What Makes a Painting Great?


In celebration of the vibrant and complex medium of soft pastel, the Northwest Pastel Society is holding its annual exhibition of Signature members. Judith Smith, this year’s judge, selected 56 pastel paintings by 37 different artists. She had this to say about the award-winning works:

“Radiance” by Deborah Henderson
Best of Show: Radiance by Deborah Henderson

“It’s timeless; you’ll never get tired of looking at that little painting. It’s got strong bold color balanced by neutrals. It has an emotional impact that comes not from what the artist painted but how well she painted it, and that little painting says it all.”

“Winter Impression” By Christine Troyer
President’s Award: Winter Impression By Christine Troyer

“This is the perfect winter landscape. The tiny bits of light that hit the tree are like jewels. It shows a simple direct style and sophisticated palette.”

“Against The Flow” By Harley Talkington
Director’s Award: Against The Flow By Harley Talkington

“I like this painting’s fresh, bold movement. The power of the painting is transferred to the viewer. I think he did it outside, and I think he did it very quickly, but with a lot of consideration of his surroundings. And to me, it just sparkles. It pulls me in and lets me finish the story. There’s always something to look at and discover, and find, and connect with, especially if you travel a lot. That painting is every place I’ve ever been.”

“Come Sit With Me” by Jill Story
Juror’s Award: Come Sit With Me by Jill Story

“This painting is a small slice of life that reveals a lot about the painter as well as the place. It invites the viewer into the scene, and there’s a beautiful representation of light, which is in fact what attracted me to it.”

“Spring Awakening” by Anne Knapp
Juror’s Award: Spring Awakening by Anne Knapp

“This one requires you to come close and look at the beautiful way the artist has handled the pastel. Clearly, the artist is someone who is very good with the pastel sticks.”

“A Crowd of Koi” by Susan Gorrie
Honorable Mention: A Crowd of Koi by Susan Gorrie

“I’ve probably seen too many koi paintings in my life, but this piece surprised me with a playful immediacy and sense of movement. I could feel that whoever painted it sat there at the edge of the koi pond in plein air with their paper in front of them because it doesn’t look like it came from a photograph, it looks like it came from the artist’s heart.”

“Waterways” by Janice Wall
Honorable Mention: Waterways by Janice Wall

“This one shows a uniqueness of vision and personal style. A repetition of shapes and rhythm give the painting its character.”

The exhibition is on display through March 30, 2024, at the Scott Milo Gallery, in Anacortes, Washington. If you can’t catch the show in person, check out the online gallery.

And watch here for more comments from Judge Judith Smith.


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