John's Blog

Is OPA Judging Rigged?

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Qian_Mary - Model on Break

If you want to be juried into an art show, or win an award in a show, it’s important that you have “connections”. Knowing the judge or jurors doesn’t hurt, maybe even being involved in the host organization will further your changes of winning something, anything…Right?

Accusations of award winners being preselected or friends being shown favoritism are occasionally leveled against art organizations by disappointed applicants. Oil Painters of America is not immune from such criticism. The question is, is there justification for such accusations?


Dan Beck – “A Warm Breeze” – (2011 Gold Medal Winner / Associate Signature Division)


Recently, within the last three weeks, I was bestowed the honor of seeing how an OPA Selection Committee works…from the inside out. I was one of five judges chosen to select the paintings that will be in the OPA Western Regional Exhibition this October at the Lee Youngman Galleries in Calistoga,

Now that all the selections have been made, I am able to tell you how it works.

Qian_Mary - Model on Break

Mary Qian – “Model on Break” – (2010 Gold Medal Winner / Associate Signature Division)


First off, you need to know, I still do not know who the other four jurors were…and will probably never know. I asked out of curiosity, after the judging was completed, but received no response. Another thing, only two people knew the identity of the five jurors, the OPA President and the Jury Chairman.

David Riedel - Wooden Bowl David Riedel - "Wooden Bowl" - (2009 Gold Medal Winner / Associate Signature Division)

David Riedel – “Wooden Bowl” – (2009 Gold Medal Winner / Associate Signature Division)


We had four days to rate the 924 entries, grading them on a scale from one to seven. The entries were viewed using the internet and we had no way of knowing how other jurors voted. After all the grades for each painting were compiled we were given an additional three days to reevaluate the top 190 entries scoring them in the same way…one to seven. Those receiving the highest cumulative scores were selected for the show.

I did not enter the competition this year, but if I had, I was instructed to vote for my painting in order to avoid any possible computer processing issues. However, it was the average score of the other jurors that would have been substituted for my vote. So, even in that, the temptation to show favoritism toward one’s own work was eliminated.

Howard Friedland - "Morning in Giverny" -  (2008 Gold Medal Winner / Associate Signature Division)

Howard Friedland – “Morning in Giverny” – (2008 Gold Medal Winner / Associate Signature Division)


Paintings were evaluated based on design and execution. The best works had one dominant value, a dominant color harmony, a clear center of interest, balance, accurate drawing, convincing value relationships, consistent and believable color temperature relationships, appropriate variety of hard and soft edges, and varied and interesting paint application.

Get all those elements right and you ended up with a seven…in the top 1-3 percent of entries.

Johanna Harmon - "Vintage Dreams" - (2007 Gold Medal Winner / Associate Signature Division)

Johanna Harmon – “Vintage Dreams” – (2007 Gold Medal Winner / Associate Signature Division)


I have judged many art shows and only once did I sense a little urging to vote a certain way…and that was for an Elementary School art competition.

Oh, you may be wondering if the artist’s signature on a painting has an influence. Well, to be very honest, I make it a matter of personal integrity to avoid looking at the signature. If the focal point of the painting is located in the area of the signature, there’s no need to be concerned about awards.

I’m sure if an advantage can be gained in any art competition, there will be those who will try to get that advantage. But, as for the Oil Painters of America Exhibitions, I was most impressed to see just how unbiased the jury process actually is. This should be an encouragement to many of you. Hey, it all comes down to the quality of the work, not to who you are or whom you know.


