Born in: 1944, Czech Republic

Lives in: France

Media: Painting

Describe your work in 3 words: Magic Fantastic Strange

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Avida Dollar - Oil on canvas 100 x 230 cm

"I like to think that in another life, I was yet living in Prague, as somebody in charge of Rudolf II’s fabulous collection in which you could find, for example, astrological tools, potions to make gold, the philosophical stone, impenetrable manuscripts full of VITRIOL formula."

What themes does your work involve?
My art includes esoteric and erotic subjects, sensuality, poetry and sometimes an anecdote or even black humor. I also love animal art and to pay tribute to people I admire.
Describe your creative process.
Inspiration comes to me fairly easily. I feel as if ideas were stored in a large spiritual library, with an endless number of books and subjects. I just need to take a stroll in my library, stretch out my hand, and let the composition of my painting appear before me, both magically and very naturally. I always work on only one painting. I choose the format of the canvas according to the size of the main elements I will need. I like to draw things in real size.
What influences your work? What inspires you? Why do you make art?
I am influenced by the Old Masters. I am more especially inspired by themes in the domain of esotericism, poetry, literature, or biblical. I make art because I have the technique and skill for this artistic expression and I love it. I always did it. My father was an artist and I started specialized art school four years before the baccalaureate.
What is good art? What makes a piece of art great?
As I said before, I admire the Old Masters. For me, the technique must be perfectly mastered. It must not be an obstacle to the imagination of the artist but must accompany positively his inspiration. His personal style must be easily recognized by the public.
What is the role of the artist today?
What is the most important to me is to offer paintings in front of which the spectator will take time to sit down, to enter in harmony with the painting, and then have his own walk, as an awaken dream, giving him, even for a short time, a rare and unusual feeling. My dream: that supernatural, strange, sublime and magic, would take more and more space in our lives and that beauty and spirituality would become a life's belief.
Gold Notre Dame, Phoenix Rebirth - Oil on canvas 195 x 130 cm
One Pearl per day for Judith (tribute to Caravaggio) - Oil on canvas 195 x 130 cm
The Lion in Love - Oil on canvas 195 x 130 cm - Tribute to La Fontaine Book IV fable 1
Lohengrin, My Beloved Swan - Oil on canvas - 195 x 130 cm


Lukáš KÁNDL received the 1st Place Award in the CFA Artist of the Year 2019 Contest. © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist

Gerard Huber

Born in: United States

Lives in: Dallas, Texas

Media: Painting

Describe your work in 3 words: Seductive, sensual and subversive

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Classical Figures II - Amplexus Aeternus

Classical Figures Series – Amplexus Aeternus
"Good art is a vehicle for intimacy, which involves stepping inside of someone else’s shoes and seeing the world through their eyes. Truly stepping into someone else’s shoes is a profoundly challenging and life-changing experience and requires that we set aside our own beliefs, viewpoints, fears, prejudices, and sacred ideas—momentarily—to quietly embrace the beliefs, viewpoints, fears, prejudices, and sacred ideas of another human being. If we can do that—even for a moment—we cannot leave that interaction unchanged."

What themes does your work involve?

The spiritual goal in Buddhism is Enlightenment, which means the willingness to fully embrace reality as it is—not as one might want it to be. That is obviously a goal which is constantly evolving, requires genuine humility, and which one can only approximate. There are two important corollaries to this concept. The first is that most suffering in the world comes from trying to sustain illusions, which my own life experience constantly reaffirms. The second is that reality can’t fall out from under you—only illusions can. And in my experience, they do that with relentless reliability.

The overall theme of my work, throughout my career, has been to ask viewers to step out of their own comfortable frame of reference and thoughtfully reassess their own beliefs, viewpoints, fears, prejudices, and sacred ideas. I am certainly not claiming that my viewpoints are superior or more “correct.” But I am asking the viewer to step inside another way of looking at the world and perhaps consider some realities that might at first be uncomfortable:
the idea that a relationship between two men can be romantic, sexual, healthy, and exquisitely intimate rather than perverse, unnatural, or an abomination in the eyes of God; or  the profound loneliness of a young man hoping for a father’s affection only to be met with a cold, stony, unyielding silence; or
the unfathomable cruelty of a religion that advocates that you love the sinner, but hate the sin when the “sin” is the spiritual essence of that “sinner;” or
that being a “real man,” whether straight or gay, requires humility, integrity, compassion and emotional depth—not bravado, brutality, indifference, and emotional catatonia.

