2020 Best of America Small Painting Exhibition: Virtual Critique 2

It is said that the artist creates the art but once it is finished, the art belongs to the viewers. The viewers will respond, react, feel and see the art according to their own experiences, their background and their own life stories. They will come up with their own conclusions which might or might not match the original reasons or desires that led the artist to create the piece of art.


A Little R and R, 12×16 by John Caggiano

The beach grass shadows in this painting by John Caggiano immediately caught my eye. From a soft violet to a luminescence turquoise green, they are not only pleasing but they create a powerful statement in harmony and in unity with the colors of the ocean.  These shades also help to create a compositional line that starts at the lower right of the painting and takes us along a zig zag path to the ocean. The two chairs, while important in their meaning, are merely part of the zig zag line and their blue and yellow seem to be a pick of the surrounding colors. Adding to this feast of blue/green hues, the complementary color red towards the foreground creates energy and perspective. The white sand is actually a multitude of pastel colors. An impressionistic sky full of light and the bright colors in the ocean tell us the time of the day. It is probably a peaceful midday at the beach.
The brushstrokes are fast and loose adding to the vibrancy of this 12×16 soothing yet  dynamic painting.



Street Life, 10×8 by Donald Curran

Street Life is a 10 x 8 inches painting and it is amazing how much this small painting can tell us about contemporary life in the city. Imagine this painting being viewed 200 years in the future and gather all the information it would convey about our city life. Of course, the buildings, the traffic signs, and the cars are all there. Stores, light posts and even what looks like a garbage can or a fence are visible; however, the figure would give an entire narrative. Positioned at the center like in most classical portraiture, this figure and its background is very much from our times. A young man dressed in black with probably a t-shirt underneath and an open jacket with a hoodie. The beard is the style of many young men nowadays. The backpack over one shoulder hints a nonchalant approach. The cup in his left hand indicates he probably stopped to get some coffee, common practice of our days. On the right arm a skate board speaks of youth and of a carefree spirit “surfing” along city sidewalks. Even the face expression, captured in the eyes, would speak to each individual in a different way.
NOAPS Master Artist Donald Curran tells us much more in this painting. He makes us feel the cloudy weather of a snowy day. The edges are softened and broken with white speckles and even the skin has a tint of red from a cold day.
To top it all, Curran signed his painting in the top right corner but wait, is it his signature or a store sign?



Summer Afternoon, 14×18 by Barbara Nuss

In certain way, Summer Afternoon,  by NOAPS Signature Artist Barbara Nuss brings to mind the pastoral landscapes of the Dutch Golden Age. It was back in the 17th century when landscape became a genre of its own and it has been a favorite subject for both artists and collectors since that time. Barbara places the viewer on a hill providing a semi-aerial view of the meadow. The break of shadow and light further emphasizes our location as a viewer. It is like  viewing the scene through a lens.
The diagonal line of the hill creates interest and the trees on both sides frame the focal area. Dutch artists often placed cattle or horses at a distant and Barbara placed three horses leading the viewer’s eyes through an unmarked path from the first horse to the other two, then to the water, continuing to the distant forestation and finally to a cloudy sky. From our perch on the hill, we can easily deduct the time of the day given by the bright sunlight. Barbara even gives us an indication of an early Fall through the placement of colors around the canvas. Perspective is very well achieved with details and brighter colors in the foreground and a softening in the background.
This landscape makes me want to sit in the shade at the edge of the hill and from there be one with Nature and the pastoral life.



Yield, 14×6.50 by Blair Atherholt

Did you know that Still Life, while existing since ancient time, also became an important and distinct genre during the Dutch Golden Age? Artists create the Still Life paintings in their studio paying much attention to lines, shapes, color and of course light. In Yield, there are several interesting lines composed by NOAPS Signature Artist Blair Atherholt. While organic, there is no doubt that we see a vertical line in the small hanging branch. Its suspension in an apparent stopped fall adds mystery. Does it carry a symbolism? The title itself might Yield or imply a deeper meaning to this composition of course opened to the imagination of the viewer. Doesn’t the word Yield mean cease to argue, give right of way, relinquish possession as well as produce or provide? The apparent vertical line is stopped by the horizontal line of the ledge suggesting a feeling of stability and rest; however, not before the circle of the very well rendered plum is placed in between the vertical and horizontal lines.  We cannot miss the arch line at the bottom creating energy. The design carved in the stone also creates direction with a pointed leaf leading to the most illuminated part of the painting. All these different compositional lines make this painting. Imagine these same lines in different places and you will see that the entire feeling of the painting would totally change.
The chiaroscuro adds to the mystery and drama of Yield. The small details draw our attention and the light in each rounded fruit is treated with perfection taking into consideration the reflective light and the different changes in value to create a true three dimensionality for each shape in this painting.


Written by Hebe Brooks, NOAPS Master Artist and NOAPS Membership Director


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2020 Best of America Small Painting Exhibition: Virtual Critique 1

NOAPS 2020 BOAS Eisele

“Melancholia”, 11×14, Oil, by Nick Eisele, Winner of Best of Show at the 2020 NOAPS Best of America Small Painting National Juried Exhibition.

The seemingly simple arrangement of objects seen in Nick Eisele’s painting becomes more complex as we look more deeply into the scene.  Although the objects are separated by large amounts of space, they are united by the path of light and the unified color scheme.  The blues of the small vase are repeated in the foreground and on the silver objects; and the warms of the brass are carried through in the background and the surface of the table.  The value structure, established in dark tones, presents us with the small vase as the focal area.  The highlights on the objects then lead us around the painting, keeping us engaged as we delight in the mysterious shadows.  The drawing is superb, and the careful rendering is offset by the loose brushwork in the foreground.  Reminiscent of artists such as Chardin and American painter Emil Carlsen, this painting is a worthy choice for Best of Show.

NOAPS 2020 BOAS Farnsworth

“Stepping Out”, 16×20, Oil, by Bill Farnsworth”

The painting by Bill Farnsworth is an excellent example of atmospheric perspective.  The foreground is described by dark shadows and bright lights, while as the scene recedes the values are closer together along with more muted colors.  The viewer has a place to stand, and is given the sense of being part of the scene.  The composition is well constructed, with the linear elements and shadows on the left leading us to the chickens in the foreground.  Our eyes then move to the middle ground where the fence leads us to the background and back to investigate the shadows in the barn.  We have the sense of a warm, comfortable day, inviting us to linger and enjoy the peaceful scene.

NOAPS 2020 BOAS Hendricks

“Lunch at the Brown Dog, (Telluride, CO), 12×16, Oil by Laurie Hendricks

This painting by Laurie Hendricks is a great example of not only light and shadow, but also of warm and cool colors.  The cool colors of the interior contrast the warm light spilling in from the windows, casting the figures mostly in shadow.  The viewer can feel the cool air in the space as a moment in the busy day is captured.  The brushwork gives the feeling of movement, and as we view the painting we can imagine the next movement, the clink of the glassware, and the hum of lively talk at the bar.  The impressionistic style of the painting is a perfect choice to give the viewer just a glimpse of place and time.

NOAPS 2020 BOAS Hughes

“Rocky Creek”, 16×20, Oil, by Neal Hughes.

This plein air painting by Neal Hughes is a contrast of stillness and movement.  The peaceful pool of water allows us a place to rest after the rush of the stream above.  The artist used texture to give his focal point volume and movement, while the calm areas are smooth and flat.  We have a sense of light and shadow, with hints of blue indicating the sky above.  The stream comes flowing out of darkness, giving the feeling of a dense and damp forest, from which the water escapes with joy.  The trees create a framework for the composition, and the foreground rocks give the viewer a place to stand.  The colors on the rocks are anything but grey, with hints of muted blues, violets and pinks.  The sure strokes of the artist have given us a true impression of this fleeting moment, allowing us to share the beauty of nature as it hurries past.

Written by Patricia Tribastone, NOAPS President

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Capture the Best High Res Image of Your Painting

There is a wide variety of good information available on how to best photograph your own artwork, should you decide to do it yourself. A simple google search will direct you to several great sources. That’s not what this post is about. Instead, this article is about how to obtain the best High Res files to use for accurately reproducing and representing your artwork in print.

Also, since many painting organizations, including the National Oil and Acrylic Painters’ Society (NOAPS), pull the image submitted with the entry through Juried Art Services for printing the exhibit catalog, it’s important to upload the best High Res image you can when submitting to an exhibition.

Before we delve into the two basic methods for capturing a High-Res image of your original artwork, we first need to introduce a must-have accessory — the Color Calibration Chart.

NOAPS Blog picture 2 March 2020

CAPTION: Color Calibration Chart, front and back with color recipes listed.

Color Calibration Charts or Guides have been around for a long time but in today’s fast-paced technology-driven world, its use has fallen to the wayside. And that’s a shame because there really is nothing better to assist in color correction and adjustment.

How does it work?

First, the chart should be placed alongside your artwork (so it’s under the same lighting conditions) and included in all High Res images. Do not crop it out of the shot. The chart can be cropped out of images for use on websites and entry submissions.

The chart includes squares printed with 100% Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow ink, the inks used in most four-color printing processes, as well as 100% black, white and a value range between which is helpful in correcting for white balance and exposure.

The squares of color in the chart are a “known” and provide a frame of reference for use in adjusting an image for accuracy before printing.

Color Calibration Charts vary greatly in price, here are links to an affordable option, and a professional version available through Amazon.


Methods for Capturing High Res Images

High Res Scans

Scanning is by far the best option as far as image quality and clarity, every inch of the painting will be in focus and under the same lighting conditions. Scanning original artwork is not always practical especially if your work is large and has lots of thick paint creating a very textured surface.

300dpi is considered High Res, but when scanning a painting — I always scan at a higher dpi. How high? It depends on the capabilities of the scanner. My artwork is scanned at 1200dpi. Why so high? It offers more flexibility down the road with the option to reproduce it much larger or select a detail area for print and not have it pixelate as a result.

Remember, an image can always be reduced in size/resolution but not the other way around. Read “Answering the High/Low Res Question” for more on that topic.

The size of the painting isn’t a total deterrent to scanning because portions of the scanned artwork can be stitched together using Adobe® Photoshop® or a similar photo program.

Many printers offer High Res scanning and have large bed scanners.

High Res Photographs

Traditional film photography is rarely used these days so I am only going to talk about digital photography. Some things to keep in mind are:

Ask for the raw files in addition to the traditional images provided. Some photographers automatically include these while others do not.

Ask for the largest file size their equipment will provide. Some photographers, as a courtesy, provide 300dpi and 72dpi versions.

Ask for uncropped versions that include the Color Calibration Chart/Guide.

Most importantly, talk to the photographer about how you might be using the photos. High-quality giclée prints, exhibit catalog, promotional materials are all good examples. I say might because we don’t know what the future holds for us and often the High Res images are all we have after a painting has (cross your fingers) sold!

The bottom line, leave it to the professionals! With the cost of the equipment, their knowledge, and the fact that technology is always advancing, it’s worth it.


Using a Smartphone Camera

The entry deadline is tomorrow, there isn’t enough time to get the painting scanned or professionally photographed, so we snap a picture with our smartphone. Sound familiar?

I almost hate to mention this because it truly is not the best option but I’ve done it and I’m betting you have too — so let’s talk about the best way to do it.

Most smartphone camera apps take photos at 72dpi, with the only variable being image dimensions. My iPhone images automatically open in Photoshop® to 52×46 inches at 72dpi.

Creating a SMALL High Res from a LARGE Low Res Image

NOAPS blog picture March 2020

Before taking the photos, make sure the setting in the camera app is for the largest image size possible. Take photos of the painting and open in Adobe® Photoshop® or other photo editing software.

  • Crop the image to just
  •  the artwork, it’s important to make all edits before saving as a High Res image file.
  • Check the image size to
  •  see what the new height and width measurements (dimensions) are after being cropped.
  • Using a photo editing program,
  •  set the resolution to 300dpi and reduce the dimensions of the cropped smartphone image. A rough guideline to use is
  • 72dpi x width ÷ 300dpi = minimum reduced size.

In the above example, the math works out to be 72dpi x 20 inches = 1440 pixels ÷ 300dpi = 4.8 inches for the minimum reduction in size. Therefore the image would need to reduce to at least 4.8 inches wide or smaller at 300dpi for it to be an acceptable high res file.

This only works because you are shrinking a large size (height x width) Low Res image to a small size (h x w) High Res image. It’s not the best method but it works in a pinch. However, this method should not replace the more effective methods mentioned earlier for generating the best quality High Res image of an original painting.

Whether a painting has sold, been given as a gift, donated to raise money for a charity, painted over, or possibly damaged due to a natural disaster — in the end, photographs (or scans) are often the only visual record we have. As artists, we owe it to our future selves to capture the best High Res images we can today. And don’t forget to back up the files, computer’s fail too.

Written by Nancy Murty, NOAPS Publicity Director
If you found this post helpful and would like to learn more about reproducing your artwork head over to my blog, there are more great posts on RGB vs CMYK color reproduction, Getting the Color Right and on Answering the High/Low Res Question.

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Tim Breaux: A Tip and a Tool for 2020

Do you want to paint better in 2020?

Is that your resolution?

Well, you are not alone.  Whether you are a part time beginner or a full time pro some things are universal.  Deep down we all want to paint better.

Today I want to share one of my new tools and a useful tip that will get your new year off to a great start.

The Tool:
My 24 x 30 inch glass palette broke recently.  I had painted hundreds of paintings from it so it was really past its prime.  Years of scraping and cleaning left it scratched and pitted.

The untempered replacement glass cost about $13 from the hardware store.  This time I painted a nine step value scale on the back side using painters tape and cheap bottles of black and white acrylic paint. Since it was untempered I had to be very careful not to break the glass throughout the process.

Now I can place spots of color right on top of the value scale to test the value.  No more holding the palette knife or brush up to the painting and guessing.

The Tip:

Color is composed of hue, value and chroma. We typically name colors according to the hue component: red, green, yellow, brown, grey. That is how we are taught and how we are wired. But colors are actually the hue in the context of a certain value.

I Utilize this new palette to follow a two step process when choosing a color.

Step one – Name the hue of the color.

Step two – Name the value of the color by placing it in the correct value space.

Safety tip -If you do this yourself keep in mind that you will constantly be working with a large sheet of sharp and dangerous glass. Safety is paramount.

What if there was just one thing you could learn today that would allow you to paint the way you always wanted? That is my goal for all of the information I share with you in these newsletters. The truth is we usually need several “just one things” that build over time, eventually leading to revolutions in our work. I have had several of those a-ha moments over the years. They were hard fought battles at the easel, on the computer and through interaction with artists I admire and trust. I want to share that knowledge with you here.

Written by Tim Breaux.  To see more about Tim, visit his website at www.timbreaux.com.

For a copy of his free e-book on value and color, go to:


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Dan Gerhartz: Balance…Poetry and Structure

  “Clematis” 30 x 40, Oil

When I have been most moved and impressed by artwork, music, or any expressive art form, it has been when the work has first grabbed my soul with its poetry, then amazed my mind in its structure and construction.

Throughout my development as a visual artist, I have found my greatest struggle in the making of art is to balance the crafting of accurate, solid forms while retaining the lyrical nature of the visual world. So often in my efforts to capture the exactness of what I am seeing, I lose the poetic beauty and essence of the elegant, peripheral line.

For me, the balance comes when I can relax enough while in the throws of building the solid structure of the forms to absorb and feel the rhythm before me. Certainly this comes with experience, but to be aware of the end goal during the early stages of development is critical in not becoming too stiff in your approach. While working and studying the subject, to feel the connectedness of the forms, the living, breathing life of our subject makes a clear difference to me in the end result. I have found that it is having faith that the poetry will come and manifest itself if I am true to the beauty and strength of the construction, being careful not to overthink the problem.  Allowing all of your senses to take part in the mechanical process is the beginning of where the poetry begins.

I wish you great success as you strive to bring your paintings to life in poetic strength!

To view more work by Daniel Gerhartz, please visit http://www.danielgerhartz.com

Dan Gerhartz will be the Judge of Awards for the 2020 NOAPS Small Painting National Juried Exhibition at the McBride Gallery in Annapolis, Maryland April 5-May 3, 2020.  Dan will also conduct a 4 day workshop, “Training the Eye to See”.  To sign up for the workshop go to www.noaps.org.

Written by Daniel Gerhartz, 12-19-2014

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Neal Hughes: En Plein Air

NOAPS Hughes Olsen House 20x20

“Olsen House”, 20×20, Oil, by Neal Hughes; Winner of Best Landscape in the 2019 NOAPS Fall Online International

The soft lighting in the “Olsen House” makes the viewer begin to imagine…we first wonder what is the time of day, and then if the house has inhabitants.  Then our minds begin to wander about the painting, creating it’s story for ourselves.  The artist has given us hints; the slightly unkempt foreground, yet a door through which we can enter.  Our eyes travel around stopping where we think we find a clue as the dance of warm and cool colors lead us through the painting.

NOAPS Hughes MimsCreek14x18  “Mims Creek”, 14×18, Oil.  Painted during the En Plein Air Texas Competition, San Angelo, Texas.  Private Collection.

Neal Hughes has been an artist for his entire life.  He started at a young age, and continued at the Philadelphia College of Art with a degree in illustration.  His illustration took center stage until he began his current focus on fine art.

NOAPS Hughes DreamBoatNocturne18x24  “Dream Boat Nocturne”, 18×24, Oil.  Winner of First Place at the Cape Ann Plein Air Competition, Gloucester, MA.  Neal Hughes Studio (Collection of the Artist).

Hughes has garnered his wealth of knowledge from different sources: museums such as the Brandywine Museum and the Philadelphia art museums; and the many books in his personal library.  Among his favorite artists are Sargent, William Merritt Chase, Thomas William Dewing and Childe Hassam.

NOAPS Hughes RiverPalm20x16  “River Palm”, 20×16, Oil.  Painted during the Lighthouse Plein Air Competition, Tequesta, FL.  Neal Hughes Studio (Collection of the Artist).

Working exclusively in oils, Hughes’ favorite genre is the landscape.  He can often be found at plein air competitions; his painting ‘Olsen House’ was awarded First Place at the Grand Traverse Plein Air Competition.  He often includes man made objects in his paintings; boats and architecture are favorite subjects.

NOAPS Hughes ChurchNocturne20x20  “Church Nocturne”, 20×20, Oil.  Painted during the Wayne Plain Air Competition, Manyunk, PA.  Neal Hughes Studio (Collection of the Artist).

Hughes paints with oil primed linen, which he stretches for large paintings, or mounts to Gatorboard for smaller paintings done en plein air.  Using bristle brushes, his palette consists of primary colors and a few earth colors: titanium white, cadmium lemon, cadmium yellow, Indian yellow, cadmium red, alizarin crison, utltramarine blue, pthalo blue, yellow ochre and terra rosa.  He begins by carefully planning his composition and value structure, then blocking in the large shapes.  For his block in he uses a mixture of ultramarine blue and alizarin crimson for the darkest areas, then adding terra rosa for a slightly lighter value, ending with cadmium yellow or red mixed with titanium white for the lightest values.  After the block in he continues by adding more color and making further adjustments.

NOAPS Hughes MorningMist30x40  “Morning Mist”, 30×40, Oil.  Studio painting based on plein air study, Rockland, ME.  Neal Hughes Studio (Collection of the Artist).

Neal encourages the artist to paint as often as possible…”the most important ingredient once you get past learning the basics is just hard work.  Experiment with techniques…..the more successful artists are constantly working and challenging themselves to make progress.”

To see more of Neal Hughes’ work go to www.nealhughes.com.

Neal Hughes is represented by the Sylvan Gallery, Wiscasset, ME; The Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT; J. Russell Jinishian Gallery, Stonington, CT; Susan Powell Fine Art, Madison, CT; the Hughes Gallery, Boca Grande, FL; the Chestnut Hill Gallery, Philadelphia, PA; Warm Springs Gallery, Warm Springs, VA; Design Domaine Gallery, Spring Lake, NJ.

To view the NOAPS 2019 Fall Online International Exhibition go to www.noaps.org.

Edited by Patricia Tribastone, NOAPS Blog Director


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R. Gregory Summers: For Love of the Scene


“To Run With the Puma”, 24×30, Oil, Winner of ‘Most Innovative’ from the NOAPS 2019 Fall Online International Exhibition by R. Gregory Summers.

The vast expanse of clay rooftops spreads before our eyes fading into the distant haze, giving us the impression that the city goes on forever.  The sameness of the structured buildings has the opposite effect of monotony; it forces us to look closer, to find the differences.  And in doing so, we see the lives of the people who live there; we imagine their courtyards, their gardens, their interior spaces.  We find ourselves creating the stories of their lives, and the painting has captivated our imagination.  As the artist states: “‘To Run with the Puma’ was inspired by the city of Cusco, Peru, where I was on a trip along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.  High above the city was an amazing view stretching before me of this ancient world built by the Incas.  I was hoping to capture a little of the feel of the people, the history and the love of it’s culture.”

NOAPS Summers Exiting Gloucester  “Exiting Gloucester”, Oil, 18×14, Folger Gallery.

R. Gregory Summers began in earnest to study art after a tour of duty with the Air Force.  He had always done drawings at a young age, and painting as a teen, but classes at a local community college helped to develop his talent.  He began working at Hallmark Cards, where for 30 years he worked as a Master Engraver.  Along the way he has taken independent study courses, particularly with Jean Howard at the Johnson County Community College, Anne Garney with the Kansas City Art Institute and artist Rick Howell.

NOAPS Summers The Secret Rites of the Atchafalaya Swamp  “The Secret Rites of the Atchafalaya Swamp”, Oil, 12×16, Collection of the Artist.

Summers works mainly in oil today, and is inspired by the landscape.  He enjoys plein air painting, and loves to “just wander and look.  My inspiration to paint can come from anything…the way light catches a leaf or just the serenity of what is before me.  I look for peace and contentment as I wander, and I never know what it will be.  This is what makes my best work.”

NOAPS Summers West Side Coffee  “West Side Coffee”, Oil, 11×14, The Rice Gallery.

For the past 8 years Summers has painted with only 4 colors: ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson, cadmium red light and cadmium yellow light.  His supports are gessoed panels or canvas panels, and uses mainly flat brushes.  His studio is the great outdoors from March to November, but does studio painting during the winter months.  When plein air painting, he starts by drawing a 2×3 inch Notan, then starts the painting by laying in a few important construction lines followed by a block in.  This is all done quickly, so that he can complete the painting based on his initial impression.

NOAPS Summers Dripping Springs  “Dripping Springs”, Oil, 50×30, The Rice Gallery.

Though the distinction of winning awards has certainly been a boon to his career as an artist, his most cherished experiences come from helping others: “what sticks in my mind was letting a little girl with Down Syndrome take over my painting during an event in Texas.  She put two colors together and began mixing.  The look in her eyes was to die for; it was magical.  Helping and inspiring others far outweighs any of the accolades I have received.”

Words to work by?  As his mentor, Rick Howell told him, “don’t be afraid to lose a good painting in trying for a great one.”

To view more artwork by R. Gregory Summers go to www.rgregorysummers.com.   Summers is represented by the Rice Gallery of Fine Art, Overland Park, Kansas; the Kathy Cline Gallery in Parkville, MO; Mr. Millers Art Emporium in Saugatuck, MI; the Papa Gallery in Boca Raton, FL and the Folger Gallery, Midland, Texas.

To view the 2019 Fall Online International go to www.noaps.org.

Edited by Patricia Tribastone, NOAPS Blog Director



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