Friday, June 25, 2010

Two American Artists win BP Portrait Prizes

This year two American Artists have won BP Portrait Award prizes:

3rd prizewinner David Eichenberg with Tim II 
"Tim II" (2009)
Oil on Panel, 13.25" x 12.75"(without frame) / 21.25" x 20.75" (with frame)
photo copyright Katherine Tyrrell

This is the first time David Eichenberg has exhibited work in the BP Portrait Award.  Yet again we have an internet connection to the entry: David found out about the award via Facebook, looked it up on the Internet and then talked it over with Mary Jane Ansell who encouraged him to submit his work.  (Mary Jane also has work in the exhibition this year)

The portrait of Timothy A Stover, a sculptor who has a studio below David's,  represents a point in time.  Every day, on the way to his studio, David passes Tim and every day, Tim looks up at him with exactly the same expression on his face - as he has in the portrait. 

We discussed his approach to the physical creation of portraits.  He enjoys studying portraits by artists from the past and is a big fan of Holbein's portraits.  Thus, as with Holbein portraits, the portrait of Tim includes various symbolic motifs - such as the shape on the wall which is the outline of the state of Ohio.  There's also a connection to GI Joe and the USA's response to terrorism in the cobra logo on Tim's T shirt which I didn't quite understand.  I'm guessing this might relate to his welding mask and the mask of the Cobra Copmmander!

David paints using a photograph as a reference - but the photograph he uses is one which has been manipulated and worked on a lot using a digital graphics program - until it provides the image he wants.  He then copies it to the support using carbon transfer.

He uses a support which I'd never heard of before - a synthetic pvc panel made by Sintra (you can read more about it here) which is completely inert, very rigid and does not warp.  Its commercial use if in signboards which have to withstand the extremes of weather - outside!  He then coats it with an acrylic gesso which creates a very smooth eggshell like finish.

For paints he goes with whoever provides the colour he wants to use but mainly uses paints by Sennelier, Daniel Smith and Jack Richeson.  The T shirt was painted using Daniel Smith's lapis lazuli.

David lives in Toldeo, Ohio and graduated from the University of Toledo with a degree in sculpture and painting in 1998.  Last year he was a Finalist in the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition 2009 at the Smithsonian.

His website is http://www.davideichenberg.com/

 BP Young Artist Award winner: Elizabeth McDonald and Don't Be Too Serious 
Don't Be Too Serious
Oil on canvas, 635 x 432 x 50 mm
photo copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Elizabeth McDonald comes from a small town near Dallas, Texas and was living in Austin prior to her move to the UK.  She's currently studying for a Masters degree at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland.   

Elizabeth is primarily a figurative artist rarther than a portrait artist - and she's having a very good year in 2010.  As well as winning the BP Young Artist Award, she has also had 
We talked on Wednesday about her approach, technique and materials.  

Elizabeth aims to use very traditional methods for painting but to create artwork which has a more contemporary style in terms of subject matter.  Most of her paintings are a lot bigger than the one she entered for this competition.

Her portrait is of one of her fellow students on the Masters degree course.  Camillo Paravicini  was somebody she didn't know very well and we agreed it's difficult to get tired of looking at somebody you don't know too well.  It reminded me very much of Piang Jiang from the 2008 Exhibition who also won the Young Artist Award, who had painted his new flat mate who he'd only met a few weeks earlier.  Developing an ability to paint somebody unknown to you is after all what portrait painters do all the time!

She says she has a tendency to work a lot with warm colours.  This one started with a red/orange ground and underpainting which she progressively cooled down as she painted.  She painted the portrait over three sittings.  One sitting for the face and body position, one just for the hands and one to complete the work.  She was particularly keen to get the effect of the highly reflective black desk.  

Elizabeth uses M Graham oil paints which use walnut oil.  This has a unique refractive index, is non-yellowing and according to Elizabeth has a really nice viscosity - very buttery.  She has no need to use thinner and if she brushes walnut oil over the paint it pulls the pigment which creates the interesting textural marks in the painting.

Elizabeth's website is http://www.aesthetiac.com/ - and this is her portfolio

See the exhibition:  The exhibition of portraits by the winners and selected entries will be at the National Portrait Gallery, London until 19 September 2010 after which it goes on tour to:
You can also see a video of the entire exhibition (see if you can spot Elizabeth!)

Making A Mark Archive of BP Portrait Award posts

BP Portrait Award 2010

BP Portrait Award 2009 
BP Portrait Award 2008   
BP Portrait Award 2007    
 Links:  Resources for Artists - Portrait Competitions

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