You’ve probably heard of the Oil Painters of America – one of the strongest voices and advocates in the world for excellence in traditional representational painting! If you haven’t heard of them let me introduce you.

Back in the summer of 1990, I believe, I was at the home of Ted Goerschner and Marilyn Simandle for a weekend workshop.
Ocean Home was one of the two paintings I completed that weekend.

Ocean Home, 12×16 by Bill Inman

Ted mentioned that he was recently with a group of artists who wanted to bring back to the art world an emphasis on the fundamentals of oil painting like draftsmanship, composition, deft mixing and handling of paint – everything that makes masterful realism so magical.

He said they were going to call it the Oil Painters of America.

In 1991 Shirl Smithson became the founder and brought that dream to life. The organization took off like a rocket rising in membership to more than 4000. Their awards and recognition have helped fuel the careers of many of the top artists in the world today. Their Master Signature artists include exceptional painters like Quang Ho, Daniel Gerhartz, John Michael Carter, Peter Adams, Clyde Aspevig, Albert Handell, C. W. Mundy, Jeffrey R. Watts and Kevin Macpherson.

The 26th Annual National Juried Exhibition was in Cincinnati a week ago and, as under the gun as I am with deadlines, I just couldn’t pass up the chance to go. This was also the first time Master Oil Painting has been a sponsor for such a large event, so there was a special sense of excitement I felt in being there. I took the whole day Friday so I could watch demonstrations by William Whitaker and Johanna Harmon.

William Whitaker demonstrating how to paint a gunslinger at the Oil Painters of America National Exhibition

Mr. Whitaker is quite the storyteller and his wit made the time engaging. I picked up several painting insights – his way of developing an image from seemingly random values and restrained colors was intriguing – I would never have foreseen that he uses that same beginning process for such refined realism as Cove.

Cove, 30×40 by William Whitaker (

Another fun tidbit I picked up is that for the past 25 years or more he has used ABS plastic for his panels. He has a local plastics company deliver it to his home. He said it is tough, perfectly suitable to oil painting, doesn’t need to be primed, can be cut easily with a knife, and if you don’t like your painting, you can sand it down to white and start a new one.

Not only was Johanna’s demonstration fantastic, she also happened to have a painting in the show that won an award!

Cari, 16×12 by Johanna Harmon (


Johann Harmon demonstration – painting live from a model at the Oil Painters of America National Exhibition.

Having watched about a dozen demos by some of the best artists in the country in the last 2 months I noticed a strong similarity – the emphasis on accurate values – get the values right and the painting will practically paint itself – well maybe with a little nudge from the artist.

Another highlight of my day was the presentation by David Mueller titled “Sophisticated Fundamentals” where he discussed, you guessed it, values.

David Mueller OPA Presentation “Sophisticated Fundamentals”

But not just any old values – he is passionate about the powerful effect of carefully designed dark, middle and light value relationships in a bracketed 80/15/5 distribution throughout a painting with attention as well to the hard and soft edges. An example he used was Toward Night and Winter by Frank O Meara that he changed from color to black and white.

Toward Night and Winter by Frank O Meara

Notice that most of the painting is middle values (80%), a smaller part is light values (15%) and a touch is dark (5%). Mueller states that much of what we consider great art follows pretty closely to this bracketing of values (the light, dark and middle can be in any arrangement of those proportions). Definitely something to experiment with.

That evening we headed to the Eisele Gallery to view all the wonderful paintings in the show. I took some pictures of some of those I considered standouts – not the best photos, but they’ll do in a pinch.

Journeyman 20×16 by D Edward Kucera

Kucera has phenomenal ability with color and value. Top notch work.

Longhorn 24×24 by James E Tennison

Tennison’s work has impressed me since I saw his paintings in person when we showed together at Galerie Kornye West in Fort Worth. Paula the gallery owner, a very gracious lady with a wealth of understanding of art, retired a couple years ago and brought to a close the long run of a magnificent showroom.

Yelllow Kimono 30×40 by John Michael Carter

This was a simply masterful piece by Carter! The delicate shifts in color and value – one of the best paintings I have seen in a long time. This would have been my gold medal choice.

Welcoming of Winter 22×28 by Nikolo Balkanski

Nikolo and I have shown together at the Broadmoor Galleries for many years. He has produced a lot of excellent paintings, but he hit this one out of the park. Some lucky buyer snatched this up the first night.

Red-backed Fairywren 8×8 by Mostafa Keyhani

Sorry for the poorly taken image, but I got to meet Keyhani while I was capturing an image of it on my phone. I told him this was one of the best pieces in the show – very simple and completely beautiful. Turns out he has watched my videos on YouTube – small world isn’t it!

Calm Noon 24×38 by Ruo Li

This painting struck me because of the calm feeling it presented and because I’m a total sap for rocky tidal areas at the beach – they bring back a lot of happy childhood memories. It’s also obviously skillfully painted. Li, if you ever read this – the horizon line on the left seems a bit high – probably a wave in the distance and not a game changer, but it felt a wee bit distractive.

It’s still quite beautiful though!

Apple and Cherry Blossoms 16×12 by Jim McVicker

You all got to know Jim pretty well last week when he joined us as a Featured Artist, and his work is just as incredible as it looks – he captures life elegantly. This painting should have won an award.

That’s the nature of juried shows – we all have our biases – this judge chose some paintings that I thought left much to be desired – I would imagine he would think the same of my choices. We can’t ever let the jurying process discourage us. Just keep forging ahead with a smile knowing, as artists, we get to be a part of something grand.

Prayer in the Desert 40×30 by Robert T Barrett

The reason for my love of this painting is probably self-evident. But I want to say that it’s not just the subject matter – the painting is expertly crafted by Barrett and is very striking.

You have until June 24th to see the show – I highly recommend it. And when you do, please let the rest of us know which paintings captured your heart!

Remember too, seeing a photo of these paintings is not even close to seeing them in person.

Happy painting,