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Grand Prize Winners

By March 1, 2024March 19th, 2024No Comments

Kimball Geisler


Along with all of the prize money, attention, and new career opportunities (of which there have been many), winning the PleinAir Salon gave me a whole lot of self-confidence and validation that I didn’t know I needed. I realize that with so many submissions to the contest it could have easily gone a different way, and that time it just happened to work out for me. But just to have won some monthly awards, and then to be included as a finalist, that was a dream come true. It made me feel like my work was being seen and appreciated by other people, and possibly MANY other people. That confidence has stayed with me and has been a major motivator as I continue to try to do better than my last painting. If this is the last accomplishment I ever have, I think it will have been a pretty good run. Can’t complain about that!”

12th Annual Pleinair Salon Online Art Competition Grand Prize Winner Kimball Geisler

Jennifer McChristian


Lori Putnam


Winning a major prize like the PleinAir Salon is a real shocker. I can’t even tell you how many times I asked myself why in the world I was even entering. Self-doubt keeps me from doing a lot of things. But at least there was a small hope of getting seen by a judge who might take notice and, once the name was revealed to them, they would contact me for representation. Every time one of my paintings placed in the monthly competitions, I would think maybe, just maybe I might make it to the finals. 

Here’s how it played out:

My win was during the lockdown so there was no in-person [Plein Air Convention]. I had two pieces in the running during the live, online presentations by PleinAir Magazine. They asked all of the top 25 artists to be available online during the awards. Having absolutely no belief that I would need to be seen “live,” I sat comfortably in my sweats and certainly did not set up any kind of video light. There I was, listening to the honorable mentions, none of which I received. 

“Oh well,” I thought, “Look at all of these fabulous finalists. I’m so grateful to be one of them.” Then, they announced the People’s Choice Award and I won! There was one of my paintings on the screen to prove it. I was so stunned and incredibly happy. The announcements continued, third place, second place, and suddenly, there was a knock on my front door. “Who? What? At this hour? I hope they have a mask on.” So many thoughts ran through my head in a split second. 

Online I heard them say, “And the Grand Prize winner is…Lori P…,” and I saw my other painting pop up on the computer screen. I’m screaming, jumping up and down, and calling for my husband who is opening our door. A local artist friend walked in holding the large cardboard $15,000 check and balloons. It is still all unbelievable. The point is, even if you doubt yourself over and over again, enter, over and over again. We are probably our own worst critics. Don’t give up. It may be your turn to win.”

11th Annual PleinAir Salon Online Art Competition Grand Prize Winner Lori Putnam

Dave Santillanes


Tom Hughes


Jim Wodark


7th Annual PleinAir Salon Online Art Competition Grand prize Winner Jim Wodark

“I’ve entered many competitions and I think the best benefit for me was that it pushed me to become better at painting and all that it encompasses. I like the fact that if I wanted to win, I would have to paint better than what I thought was the best painting in the competition! That was a big task! But, I liked the challenge and it worked for me!  Even if you don’t win the first place prize, if you start winning honorable mentions and other awards over several competitions, then you can see that your work is improving.

My Grand Prize Painting “Prairie Sundown” 24×48 won the Grand Prize in the 7th year of the PleinAir Salon Art Competition. I won 3rd prize in an earlier year, so persistence, and effort to paint better, worked in improving my ability to paint.”

Kathleen Hudson


Carl Bretzke


5th Annual PleinAir Salon Online Art Competition Grand Prize Winner Carl Bretzke

“In 2016, I was shocked but thrilled to win the PleinAir Salon grand prize for my painting, Winter Sunset Near The Farmer’s Market. That win started a chain reaction of several other happy art moments for me. Literally minutes after winning, I was approached and asked to be included in a well known Plein Air Invitational event the next fall. Within a week, I had an offer for gallery representation by a respected east coast gallery. Pretty much every year since 2016 I have been included as a faculty member at PACE. I also have no doubt that the name recognition has helped with sales and entry into additional Plein Air events. Finally, with the prize money I was able to purchase a studio space in a desirable Minneapolis artist’s building…. So yes, it is good to win the PleinAir Salon!

When I submit [a painting] for the Salon, I feel I am only competing with myself to put my favorite work out there and see how it does. Similar to plein air events, if I like what I submit, I will be happy whether I win or lose.”

Jim McVicker


Winning the top prize was an honor and a thrill the moment it happened at the [Plein Air] convention. I will never forget it. It really did bring more name recognition, more followers on social media, the start of a relationship with a new gallery and I believe a direct boost in my sales.

I know you know the story, but I did enter the winning painting several times before a judge awarded it a bi-monthly prize. I believed in the work and was sure it would get noticed.

I usually don’t do this, but I visualized it on the cover. Even after each time it didn’t make the bi-monthly cut, I still saw it on the cover. 

A very funny story happened after winning. My wife and I went around to several of the art suppliers and bought a lot of products. I had not tried Rosemary Brushes before and picked up a handful at Rosemary’s booth. I waited my turn and asked Rosemary the price. She said, “for you Jim, $15,000.”

4th Annual PleinAir Salon Online Art Competition Grand Prize Winner Jim McVicker

Stewart White


Shelby Keefe


“Visibility” is the key-word for putting yourself out there! Getting awarded is the frosting on the cake for sure, but taking the risk and showing your artwork is a great incentive for doing your best paintings and upping your game.

We grow as artists through the rejections as well as the acceptances—but if we don’t do anything at all, it’s certain we won’t ever “win.” I’m not a gambler— but the concept is the same: I will never win the lottery if I don’t play! 

If I hadn’t entered the PleinAir Salon, I wouldn’t have attained the national recognition I enjoy right now.”

2nd Annual PleinAir Salon Online Art Competition Gand Prizes Winner Shelby Keefe

D. Eleinne Basa