Professional Artist is happy to present the winner and the finalists of our March 2009 Cover Contest, sponsored by BLICK Art Materials: Terry Strickland, Sara Scribner and Maayan Zari.
Cover Contest winner Terry Strickland grew up to be the artist she always dreamed of being. Since 2005, she has worked as a full-time artist. Her artwork has appeared in American Art Collector, The Artist's Magazine and International Artist magazine.
"I know I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing," she says.
Perhaps that certainty is the reason the 50-year-old oil painter finds unusual careers so interesting and enjoys painting superheroes, magicians and mad scientists in her ongoing Incognito series.
"In general, my work has a lot to do with make believe and magic anyway. In this series, I'm exploring the questions, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' And I've come up with some really fanciful ideas about identity," Strickland explains. "The idea that costumes can clarify something in a way, or it can also disguise, is something that I'm playing with. I'm having a ball with it."
Voice of the Tiger, this month's cover image, is a portrait of Strickland's daughter posed as a lion tamer.
"I'd shot the reference photo [for the painting] a couple of years ago. I wasn't exactly sure what to do with it, but I knew it had a vaudeville feel. When I visited the Ringling Museum in Florida and saw the circus posters there, I imagined a poster behind her. The work evolved from a poster to a painted canvas. I'd read that 'vaudeville' translated as voice of the city. And so, I thought, 'She is the voice of the tiger then.' It kind of fit."
"I just think faces are fascinating. And how much you can do with gesture. [My daughter] has her hand on her hip. She just has this attitude. You can say so much with physical gesture. If she had her head down, it would mean something different. To me, that's amazing, to be able to say a whole lot without any words ... I love that little moment of expression that you can capture with a person."
In her artwork, Strickland enjoys portraying characters with visible strength and confidence, in particular with regard to her female subjects like Voice of the Tiger.
"It's not just my daughter that I paint that way," Strickland laughs. "Those tend to be expressions that I'm attracted to. I paint all my women that way. And I think my men are painted that way too."
Strickland believes that as a woman painter she has a different perspective on painting the female experience.
"I think women do paint women differently than men do. And I don't mean that to be a sexist thing," she explains. "I feel like it's more of a human story, and the stories I like to tell are of strong, courageous women."
Strickland had so much fun with the Incognito series, she's started another one loosely based on the same ideas — the Incognito Project.
"I'm working on Incognito Project here in Birmingham, and it's an ongoing project where I've invited people to come to my house. I did a day-long photo shoot where I asked them to share their secret identities with me or things they wanted to be, something they wanted to play at. These are all my friends who are local artists."
Strickland has already begun posting these new works on her blog, www.terrystricklandart.blogspot.com. She hopes to eventually make an art book of the entire Incognito Project. In the meantime, she's busy preparing for a group show at Peterson-Cody Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and a solo show at Principle Gallery in Alexandria, Virginia. To see more examples of her work, visit www.terrystricklandart.com.
It's pretty fitting that when Sara Scribner created a painting about good luck, she experienced some herself, in the form of the model who arrived at her studio. One look at the girl's captivating gaze and she knew she'd found exactly what she was looking for.
"Her eyes were so beautiful. When I saw her walk in, I thought, 'Perfect. This is great,'" Scribner recalls.
It turns out that goldfish are not just pets; they're totems of good fortune.
"[For Prosperity], I had researched the goldfish. In many Asian cultures, it's a sign of good luck and prosperity. And so I had an idea of a girl holding something that's meant to be a sign of wealth, but in reality, it's just a goldfish."
Prosperity is just painting in a larger series of symbolic works that the 28-year-old painter has begun exploring.
"I'm working on a bunch of paintings now that have little plots and treatments," says Scribner. "Some of what inspires me is what I've read. Like a line in a book that I'll pick up. Or I'll use little know fables and stories like that."
Mood is also a very important element in Scribner's current paintings, as are costumes and sets, which are intended to provoke an emotional response.
"I wanted to recreate a feeling in Prosperity," she explains. "There was something playful about this girl holding a goldfish. We all had goldfish growing up, and I wanted to express that feeling of lightheartedness. I want [viewers] to feel a bit whimsy and remember when they were kids."
Prosperity is a departure from Scribner's previous pieces that showcased a more somber tone and a formal technique that she describes as being "more in the style of Rembrandt."
"When we studied in school, it was very classic with a lot of dark backgrounds," she states.
Scribner graduated from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco in 2005. It was there that she met her husband Shane, also a painter. (Both their portfolios can be viewed on their shared Web site, www.scribnersgallery.com.) By the beginning of 2010, Scribner was ready to move away from that academic approach and on to something more playful.
"I enjoyed that, but I wanted t make my work a little lighter and fun," Scribner states.
In contrast to her older paintings, Scribner has been experimenting with more intricate backgrounds in recent works, placing greater emphasis on details and painstakingly recreating patterns. This can be seen in Prosperity in what appears to be colorful, Oriental wallpaper. In reality, it's cloth that Scribner had hung up on a whim.
"I just loved that fabric so much, I turned it into wallpaper," Scribner laughs. "I wanted to put [the model] in front of this fabric because it had this fun and luxurious feeling.
"You know, [Prosperity] was the first painting I've done that way, and since then I've enjoyed it. I had always thought I'd be overwhelmed by this type of background, but I loved it so much that I've recently had shoots where I've had fabric and patterns going on. It's something that I definitely want to keep playing with."
Scribner is represented by JRB Art (www.jrbartgallery.com) located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. She has a solo show at the gallery in May.
Maayan Zari is 26-year-old photography student from Jerusalem, Israel, currently finishing her final year at Hadassah College's four-year program. Although she is still a budding professional, Zari has gone to great lengths to cultivate a mature body of work in a short period of time. Her images — psychological studies of young women staring intently at her lens — are haunting.
When asked about the solemn expressions on her sitters' faces and the serious tone of her work, Zari elaborates, "The image that I'm trying to build is not related to a specific time or place, and carries a kind of mystery."
Zari feels compelled to create work that is deeply personal and sensitive. In some ways, her photographs are a means of exploring femininity and womanhood for Zari, with each woman providing a unique look at these concepts:
"In every character that I create, I see sparks of features that I recognize in people around me, and in myself. This is, perhaps, the reason for my constant motivation to search for new characters.
"During shooting I try to disconnect from the world outside and try to build an imaginary world in my studio. Every act of photography is intimate, and it is important for the model to be able to enter the character I made for her. Therefore, usually only two of us are in the studio during shooting.
"My portrait photography is a personal work. I shoot women more or less my age to deal with some self-searching. I use the camera to define some features that are part of me. My work helps me to communicate with myself. The work are part of an ongoing search that I've been working on in recent years. [This series] is not over, and my body of work has only increased."
Despite having committed so much time observing and recording women, Zari still cannot pinpoint their illusive quality.
"I cannot define what kind of women I choose to photograph ... I recognize in these women features and expressions that I empathize with, but I find their expressions are not conclusive, instead consisting of many complex feelings — some even in contradiction with each other."
Equipped with this decisive vision, Zari is already embarking on her career and has begun to actively seek exhibitions, juried shows and awards. In 2010, she participated in several group shows including Obsessive Technique, Magnum Opus, Sleep Paralysis, Tree of Knowledge and Secret Art 5 within Israel. In addition, she just finished a show titled Not really Russian. And not just Israeli, which deals with the cultural-national identity of Jewish migrants from Russia that came to Israel. She also has a solo exhibition scheduled for the later part of 2011. To see examples of Zari's work, visit her online portfolio at http://photomoment.bg/folder/portfolio/3936. PA
Professional Artist would like to give a special thanks to everyone who entered this year's contest. Below we are pleased to present our Honorable Mentions. The work of these artists' stood out amongst the almost 1,000 entries we received: