Prints That Win: Owl Always Kneed You

Muskogee, Okla., photographer Kimberly Smith is no stranger to the Sunset Print Awards. 2019 saw Smith win back-to-back-to-back awards during the PPA SW competition. “I printed everything that I entered this year on Sunset Bright Velvet Rag, even the album that I created,” she says.

“Owl Always Kneed You” by Kimberly Smith

Having previously scored wins with portraits, this year, Smith’s image “Owl Always Kneed You” was tops in the Artist category and won second place during IPC. According to IPC rules, the purpose of this (Artist) competition is to allow the entrant to demonstrate his or her artistic skills.

Drawing inspiration from the most unusual of sources, the idea for Smith’s award-winning image came to her after a routine medical procedure. “I had to have a knee MRI and they sent me home with the disk,” she says. “As I’m going through them, I noticed one of them looked like an owl.” She combined an image of a tree from a previous photography session and the base image from the MRI into an artistic image of an owl and her owlet.

Not content to have seven individual prints in the competition, Smith also created an album, complete with a leather cover, a satin ribbon, and 10 lay-flat images, all printed on her favorite Sunset media, Bright Velvet Rag.

“The story was inspired by my daughter and our dog, Sophie, who’s nine now. One day, I noticed she looked so old,” she says. “I knew that I had pictures of Sophie from when she was a puppy and my youngest daughter went off to college last year. I was sobbing putting the album together. That’s my dog and my baby.”

Smith’s works continue to garner praise at the highest levels of competition. Some of her other awards include the ASP Gold Medallion, which is presented to the American Society of Photographers Loan entry, judged by a separate panel of jurors to be the very best image in exhibition. PPA has awarded her the Gold Medal and named her a Diamond Artist.

Between competitions, Smith continues to teach at the Texas School as well as conducting workshops at her studio in Oklahoma or traveling across the country. “I’ve had people fly me in to teach in private workshops,” she says.

With such an eventful 2019, what does Smith expect out of 2020? “I’m excited,” she says. “I think it will be a great year.”

2018 International Print Competition Winners Announced

Congratulations to the 2018 International Print Competition winners. In August, 26 District PPA Sunset Print Award winners vied for the coveted top spot, when the judging was finished, the winners were announced:

1st Place: Leaving with Dignity – Kimberly J. Smith

2nd Place: From the Ashes – Dawn Muncy

3rd Place: Heaven’s Hands of Hope – Brian Castle

There’s always such creative diversity in the Sunset Print Award winners and 2018 was no exception. From a snowy landscape in Winter Pastel to a canine Gentle Giant to a train bringing families Home for the Holidays, the judges did not have an easy job selecting the top three images.

“From the Ashes” by Dawn Muncy – 2nd Place

For Smith, winning back-to-back titles is exciting and she’s incredibly happy that her work has such an impact on the judges, “Impact is so important. I put a lot of emotion behind the story in my images and the judges can tell,” she says. “It’s not just another pretty picture. When they see the title [of the image], I want them to brace for impact, I want them to feel something, and apparently, they did.”

Muncy describes the stages of her “competition journey” and how the third and final phase allows her to be expressive with her work: “When you get to be yourself and let your creativity flow, that’s when competition becomes powerful. I know the rules, now I want to show the world who I am.”

First-time Sunset Print Award-winner Castle also thrives on creating emotional impact through his visual storytelling.

“Heaven’s Hands of Hope” by Brian Castle – 3rd Place

“When I can give my clients an image that creates emotion and causes them to tear up, I know I’ve done my job,” he says. “I would never have learned that unless I started competing.”

Along with an engraved crystal trophy, the winners will also receive cash prizes: $2,000 for First Place, $1,000 for Second Place and $500 for Third Place. We want to thank all the participants in the 2018 Sunset Print Awards and will have information regarding the 2019 awards coming soon.

 

Prints That Win: Leaving with Dignity

For Muskogee, Okla. Photographer Kimberly Smith, 2017 was a brilliant year. Not only did she win the PPA SW Sunset Print Award, but she also won First Place in the 2017 National Sunset Print Awards for “The Beauty of Innocence.” For this Master Artist, 2018 looks to be just as strong: Her 2018 submission “Leaving with Dignity” won the Sunset Print Award for Portraiture in the PPA SW District competition.

Reflecting on her back-to-back wins, Smith says she’s very excited that her work speaks to the judges. “Impact is so important. I put a lot of emotion behind the story in my images and the judges can tell,” she says. “It’s not just another pretty picture. When they see the title [of the image], I want them to brace for impact, I want them to feel something, and apparently, they did.”

The inspiration for “Leaving with Dignity” struck when Smith saw a black and white image of an older woman with a disheveled crown.  She initially envisioned a queen leaving her throne for the last time. However, as she started working in postproduction, Smith says, “I noticed she had a peaceful look on her face, and I added a cloudy feel with rays of light. I felt like she was making her way into Heaven, with God saying, ‘well done, my good and faithful servant.’  I felt like she was leaving this world with dignity rather than leaving the throne. I chose to name “Leaving with Dignity” so people could form their own story.”

During the time between her “innocent” 2017 and her “dignified” 2018 PPA SW wins, Smith decided to step out of her comfort zone and teach an intermediate/advanced level course at the Texas School, which maxed out at 30 students – a rare feat for a first-time teacher. “I wanted to show the students how I create an image from start to finish,” she says.

For Smith, it isn’t just capturing an image that’s important, it’s telling the story. To pass along the techniques and methods to future generations is exciting. “One of my favorite projects for the class was when I printed about 30 copies of one of my photos to teach the students some of the ways I finish a print: enhancing the image with colored pencils, hand tearing the edges, matting, etc.”

Smith chose LexJet Sunset Bright Velvet Rag to use as a teaching tool because “I love the way it tears and the way it feels. It prints really nice.”

Sunset Bright Velvet Rag for Perfectly Distressed Edges

For Oklahoma photographer Kimberly Smith, 2017 was quite the year; not only did she take home a Sunset Print Award for her entry “The Beauty of Innocence” in the Southwest PPA regionals, but in February, she was presented with the 1st Place prize for the 2017 National Sunset Print Award at Imaging USA.

To create her signature style in these winning images, Smith uses LexJet Sunset Bright Velvet Rag 315g with distressed edges that create a fine art finish to her work.

In quite the follow-up to 2017, Smith won another Sunset Print Award in the 2018 Southwest PPA District, and she stepped to the head of the class for the first time to teach a group of students about the art of black-and-white photography … as well as her favorite deckled-edge finishing technique.

While preparing her curriculum, Smith wanted to include the distressed technique for her students. “I want to print out a few different images for them to practice tearing the edges,” she said. Of Sunset Bright Velvet Rag, she says “the thickness (of the paper) means the tears on the edges are perfect for a soft, multi-layered look.”

Sunset Bright Velvet Rag is a 20-mil thick (315g) 100% rag paper with a velvet surface. The bright white finish is the perfect complement to Smith’s preference for high-key black-and-white printing. “The cottony feel and thickness is what caught my attention and it prints beautifully,” she says.

With all the print competitions she does, it’s important that her prints stand up to being held, shipped and displayed all over the country. “Several of my images have been handled a lot, packed in print cases and shipped several times,” she says. “They come back looking the same.”

Bright Velvet Rag will continue to be part of Smith’s award-winning formula for a while. “It’s a beautiful product that I will continue using myself and highly recommend for others.”

If you are looking to give your photographs a fine-art finish, call your sales representative at 800-453-9538 to discuss LexJet Sunset Bright Velvet Rag 315g or visit us at lexjet.com.