7th Annual Artist’s Choice Monthly Winning Artists – January 2022

The top five artists in each category were given awards in the 7th 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 7th 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) – Krista Oremus – “Favored Steed” – colored pencil

1st-BIS-45-trad.-Krista-Oremus-Favored-Steed-.bKrista Oremus is a self-taught color pencil and graphite artist. She enjoys challenging herself with each piece, choosing subjects with complicated textures or reflections. Her passion in art began at the tender age of 3, when her parents put a paintbrush in her hand and let her paint the walls in her room. When she was 16 she painted a mural of a unicorn on her wall that is still preserved in the house where she grew up.

She stepped away from actively creating pieces for some years, as adult life demands took all her time. Her heart has led her back where she belongs, and now she doesn’t go a day without picking up a pencil to create something even if only a quick sketch or doodle. Krista is continuously looking for ways to improve her techniques and is currently studying with Bonny Snowdon Ignite Academy.

She is exploring fur techniques as well as dipping her toe into the world of abstract art and even surrealism. She finds that creating abstracts and neurographic art is very cathartic and meditative. Florals and still life pieces offer her a change from fur strokes and offer their own challenges.

Color pencils have come a long way since she was a child, and Krista takes full advantage of using superior quality color pencils in her art such as Faber Castell Polychromos, Caran D’Ache Luminance and Derwent Lightfast pencils. Each piece is painstakingly burnished using traditional color pencil techniques instead of using solvents.

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

Best in Show (Photography & Digital) – Gareth Jones – “Peering through the Keyhole – My Life changed forever” – digital art image

1st-BIS-47-dp.-Gareth-Jones-Peering-through-the-Keyhole-My-Life-changed-forever-.cPhotography/digital art are Gareth’s artistic expressions. Art has been his way to bring his imagination, vision and inquisitive mind to visual life by exploring abstracts or unique perspectives in both colour and monochrome created from his original photographs or digital art.

Gareth wants to balance life. He attempts to give people a breather from the stress of today’s world. This is not to say he doesn’t bring difficult issues into his art – but Gareth is convinced that balance is the critical issue, especially as for most our worlds are not in balance. Gareth sees the world with all its wonders and creations, big and small and then he puts his take on it, that’s his gift – a moment to create whatever the image calls up in you.

Gareth’s website is www.gpjones1.format.com

Best in Show (3 Dimensional) – Karen Russo – “What Came Before” – stoneware, underglaze, casein, acrylic

1st-BIS-4-3d.-Karen-Russo-What-Came-Before-.bKaren Russo is a figurative ceramic sculptor who lives and works in the lush green foothills of 
western Oregon. She chooses clay as her primary medium because of its malleability, capacity for transformation, and direct connection to the earth.

Over the years, Karen has developed and honed a unique method of layering materials, textures, and color that lends her work a rich, organic quality. Beginning with stoneware or earthenware clay, she hand builds each sculpture from coil, slabs, or a solid mass of clay. The figure is then cut into multiple sections, hollowed, compressed, and then reassembled. Karen carves patterns and textures into the clay before it undergoes a slow bisque fire that can last up to a week. She then uses underglazes, clay paint, casein, acrylic, wax, or a combination thereof to lay imagery onto each figure’s singular surface. Her color palette echoes the places that inspire her; from the ocean to the forests, the desert to the mountains, of the extraordinary Pacific Northwest.

The resulting sculptures depict women that seem to originate from numerous different eras and geographical origins, but all of which explore the tensions of the feminine experience: strength and contemplation, youth and aging, joy and grief, instability and equilibrium, hope and despair. Through these maternal archetypes, so evocative of the precious earth from which they were formed, Karen hopes to express an eternal optimism for the human spirit in this beautiful, and turbulent world.

“Responding to a world out of balance, I seek love and compassion, a counterbalance to hate and violence. Clay is my balm to heal, comfort and soothe. May my sculptures illuminate hope, infinite possibilities and wonder.”

Karen received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of California Santa Cruz in 1982. From 1986 to 1987 she studied under Paul Buckner at the University of Oregon MFA Program, with a concentration in Figure Sculpture. She has since furthered her studies with renowned sculptors Beth Cavener, Adrian Arleo, Alessandro Gallo, and Cristina Cordova.

You can view more of Karen’s sculptures by visiting her website: www.karenrusso.studio

2nd Place (Traditional) – Michael Bignell – “Boatyard Blues” – fluid acrylic

2nd-Place-1-trad.-Michael-Bignell-Boatyard-Blues-.bMichael is a retired architect. His architectural firm was founded in Annapolis in 1976; he retired from the practice in 1998. Since then, he has returned to painting and continues the passion he enjoyed in his early years.

His art has been described as being Beyond Realism. He depicts realism in the way he sees it. Each painting is a composition. Although they are based on real scenes, the composition, light, shade and color spectrums are rearranged to suit Michael’s view.

The influences which have shaped his art development are leads in the field of realistic painting, including Andrew Wyeth, Richard Estes and the renaissance painters Vermeer and Velasquez. Michael has also been fortunate to work with talented photographers: Michiel Wijstma of the Netherlands, John van Horn of South Carolina and Rosemary Delaplain-Sklaroff of Maryland.

Michael’s website is http://michaelbignell.com

2nd Place (Photography & Digital) – Barbara Mierau-Klein – “Teal and Green Trees” – digital photo collage

2nd-Place-11-dp.-Barbara-Mierau-Klein-Teal-and-Green-Trees-.bBarbara Mierau-Klein is a digital artist recognized for her multi-layered, imaginative and colorful fine art images. A native of Germany, Barbara lives in the Washington, D.C. area but often travels the world as a passionate landscape and nature photographer since her teenage years.

Much of Barbara’s work is highly stylized and focuses on beautiful moments and evocative moods across a wide range of subjects. The inspiration for her images comes from many sources, often her own nature photography, but also books, song lyrics, movies, and works of other artists, old masters as well as contemporary digital artists.

Barbara’s work has been exhibited in a number of galleries in the US and Europe and has received numerous awards. Her images also appear regularly in international art magazines. Barbara is represented locally by Waverly Street Gallery in Bethesda, MD.

Barbara’s website is http://barbaramierauklein.com

2nd Place (3 Dimensional) – Sheryl Holstein – “Earth Elements ” – wheel thrown pottery

2nd-Place-1-3d.-Sheryl-Holstein-Earth-Elements-.bSheryl Holstein has been studying pottery from accomplished potters through the John C. Campbell Folk School since the fall of 2002. She began creating pottery under the name Mountain Oak Pottery, and is continuously learning new and different techniques for throwing and glazing. When you live high in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains, there isn’t a better place to work than your own back porch. Sheryl has set up her pottery studio over-looking the very mountains that give her artistic inspiration every day.

“Becoming a potter is a passion, a goal and an extension of who I am. I love making beautiful things that can be shared with others. I hope others enjoy viewing, touching and using my pottery as much as I have enjoyed creating them.”

You can find Sheryl’s artwork on her Facebook Page: http://facebook.com/MountainOakPottery

3rd Place (Traditional) – Barney Levitt – “A Hare Raising Experience” – oil on canvas

3rd-Place-60-trad.-Barney-Levitt-A-Hare-Raising-Experience-.bI’ve been creating ‘pictures’ ever since I was old enough to grip a crayon and scribble on my parents’ living room walls. I was given my first oil set when I was 10 years old, which set me on my destined path to becoming a professional artist. After graduating with a fine arts degree in drawing and painting, I never looked back.

I love the malleability of oil paints and create my paintings layer by layer, capturing in painstaking detail every nuance of my subject. I was greatly influenced by the works of the Dutch and Flemish masters, particularly Vermeer. My work ranges from classical still life set-ups to quirkier narrative pieces that tell a story or invites the viewer to create a narrative of their own. My paintings often cross over from the real to the surreal.

But just as each of us possess ever-changing moods and feelings; my paintings vary in theme from the classical ‘old master’ setups, to a world of fantasy and make believe. Titles are important to me as they give the viewer better insight into what I’m trying to convey. Humor also plays out in much of my work and I strive for a narrative that will capture the viewers’ attention. My work combines naturalistic detail with quirky offbeat compositions that often juxtapose ordinary objects in ways the viewer doesn’t expect.

I studied under Robert Sullins and received my B.A. in studio art from S.U.N.Y. at Oswego. I’m a member of Gallery Blink in Lexington, MA, Gallery Antonia, in Chatham, MA, and the Stewart Clifford Gallery in Provincetown, MA. I’ve been a member of The Copley Society of Art since 2004 and received my Copley Master status in 2017. I’ve been juried into The International Guild of Realism, The National Oil and Acrylic Painter’s Society, and Oil Painters of America. I also belong to Jamaica Plain Artist’s Assoc., and The Newton Art Association.

Barney’s website is www.barneylevitt.com

3rd Place (Photography & Digital) – John H Diephouse – “Nostalgia (Polar Express)” – photography

3rd-Place-37-dp.-John-H-Diephouse-Nostalgia-Polar-Express-.bI am a primarily self-taught photographer who began exhibiting my images about fifteen years ago. I seek to share images with which I have a strong and instinctive personal connection. Images may be simply documentary, invoke a sense of time and place, or resonate as an abstract blend of color, shape or form. Others provoke an indefinable question that does not readily yield answers without further study and reflection.

My creative process follows an intuitive yet patterned path, searching for the combination of elements that produces an instinctive but undeniable connection. Most often the images that provoke the strongest connection are those that do not produce an immediate reaction but provoke a response through repeated contact and consideration over time.

I exhibit widely and have received awards in local, regional, and national exhibitions. My photographs are also included in several corporate and private collections.

John can be reached via his Email.

3rd Place (3 Dimensional) – Brian Mark – “Stripee” – ruby red onyx

3rd-Place-8-3d.-Brian-Mark-Stripee-.bArtist Biography: Born in Schenectady, New York, raised in Washington, D.C., Brian Mark has been intrigued by art of all kinds for most of his life. By the time he entered college, not knowing what he wanted to do, thought, and quickly abandoned, dentistry. Literature appealed to him and ultimately, Mark taught English literature at university.

While he was doing scholarly work on English literature, Mark began to feel a tug toward doing, not just intellectualizing about art. Mark’s first artistic foray was in woodworking. After a while, he could not shake the impact Dylan Thomas’ poem, “In My Craft or Sullen Art” had on him. Mark kept feeling he was doing craft, not art, and wanted more. A friend urged him to look seriously at stone sculpture as his art focus.

Eventually, Brian went to that sculpting class, and as he tells it: ‘As soon as I set foot in the studio and looked at the work the students were doing, I was hooked.’ That was 20 years ago. Brian has been joyfully doing stone sculpting from that date to now. Sculpting is something he simply cannot NOT do. It is a passion. He creates abstract sculptures in harder stone such as marble, calcite, onyx, and others. He does not strive to make statements with his art, but rather ‘tries to bring beauty into this world, and at the same time soothe his soul by fulfilling the creative process.’ His work has been seen in many art shows and looks forward to continuing his love/work in stone.

Artist Statement: Nature is raw. Art is practiced. Each stone has its own language and I work to understand that language. Some of the learning comes from striving to listen to what each stone is saying. Each has a color, a shape, and a hidden beauty. While valuing that uniqueness, I strive to let my imagination fly free, in order build upon nature’s creation: blending raw nature with understanding the language of this stone. And, so begins the conversation between stone and sculptor.

When a stone selects me, I cannot know what striations, hues, density, faults, lie under the surface. As I begin chiseling and grinding, the stone talks to me, saying, “I have this special colored line running through me: preserve it”. Or, “slightly shift the angle of this or that curve”. Or, “work with me: together we can bring forth that special surprise, that new beauty never before seen”.

The conversation continues until nature’s stone and my imagination marry and together say, “stop – our work is done”. For me that conversation must lead to a sculpture that has movement, movement, movement. That movement is stone brought to life in a way never before seen.

Brian’s website is www.brianmarksculptor.com

4th Place (Traditional) – Linda McCord – “Dog Gone Comics” – transparent watercolor

4th-Place-11-trad.-Linda-McCord-Dog-Gone-Comics-.bLinda McCord works in most of the two-dimensional mediums. Strong lighting is the thrust of her work. She builds up many layers of transparent color to achieve depth and a glow to her paintings. Light and shadow, repetition of shapes and contrast are all an important part of McCord’s work. She says, “I love color, but value is more important to me.” McCord lives in Washington state and works in her studio full time. Although she is a self-taught artist, her work has taken awards in numerous international competitions and has been published in several books. She is a signature member of California Watercolor Association, Northwest Watercolor Society, Georgia Watercolor Society, and International Acrylic Painters Society. McCord’s work is in the collection of art museums, hospitals, churches and private collections.

