nature regularly find their way into her artistic creations. These photos combined with digital painting are the building blocks used to create inspired, unique works of art that can be beautiful, intriguing, moving and at times thought provoking. She focuses on the resilience, strength and connectedness of the human spirit. Nature and the human form…..what a magical combination.

Merrilee’s website is https://merrilee-soberg.pixels.com/

5th Place (3 Dimensional) – Maria Jae Holstein – “The Monarch” – pine needle and marquetry basket

5th Place
Maria Jae HolsteinJae Holstein, Newberry FL artist, is best known for her satisfyingly rhythmic and impressively detailed pine needle baskets. Holstein works in a variety of mediums. Her current focus is basketry which includes the pine needles, thread, agates, beads and clay. Holstein manipulates pine needles by using her own adapted coiling technique to create a tighter coil and ultimately a denser more malleable sculpture. Her use of negative space, repetition, shape and color enhance the dynamic and unusual form of her skillfully coiled baskets.

Some of Holstein’s designs are carefully planned while other designs emerge in the process through experimentation and play. Holstein’s unique designs are often inspired by patterns found in nature, particularly trees. One of the reasons Holstein was attracted to basketry is the emotional experience provided by the coiling. Holstein’s process requires arduous repetition and intense focus which the artist describes as therapeutic.

Holstein is also influenced by her Native American heritage. Pine needle coiling is one of the oldest basket weaving techniques known and was practiced wherever pine needles were present. Holstein refers to her basket coiling as spiritual activity which allows her to a feel connected to the sisterhood of basket weaving history. Holstein has been involved in creative endeavors her entire life. She was born in Charleston, West Virginia.

From years Holstein attended Cobb County Center for Excellence in Performing Arts High School in Roswell, Georgia. During her time at the performing arts high school Holstein majored in vocal performance. She continued her creative interests by majoring in music at Graceland University, years. In year Holstein honed additional creative skills by learning to airbrush while working in a collective under Rick Cain, sculptor.

During college Holstein also became interested in culinary arts. She pursued this interest by moving to Gainesville, FL and worked as a chef for several years. Jae Holstein’s work has been featured in many galleries including the prestigious Bascom Center for Visual Arts Gallery, Highlands, NC.

Maria can be reached via her email.     


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