Dakota Arts Competition recently announced the top winners from 2022 and I smiled and nodded when I saw the winners of each category. In the Established Category, Vianna Szabo took the top award for her painting, Remembrance, while Judith Booth nabbed first place in the Emerging Category with her painting, Bad Hair Day

I spoke about both paintings in detail in an earlier article back in July so rather than focus on these top winners, I’ve picked out four others for us to take a look at. I’ll examine two from the Established Category today and then two from the Emerging Category next week.

First, here are the two top winners from each category:


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


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


Now to my two picks from the Established Category.

First, there’s the Third Place winner, “Pulling in the Drive” by Roberta Condon.


Top winners: Roberta Condon, "Pulling in the Drive," pastel, no size. Third Place.
Roberta Condon, “Pulling in the Drive,” pastel, no size. Third Place.


The first thing that hits you with Roberta’s high-key painting is the glow. The painting appears to radiate light, the warm saturated colours underlining this impression. It feels as if the trees themselves are vibrating with life, their curves accentuating the effect. This pulse contrasts with the stillness and solidity of the buildings in the background. Nature is warmly coloured while the buildings are cooler and painted with the complementary colour purple. The verticality and movement of the trees also contrast with the horizontal and straight lines of the structures beyond. This rigidity is emphasised by the ruler-straight lines that are intentionally visible. 

The title, Pulling in the Drive, suggests a moment of impact, of seeing these glorious trees dancing and reaching up, as they completely dwarf the manufactured structures beyond. The painting invites you to stay and look more deeply, to see the textures, and colours and marks.

My next pick is also about trees but “Eloquence of Quietude“ by Mark Cole has a completely different mood!


Top winners - Mark Cole, "Eloquence of Quietude," pastel, no size. Fifth Place.
Mark Cole, “Eloquence of Quietude,” pastel, no size. Fifth Place.


Rather than a glow, we feel wrapped in a garb of green. We can’t help but feel embraced and in wonder of nature. This world pulls us into the silence where Roberta’s painting feels expansive. Here there is quiet. If we stay still long enough, we may hear the crack of a branch overhead or the rustle of some animal in the underbrush. 

Mark makes doing greens look easy! There’s a lot of green here and yet, somehow, we don’t feel overwhelmed by greenness. This may be something to do with his layering of other colours besides green as well as the way he balances low-intensity hues with the brightness of the backlit trees in the upper part of the picture.

Where we stand, sunlight doesn’t pierce the canopy and we remain in deep shade. Here, in the hush of the woods, we feel the coolness beneath the trees, smell the slightly musty decay of leaves, and hear the stir of water as we step into the small creek. We look up into the small bit of sky visible and know there’s life beyond this glade. But rather than leave, we choose to stay.

You can see all the winners here.



Are you talented enough to paint?


“Nobody was born painting. We all start somewhere. Pushing paint around or making marks is fun, and anyone can do it. The tricky part is as you gain skill and develop your creative eye to not become overly critical or overwhelmed with how much there is to learn. There is never an end to the creative journey. Of the artists I know, the more seasoned or ‘talented’ the artist, the more they feel they have to learn.” ~ Christine Lashley 

Right on!! 

Read how other artists answer this question in this article on OutdoorPainter.


Photo credit: River FX from Unsplash. Person sitting by the sea working on art
Photo credit: River FX from Unsplash


And that’s it for this time!


PS. You can become one of the top winners but you need to enter! Why not have a go at the PleinAir Salon competition. It’s not just for Plein Air Paintings!!! Click here to see the full list! Then go enter!



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