If I am successful, my work might help the viewer to glimpse the inner world of someone who might be very different from them, enable a somewhat fuller understanding of the enormous complexity of the forces that act upon all of us, and hopefully provide some awareness that because of our fundamental interconnectedness any harm we inflict on another being is more damaging to us than it is to our victim.

Within that framework, I also have a passionate admiration for the sculptures of the Greco-Roman gods and heroes from antiquity. These perfected beings are the “superheroes” of my artistic pantheon. Even in their most fragmented condition these statues are astonishingly life-like. Their fragmented bodies both challenge identification of the original persona and, at the same time, invite imaginary completion by the viewer.

The ancient Greeks thought of nudity as embodying a sense of wholeness in which exterior physical perfection indicated internal spiritual perfection—man at his emotional, physical, and spiritual best. Christianity perverted this appreciation of physical beauty through the myth of the Garden of Eden wherein nakedness was equated with evil. I challenge this “modern” contempt for the fully nude male figure, which is thought to be at best embarrassing and at worst indecent. I invite the viewer through the sensuality of my paintings—color, texture, light and illusionistic form—to confront their own beliefs and values about the naked body and to resolve for themselves the question of good and evil regarding nudity in general, and male nudity in particular.

Describe your creative process.

I am enthralled by objects. Or I should more accurately say I am enthralled by “the light that falls on objects”. I am very interested in de-sensationalizing the nude. And I am also intrigued by the ways in which the artist can engage the viewer.

Almost 40 years ago I painted life-sized images of Adam and Eve on the front of refrigerator doors, with Eve holding in her hand a fully three-dimensional apple which the viewer would have to take out of her hand in order to open the refrigerator—a contemporary representation of the Garden of Eden. In order for the viewer to get into the Garden of Eden, he or she had to take the apple and participate in original sin—a commentary on the hidden costs of participating in the abundance we keep in our refrigerators.

In my current work, I have been exploring placing nude figures in banal intimate interior settings, where the naked human being is one of the most natural and innocent things imaginable. The details of these locales—flowers, vase, mirror frame and reflection—are given a similar degree of attention as the figure itself, allowing me to combine my two interests in the figure and the object. By necessity, the viewer is granted admission to this intimate interior space and asked to ponder the meaning of the assemblage of objects and images in that intimate space.

Although I paint from photographic sources, I don’t consider myself a photorealist, nor am I particularly interested in capturing the appearance of the photograph. The photo merely gives me information about subjects that for one reason or another—time, location, scale, etc.—I cannot paint directly in real life. But even as I paint from the photograph, I am constantly adjusting the image from my understanding of rendering illusionistic three-dimensional form.

Although my paintings may have the appearance of classical academic art they are executed through the most un-classical of methodologies. First, I paint exclusively with an airbrush and second, I work from photographic resources. However, I use these un-classical methodologies to construct paintings in much the same manner that classical academic paintings are built—I begin with an uunderpainting in earth tones in which I establish the overall compositional value pattern, and then I “glaze” colors on top of that. I don’t want my paintings to appear to be airbrushed because I came to the airbrush from a fine art background and not a commercial background. I tell my airbrush students that if the first thing that comes to mind when they see a painting is “That’s an airbrush painting”, then it is a bad painting. The image and subject matter are of utmost importance, not the means by which the artwork is created.

What influences your work? What inspires you? Why do you make art?

I make art because there is nothing else that has ever captured my interest. I began at 8 years of age doing paint-by-number paintings provided by my parents. Then, at one point, I used the left-over paints to draw and paint my own version of DaVinci’s Last Supper. 

My father looked at what I had produced and thought it showed promise. He took my painting to the Sisters who taught art at the Catholic High School in Waterloo, Iowa, and asked them what they thought. They apparently agreed with my father’s assessment, and he then removed me from public school and enrolled me at Sacred Heart. Despite the fact that my father worked in a meat-packing plant and my mother worked at the counter in the neighborhood drug store, they paid private school tuition until I graduated from high school at Sacred Heart so that I could also have art instruction—which was not available in the public schools in Waterloo. Only one of the many ways in which my father protected and watched over me. 

