Art Calendar is happy to present the winner and the finalists of our March 2009 Cover Contest, sponsored by BLICK Art Materials: Jason John, Lloyd Greene and Lavar Munroe.
There are moments in every artist’s career when inspiration strikes at an inopportune time. This is exactly what happened to Cover Contest winner Jason John when he thought of a great concept for a self-portrait. He envisioned himself wearing a large winter jacket with the hood up to obscure his face, standing in front of a wall of pink tile.“The idea for the piece was a bit formal in the sense that I was trying to play off the contrast between something that feels cold and the warm palette,” he recalls.
It was a fantastic idea that would eventually turn out to be a wonderful painting, but at the time, there was one small setback: It was the middle of summer.
“I don’t know if the humor comes across in the piece, but the situation was pretty funny. My wife was shooting the reference (photographs), and she was just so impatient because it was so hot out. I was sweating. It was terrible,” he laughs.
Following his muse was more than worth it. The self-portrait is unique image for John in several ways: He centered the figure and used a warm palette, moving away from the cooler tones he is known for. For John, the painting was more than just a departure from the norm — it was the cusp of something new.
“I don’t do many self-portraits. I think I’ve done two of them, because I tend to be very critical of my self-portraits on the technical level,” John muses. “The self-portrait was one of the first times I started to work with tiles and things like that. It was the beginning of the turning point.”
The inspiration could not have come at a better time. Without being able to articulate the shift, John knew intuitively that his aesthetic was changing because he had begun to feel frustrated in the studio.
“Painting under a fixed light source tends to stage things. It was time to move away from that. I’m getting to the point where I’m looking for a good technical challenge,” he states.
So he moved his subject matter outside, trading the artificial light, the cooler palette, harsh shadows and hard contrast for natural light and its corresponding bright colors.
“What I’ve noticed is that in the fall (in the afternoon), there is this magnificent light with a beautiful contrast of light and shadow as well as this reflected light that makes things glow,” he explains. “By taking the figure out of the interior, it has opened up possibilities with landscape, where the environment could play off the story as well.”
John feels invigorated by his new series and is eager to continue pushing himself as a painter.
“It’s been a lot of fun. It’s had its own challenges because you have to be very attuned to light value changes to make the form happen as well,” he says. “As an artist, the leap is sometimes how you feel when you’re painting.”
Lloyd Greene is still in school, and is enrolled in the certificate program in photography at Sinclair Community College. The 53-year-old Air Force retiree is not currently looking to pursue a second career; he just loves experimenting in the darkroom. Five years ago, Greene was teaching computer classes at Sinclair when he happened to wander by the art department.“I fell in love with the spontaneity —with the smells coming out of the photo lab and watching people make things in the pottery shop. There was all this feeling,” he states.
At the time, Greene was using a digital camera and had been part of a local camera club, but something clicked right away when he discovered traditional photo processing. His gut reaction was confirmed during his first semester at the school when he won the student competition in the art department.
“When that happened it spurred me on to find out why I did well and to explore other things. So I had a very good start,” he recalls. “Now I’m probably their longest going student. It’s been about five years.”
In addition to his classes, Greene has also attended international workshops and traveled to learn more from experienced photographers and mentors. His research into Man Ray’s solarization technique inspired his distinctive self-portrait. He has since moved beyond portraiture to other subjects.
Since his days in the Air Force, Greene has considered himself to be a tenacious experimenter: “I like to think of myself as an explorer of small and large things.”
Lavar Munroe’s entry is a work as much about his relationship to animals as it is a self-portrait.
It was a self-reflection piece,” he admits. “But it was also a homage to animal appreciation — trying to make the statement that animals are just as important as human beings.”
The 27-years-old painter and illustrator grew up surrounded by domestic animals: goats, chickens, rabbits, dogs and cats. As a result, they appear in much of his art ().
“Me personally, I’m a lover of animals. From a young age, that was a part of my life,” he explains.
Originally from the Bahamas, Munroe moved to the United States in 2004. He now lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with his wife, their daughter, two dogs, three fish and six potted plants, juggling his freelance illustration and gallery shows. Munroe has done commissions for Amnesty International and How Magazine. He recently won first place at the Central Bank of the Bahamas 26th Annual Art Competition/ Exhibition. In June 2010, he will have a solo show in Savannah, Georgia, at the Beach Institute, where he was the recipient of an artist grant. The upcoming exhibition will feature artwork with a similar theme.
“The newer work that I’m doing is still human- and animal-oriented. It still speaks about that human-animal relationship, and the bond that should be there,” he says. AC
Art Calendar 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: