10 x 10", oil on linen, 2014.
I painted this at the 2014 Telluride Plein Air Invitational. Each summer since 2003, the Sheridan Arts Foundation hosts 25-30 Plein Air artists to the picturesque box canyon of Telluride, Colorado. A week of painting, culminates in a quick draw competition, private and public exhibition and sale.
This painting also received the distinction as "Finalist" in the 8th Annual Raymar Art Competition, Month #8. The Raymar judge, Thomas Jefferson Kitts, commented:
This is more than a painting of a ram’s skull. It is really about knitting together large and small shapes, turning and modulating a surface, creating lost and found edges, expressing concave and convex forms, and using light and dark masses in a Yin and Yang way.
Suzie had every opportunity to divorce this skull from the ground and she did not take it. In fact, she actively worked at not doing so. Squint at this image and you will see places where the skull and ground appear to merge, both within the light and in the shadow masses. You will also see edges where the skull and ground clearly separate.
Where two different colors of similar values meet the eye can travel across the boundary, effectively stitching the skull and ground together. In addition, Suzie is playing with the directionality of her brushwork in a meaningful way.
Sometimes her strokes align with the surface of the skull, and sometimes they diametrically oppose it to introduce variety. Also, look at how the marks made outside the skull activate the edges and shapes found within the skull. All interrelated. None of it accidental. All considered.
Furthermore, I enjoy the way Suzie progressively moves from larger shapes on the periphery to smaller ones in the middle because that progression leads us to the point of focus. This large to small transformation is an old device used by portrait painters to draw us into the eyes of a sitter. I don’t know if Suzie was conscious of doing it or not, but look how she has set the leading eye (socket) of the skull almost dead center in the painting. This is another device the old masters employed when painting a portrait. A blast from the past.