In addition, other people have been very important to my development as an artist. A major source of inspiration for me throughout my career is a painting completed by a mentor and friend, Shirley Haupt. The title of the painting basically conveys why it is important to me:

The day the last Precious Brushstroke arrived at the Art Historians National Monument Park Reserve, on which occasion highly esteemed art historians presented papers, the most widely acclaimed of which was a seminal study entitled “New Insights into idiosyncratic tactility: Worn pressure areas on shafts, the dents on metal ferrules, and variations in the shape of habitually used sable points of seventeen XX century painters.” 1967

So, for me this work by Shirley Haupt served to validate the journey I had embarked upon in the last semester of my undergraduate study—of purposefully eliminating the obvious gestural mark. This ultimately resulted in my replacing the “precious brushstroke” (what Chuck Close, about this same time, was referring to as the “clichéd” art mark) with the anonymity of the airbrushed mist so that the hand of the artist didn’t interfere with, or compete with, the reading of the image. Initially I didn’t realize that this attitude was already “in the air” amongst artists like Chuck Close, Audrey Flack, Don Eddy, Richard Estes, Ralph Going, Richard McLean, Tom Blackwell, Charles Bell, Robert Cottingham, Malcolm Morley, Ben Shonzeit and a host of other artists.  

Following my undergraduate education, I was fortunate enough to be admitted to Cranbrook Academy of Art where George Ortman became a lifelong mentor, friend, and source of inspiration. At a time when modernism was all the rage in art departments throughout the country, George supported my exploration of photorealism and the use of the airbrush. 

And about this same time I became more fully aware of the fact that I was gay, and it became important for me to incorporate that kind of imagery in my work as well. In 1978, Margaret Walters wrote in her book The Nude Male: A New Perspective that “The male nude is a forgotten subject.” And in 2009, Grady Harp wrote in his Foreword to the book Powerfully Beautiful that “The male figure’s time has come. Or returned!” A lot has happened during the roughly 30 intervening years between those publications thanks to the rise of the feminist movement and the gay liberation movement initiated by the Stonewall Inn riots in New York City in 1969. In both arenas the male nude returned to center stage in the guise of a political statement. So, I began to concentrate on celebrating the beauty of the nude male figure, both sculpted and living.

I don’t think that the male nude was forgotten, I think it was purged by a religiously repressive society. But as society becomes more enlightened and accepting of marginalized minorities the bastions of hypocrisy are crumbling as we see scantily clad men appearing in advertising, more publications dealing with the male nude, and a few brave gallerists willing to support artists who address the male nude.

What is good art? What makes a piece of art great?

We tend to talk about artists as if we think they should be prophets or seers—people who somehow have more insight or understanding than others into life and its meaning. But most often that is not true—and it doesn’t need to be. There is a saying in Buddhism that “great souls endure great tribulation.” Perhaps those among us who have the most insight into life and its meaning are those of us who have gone through the most difficult of life’s experiences, and somehow been able to master and transcend them. Sometimes those people are artists, most often they are not. We live in a culture that expects the artist to have that same degree of insight and understanding. And while I may complain at times about how hard my undergraduate and graduate training was, I still think the prize goes to Victor Frankl or Nelson Mandela.

What I would like to suggest to you is that very few people have the experience with suffering, or the intelligence, or the insight to provide us with grand insights. And very few of the people who have that kind of insight are artists. But what every artist can do is to allow others to step inside of their shoes, see what they see, feel what they feel, understand what they understand, and to allow a moment of intimacy. Because moments of genuine intimacy, when they occur, are profound experiences. They are not “grand insights.” But they are profound—they leave us forever changed at an intrinsic level.

So, I believe extraordinary art is produced by artists who have endured and transcended great suffering. Great art is produced by artists who truly invite an intimate encounter with the viewer and do everything in their power to make their work accessible to the viewer. If somehow the artist is able, through his artwork, to communicate something that resonates with the viewer, then perhaps both the artist and the viewer feel a deeper level of understanding, little less vulnerability and isolation, and a bit more connect to another human being than they did before.

This page was published by Circle Foundation for the Arts © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist

Sarah Ann Weber

Born in: 1988, United States

Lives in: Los Angeles, United States

Media: Painting, Watercolor, Mixed media, Drawing

Describe your work in 3 words: Floral, elaborate, vivid

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The Set Up - Colored pencil on panel, framed 21 x 25 in.

"I draw landscapes that combine my observations and memories of the natural world with abstraction. Here, figures are camouflaged, androgynous, and more plant-based than human. There is beauty, but upon closer inspection, violence and decay are also present."

What themes does your work involve?
By creating environments, I am able to explore gender, decoration and beauty. Focusing on the floral and exotic, my highly detailed, dense compositions become places where growth and entropy, figure and ground, intertwine. My work may foster the hallucinatory experience of seeing a mirage, where navigating the environment is a disorienting but pleasurable experience.
Describe your creative process.
My process of drawing is intuitive. I usually begin a composition with quick, gestural scribbles or paint pours. Then I slow down, honing in on small, intertwining sections. I treat colored pencils like paint, blending the wax-based pigments to create smooth gradients. The marks stay small to draw the viewer in close, where patience is rewarded with subtlety of color and hidden forms revealed.
What influences your work? What inspires you? Why do you make art?
My work brims with biomorphic forms and gestural marks that mimic the succulents and flowers of southern California (a place I have called home for the last six years), but the compositions are also punctuated with scribbles and brushstrokes that remind the viewer that the spaces are invented. I am inspired by nature in all its forms (wild, tamed, synthetic, fantastic) and how people exist and become part of their environment.
What is good art? What makes a piece of art great?
I think a work of art is successful if it leaves a viewer with a lingering experience of wonder.
What is the role of the artist today?
I believe it is an artist’s responsibility to be present, reflect, and bear witness to an ever-changing world. Although my artwork has never been overtly political, I work intuitively and from an emotional place, so my practice is undoubtedly affected by how I feel about everything that is going on in the world.
The Plot - Colored pencil on paper, framed 24 x 32 in.
The Watcher - Watercolor and colored pencil on panel, framed 49 x 61 x 2 in.
The Pressure - Colored pencil on paper, framed. 24 x 32 in.
Palm Canyon - Colored pencil on paper, framed. 24 x 32 in.


Sarah Ann Weber received the 3rd Place Award in the CFA Artist of the Year 2019 Contest. © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist

Iva Troj

Born in: Plovdiv, Bulgaria (Swedish National)

Lives in: Brighton, United Kingdom

Media: Painting, Drawing

Describe your work in 3 words: Ever-changing, breaking, building

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Sorry To See You Go - Oil on canvas 130 x 58 cm

"As a child, I was taught to question one-dimensional narratives, which grew from a survival technique to a technology of the artistic self. That is probably why I often focus on the normalization of dysfunctional discourses, from the victimization of the female gender to religious dogma and racism."

What themes does your work involve?
The underlying stories, especially the conflicts, are much more interesting to me than mere portraiture. I want to know what’s going on, which is why I have always been interested in research. When I went back to university for a second BA and a Master's, I chose software design, philosophy, and cognitive science rather than fine art, because science fascinates me. My themes are almost always about taking things apart and putting them back together and for that you need to look outside yourself.
Describe your creative process.
I sketch a lot before starting a piece. It's an ongoing thing. The painting technique I mostly use resembles the Flemish method of layering thin veneers of paint between layers of varnish. I am no fan of white canvases so I often prepare my canvases in advance either using pastels and ink or just diluted acrylics. After the underpainting is done I paint a lighter layer with acrylics and finish with a couple of thicker layers using oils, occasionally acrylics, and sometimes gold leaf and ink.
What influences your work? What inspires you? Why do you make art?
Traditional elements are central to my body of work. It’s not a need to keep the style ”traditional”, but the way I speak. I grew up in a communist country. We sang songs about machines' superiority to man and praised modernity while destroying nature and killing creativity and the human spirit with it. At the same time, my summers were spent in the mountains with my grandmother who had hanging gardens, thousand stories and no TV. My head is full of dichotomies. Art is how I make sense of it all.
What is good art? What makes a piece of art great?
There are two inseparable aspects of the art process that really need to coexist and function together - ideology and skill. Ideology without skill is silly and skill without ideology is empty. The day you find a way to get those two working as a whole is the day you become an artist. And I'm allergic to self-indulgent art. Do we really need one more artist who is only looking to himself for answers? We have a patriarchy to dismantle and a world to save. You can't do that looking at your navel.
What is the role of the artist today?
What is the role of the human today? There is a saying in my family: "If you don't have food on your table, you have one problem. If you have food on your table, you have thousand problems." Artists should be our culture's caretakers and not self-serving, standing on the top of the hill looking down monarchs. We have to stop following the cult of the individual s.c. "genius". It's the ecology of talent that raises us so we need to nurture it. The art industry has killed most of it already.
The Last Swan Oil on canvas 53 x 71 cm
As I Stand So Sad - Oil on canvas 53 x 80 cm
What Gives - Oil on canvas


Iva Troj received the 2nd Place Award in the CFA Artist of the Year 2019 Contest. © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist