Dakota Arts have announced the winners of their second-quarter competition. 

I know as a juror how difficult judging and selecting winners can be. You take into account technical skill, the artist’s evident understanding of colour in their use of hue, values, and intensity, the effectiveness of their chosen design, and how powerfully the painting’s why is communicated. And then there’s that something else that we all look for and that each of us sees differently. Often I see the results of competitions and think, hmmmm, I may have chosen differently.

In this case, I completely align with juror Otto Stürcke’s first-place choices. Dakota Arts has two categories – Established and Emerging. They also have a Staff Pick and I’m pretty happy with their choice too. Interestingly, all these winners are portraits of women of different ages/generations.

First let’s look at the Established Artist winner, “Remembrance” by Vianna Szabo. 


Vianna Szabo, "Remembrance," pastel on LuxArchival, 16 x 12 in.
Vianna Szabo, “Remembrance,” pastel on LuxArchival, 16 x 12 in.


Here are a few of the things that drew my attention:

  • Drawing skills are evident particularly in the face and hands
  • The capturing of the overall body gesture
  • Warm colours that invite us in
  • The metal ring by the head gives us context; she’s standing at an open door
  • There’s a glow of light from off-camera right that illuminates the ring, warms the wood, and softens the woman’s hair
  • The narrative possibilities – what does the face tell us? could it be just concentration at opening the letter (and reading without needed glasses) or is it the conclusion many of us may leap to – some bad news perhaps? And then there’s the title that adds another layer…is this the remembrance of the artist of someone familiar to her (a grandmother?) or is the remembrance to do with the paper which may not be a letter at all (there’s no envelope visible) of something recalled by whatever is written or printed on the paper
  • There’s a feeling of love – we know the artist cares about this person


And here’s the Emerging Artist winner, “Bad Hair Day” by Judith Booth. 


Judith Booth, "Bad Hair Day," pastel on Pastelmat, 14 1/2 x 14 1/2 in.
Judith Booth, “Bad Hair Day,” pastel on Pastelmat, 14 1/2 x 14 1/2 in.

My notes:

  • Well since we know the title of the piece, let’s start there. It made me smile because yes, at this stage of the game at a hairdresser’s, our hair isn’t its best looking, and yet the irony is, once those foils come out, it’s probably going to be the best hair day ever!
  • The expression on the woman’s face, eyebrows slightly raised (is this a selfie?) looks down at us as if daring us to make a comment, to make a judgment
  • A not-so-easy angle to tackle and it’s beautifully drawn
  • Textures captured – shiny foil, the slickness of the plastic body cover, the softness of skin, the hairs yet to be captured in a foil package
  • The humour of the upraised foil as if it’s waving at us
  • An unusual subject captured with quiet mirth


And the Dakota Staff Pick by Emerging artist Janeen Bramwell with “Argentine Girl.”


Janeen Bramwell, "Argentine Girl," pastels on UART paper, 12 x 9 in.
Janeen Bramwell, “Argentine Girl,” pastels on UART paper, 12 x 9 in.


Things that I noted:

  • The use of negative space
  • The very clear areas of the light, middle, and dark values make for a powerful underpinning. Love the way what appears to be a flower in the ear dissolves into the background
  • The value dominance of light
  • Dreamy look as if she’s off in another world
  • The mere suggestion of a lacy dress
  • The overall looseness


Check out all the winners and entries here.



On Getting Into Juried Shows


Thinking of entering a show for the first time? 

Or are you entering shows but tired of being rejected? 

This may help!


How To Get Into Juried Shows


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