Linda’s website is www.lindamccord.com

4th Place (Photography & Digital) – Jyl Blackwell – “Frosty Furling” – digital painting

4th-Place-50-dp.-Jyl-Blackwell-Frosty-Furling-.bArtist Biography: Jyl is a retired professional photographer whose passion for photography has not retired! She is a freelance photo retoucher and has a love of Photoshop and digital art. Her art seeks to illuminate the unseen and express emotion through the blending and interplay of digital layers.

Drawing from intuition and experience and thus extracting only those elements of color, line, and luminance that define the subject, she creates a unique vision of the world around us. Leaning toward abstraction to simplify her vision, she allows the viewer to reflect upon his or her emotional response to each element or the entirety of the piece.

Jyl’s art can be found in galleries and wineries in the Seattle area. Her work has been seen in numerous magazines, she was a finalist for KelbyOne’s Gallery competition and has been awarded in multiple international competitions. She recently won her category and placed second overall in an “Abstract” international competition.

Artist’s Statement: “I have always loved all things creative. Since childhood, I have written music and poetry, enjoyed working with textiles and fiber arts, and telling compelling stories through photography and traditional art mediums.

My art arrived on the scene when I was able to form art and technology into a process I call Kinetic Flow Painting™. Swirling layers of gradient pixels are put into motion and painted on the digital canvas. Sometimes these layers reside on their own and sometimes they are incorporated into photographic or digital collages.

Several software programs are used to create each elemental note that is composed into one cohesive piece. Often, new advances in software send me in an entirely new direction but always with the same process of extracting the essence of the piece through color and curve, form and light – music for the eyes.”

Jyl’s website is https://jylart.square.site

4th Place (3 Dimensional) – M.A. Bailey – “Stagger” – resin and wood

4th-Place-7-3d.-M.A.-Bailey-Stagger-.bM.A. Bailey originally hails from the East Coast of the U.S., where he grew up on the cliffs of the Palisades overlooking the Hudson River and New York City. There he began his love for culture and the fine arts and found the inspiration in his youth to study theatre and performance at Rutgers University and The Mason Gross School of the Arts.

After a long career working as an actor and singer in every imaginable medium – from theatre, TV, and film to video games and music videos – his interests and desires for other avenues of expression continued to grow and eventually brought him to start working with art that could be created by hand. He began by training in stained glass with a local artisan and has never since stopped exploring and expanding his points of view. His passions for new tangible expression flourishes, and he now devotes his time to working in his studio and exploring the creative process through his unique sculptures.

Some of his earliest 3-dimensional pieces took their cue from the traditional Japanese method of wood burning – yakisugi – a blackening of the wood that reveals clean, distinct lines and an inherent textural beauty. Combining that with his glass-making skills allowed for a unique take on sculptural relief and a furthered honing of his woodworking skills. Although his love for stained glass and for his particular use of it in unconventional ways hasn’t waned, the fragility of glass as a medium then led him to explore other materials. This exploration has brought him to his current series of works, utilizing resin and recycled plastics, combined with exotic woods, to create geometric sculptures that get their inspiration from both other historical art forms like traditional stained glass and totem carving – and the natural geometric configurations and array of colors found throughout nature.

M.A.’s website is www.mabaileyart.com  

5th Place (Traditional) – Monica Mendes – “Com-Vida 20” – oil on linen

5th-Place-18-trad.-Monica-Mendes-Com-Vida-20-.cMônica Mendes is a native of Belo Horizonte, Brazil. She lives for many years in Miami, where she develops relevant works in the arts segment, specializing in oil painting, in the figurative style. Despite having graduated in Public Relations and Physical Education, she has strong artistic roots since childhood. Her love for arts gave rise to the title “master’s degree of Fine Arts in Painting”, in 2016, by the Academy of Art University, in San Francisco.

Awarded for her works in the United States by Focus Brazil for 2 consecutive years and in art shows in Brazil, she regularly participates in several collective exhibitions, fairs and art shows around the world such as Japan, London, France, Italy and Brazil. There are more than 24 collective exhibitions and 5 individual exhibitions, in the United States, and Brazil. She has publications in art magazines and books.

Monica is also a Co-Founder of Atelier Without Borders, a non-profit social organization dedicated do the arts.