Robert Coombs - "Almost Sundown" - (2006 Gold Medal Winner / Associate Signature Division)

Robert Coombs – “Almost Sundown” – (2006 Gold Medal Winner / Associate Signature Division)


Below are website links to those featured in this article:

Jeff Legg

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If you don’t know the work of Jeff Legg, you need to.
I’ve known Jeff for at least 20 years. We met at the Midwest Gathering of the Artists Art Show in Carthage, Mo. I was a participant when » Read More

Lake Como Villas

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villa 3 - r
I’ve written previously of my affection for Italy’s magnificent beauty, its architecture, and the amazing contribution they have made to the world as artists and » Read More

Paul Calle

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“I’m not heavy, deep, or profound, but I have something to say, and I say it through my art.” » Read More

Color Concept

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Color is an important part of painting. Some artists believe it is the most important part. I don’t agree. The reason for my position is that masterful paintings have been achieved using just one color. » Read More

Humiliation, Sacrifice, Resurrection

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Though Jesus was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God something to be possessed by force. On the contrary, he emptied himself, in that he took the form of a slave by becoming like human beings are.

And when he appeared as a human being, he humbled himself still more by becoming obedient even to death – death on a stake as a criminal!

Therefore God raised him to the highest place and gave him the name above every name; that in honor of the name given Jesus, every knee will bow – in heaven, on earth and under the earth -

and every tongue will acknowledge that Jesus the Messiah is the Lord, Jehovah – to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus said, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life! Whoever puts his trust in me will live, even if he dies; and everyone living and trusting in me will never die.

Cornish Pasties

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cornish pasties 1
I’m sitting here on death row for some unjust reason. I told them I didn’t steal that old lady’s purse but that rigged jury found me guilty anyway. I’m sure that the prosecuting attorney paid off that lousy no good lying witness…just to finger me…and now they’re asking me what

ACA Demonstraton

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On March 1st, I had the privilege of giving an oil painting demonstration before the Associated Creative Artists group in Dallas. » Read More

Life and Death

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Life Goes On
I just finished reading a book the other day titled “Healing Grace” by David A. Seamands. The book ends with a story that sort of dramatically puts the whole premise of the book into crystal clear perspective. » Read More

Snow and the Artist

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Winter Freeze – John Pototschnik

I don’t often have the opportunity to paint snow scenes from the actual subject. Snow, in this part of Texas is not too common, however this year has been different. We had three separate snow falls including some ice.
Winter Blast – John Pototschnik

I am not a fan of cold weather but I do know that nothing is impossible with God, so I would like to some day be able to set up my easel in the snow while wearing shorts and a T-shirt…and enjoying glorious 70 degree temperatures. In my younger days, I did paint outside in the snow but now I paint in a more comfortable setting.
The two paintings above were painted from my north facing studio window.
(All the images below are snow scenes painted by some truly magnificent artists)
A Farm at Montfoucault – Camille Pissarro

The whole country has experienced quite a winter. Do you know snow is not really white? It’s actually clear/transparent, glass like. When water freezes inside clouds, ice crystals form. The ice crystals form around tiny bits of dirt that have been carried up into the atmosophere by the wind. The ice crystals join together creating snowflakes. Once the flakes are heavy enough, they float to the ground at 3.1 mph.
New England Winter Landscape – Aldro Hibbard

Each snowflake is made up of from 2 to 200 individual crystals, and each of these crystals come in one of six basic shapes. As snowflakes pile up, all these little ice crystals act as tiny prisims reflecting the light and scattering the color, thereby creating the appearance of white. Snow is not always white however, because the color of the soil carried up into the atmosophere can affect the color.

Cornish Hills – Willard Metcalf

Most snowflakes are less than one-half inch across, but amazingly, the largest recorded snowflake was 15″ in diameter. The colder it is outside, the smaller snowflakes tend to be and the most beautiful, fluffiest snow occurs around 15 degrees.
Argenteuil – Claude Monet

A few other interesting facts about snow…averaging 94″ of snow annually, New York City receives more snow than any of the other largest US cities. Practically every location in the US has received snow at some point, even south Florida and Hawaii. A record breaking snowfall for Phoenix occurred in 1933…one inch. Finally, if there is a blizzard in the forecast, run out and load up on cakes, cookies and candy, a lot of other people do.
Home at Montclair – George Inness

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