Monica’s website is www.monicamendesart.com

5th Place (Photography & Digital) – August Naude – “Lift Me Up…” – digital/canvas

5th-Place-35-dp.-August-Naude-Lift-Me-Up...-.cAfter retirement from a successful career in the ICT world in Pretoria, South Africa, August quickly discovered his immense passion for artistic photography, digital art and low key & grunge photography. Therefore, it was no surprise when he joined the various training programmes of the “father of digital art”, the famous Sebastian Michaels based in Asheville (USA) who has influenced the artwork of August to a large extent. August also graduated at the New York Institute of Photography with distinction, specializing in Intense Portrait Photography.

August almost got molded in a record time, becoming a master in low key studio work, grunge photo art as well as full blast digital art and artistic photography. He was selected as one of Photoshop Artistry’s international top digital artists which is called “Kaizen” and this group produce the most magical works of art. His work has been published in over 70 international publications all over the globe. He was featured artist in a number of publications, like edition 50 of the famous magazine, Living The Photo Artistic Life.

During his artistic journey, August participated (and is still participating) in various group exhibitions and he has received numerous honorary mentions and international prizes for his work. He was invited by Eikon Culture Visual Reflections, being the only South African between artists of over 70 countries to participate in three international exhibitions in Italy.

During 2017 to 2021, August has been exhibiting at the Heaven Art Gallery which was based in Arizona as well as the Orenda Gallery which was in Nevada. August is consistently exhibiting at the Blank Wall Gallery, in Athens, the annual Chania International Photo Festival in Greece, the More Art Please gallery in Romania as well as various online exhibitions like Fusion Art Gallery. His work is on display and is accessible internationally.

August’s exhibition at Fusion Art during August 2018 walked away with Best in Show in the 3rd Artist’s Choice International Juried Art Exhibition and his international exhibition at Light Space & Time in 2020, resulted in first place overall in the 10th Annual Open Art Exhibition.

Photography and the creation of art is not a job for August. It is rather living an artistic life which he is extremely passionate about.

August’s website is https://augustnaudephotography.com

5th Place (3 Dimensional) – Karen Ford – “Basic Elements” – mixed media (walnut twigs, beads

5th-Place-6-3d.-Karen-Ford-Basic-Elements-.bKaren is best-known for her 3-dimensional creations made from natural materials: a corn husk becomes a flower; walnut twigs become wall art; skeletonized leaves turn into framed centerpieces. Karen’s art brings nature indoors where it can be enjoyed anytime.

Art has always been a part of her life. As a child she took piano and ballet lessons and dreamed of one day becoming a ballerina. College started with a major in ballet, then modern dance and finally elementary education! An art class or two found its way into her schedule and proved to be more enjoyable than expected. After graduation life became busy: marriage, jobs, children, grandchildren and “art” meant a fun project with the kids, a homemade birthday cake or a unique costume for Halloween…all enjoyable and part of a full and happy motherhood.

Seventy years of living and many life lessons later Karen has found that retirement has given her the gift of time: time to find her passion in art. The creativity fostered years ago in dance classes, the skills learned in those college art lessons, the library research work needed for assignments turned out to be the training she didn’t know she’d had. On her three acre homestead in Indiana Karen has fallen in love with nature and found sorrow in its fleeting beauty. “Art” now has become a means of preserving that beauty.

“Basic Elements” reflects Karen’s desire to gather usual materials and make them into something unusual. The tension created between walnut twigs and beads forms the shape of this creation. Nested ovals of painted walnut twigs represent the basic elements of nature necessary for life: the outer oval is divided into two halves, the bottom, in green and brown, represents fertile soil; the top, in white and blue, represents clean air; the middle oval, in shades of blue, represents clean water; the inner oval, in sparkling gold, represents sunshine. Blooming out of the top is a flower made from painted pistachio nut shells. The nested ovals are suspended over a slice of walnut by a center post made from wrapped walnut twigs and seven pairs of walnut twig “legs”.

Karen hopes that this entry inspires others to think about the importance of preserving and providing clean air, water and soil for all. Inspiration comes in many forms: a person; a painting; a song. For Karen inspiration comes from nature. She’s chosen three-dimensional art and photography as her favorite methods of preserving nature’s beauty. Her hope is that through her art she’ll foster a love of nature in others. As winter turns to spring and once again the world is full of new life Karen is drawn outdoors to witness the wonders of nature. She picks up her camera to snap photos and a plastic bucket to gather flowers and plants to preserve.

Karen’s website is https://center-of-attention.wixsite.com/gallery



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