Color. That’s what Tim Judge was looking for when he went to his garage last year to select a painting from his collection for the 2018 MetroScapes contest that features local artwork in bus shelters around the St. Louis metro area.
When he saw the jar of sunflowers, he knew that was the one to enter.
“I thought it would make people smile as they were waiting for the bus,” said Judge, a retired AT&T executive who has lived in Washington for the last several years. “I thought it should be something simple with bright colors, to cheer people up.”
Noah Ennis, an 18-year-old senior at St. Francis Borgia Regional High School, didn’t have to go looking for color in his collection of abstract acrylic pour paintings. They are covered with it, literally.
Ennis, son of Lynn and Curt Ennis, Union, selected three of his paintings to enter in the 2018 MetroScapes contest, each with a different color combination. The one that he had originally begun as a tribute to SFBRHS with blue and gold paint ended up being the one that caught the judges’ eyes.
Ennis and Judge were among the 10 winners selected in the contest, which drew 175 submissions.
A program of Metro Arts in Transit, MetroScapes is now in its fourth year. Along with Ennis and Judge, winners included a couple of fourth- and a fifth-grade students from Jefferson Elementary School in North St. Louis and six others whose experience as artists range from less than one year to decades.
Their artwork was put on posters that have been installed at more than 200 MetroBus shelters in the St. Louis region and will remain on display all year. Additionally, each winner also received three posters of their artwork and a cash prize of $1,000.
David Allen, director of Metro Arts in Transit and one of the jurors on a panel of artists and art professionals that selected the 10 winners, noted that he really loves the variety among the 10 pieces ultimately selected this year after a diligent review process.
“I look for work that is thought provoking and somewhat unusual. I try to put myself in the role of a transit rider, sitting in a shelter and thinking ‘What would I like to see?’ ” said Allen. “The program continually brings surprise to the transit system.”
Began Painting Last March
Images he had seen of acrylic pour paintings on social media inspired Ennis to try creating his own last March. He had never taken a painting class before, and his only formal art classes were Intro to Art and pottery, both taken at school.
Ennis’ technique is simple and he works fast. Each painting takes him only about 15 minutes to complete, although he usually works on four to 10 paintings at a time. It takes more time to get everything set up to work and then to let the paintings dry than to create them.
“I just pour paint on the canvas. I don’t use a brush,” he said, noting he uses his mom’s old hair dryer to move the paint around. “It depends on how you pour it on what styles you can get.
“The hardest part is getting the paint ratios right. I pour paint on the canvas in a certain pattern and use the hair dryer to fade it out and get the effect I want.”
Working out of his dad’s shed, Ennis needs only a few tools to create his paintings. He use two long tables — one where he creates the paintings, and another where they dry — as well as plastic cups from which he pours the paint and finally, the old hair dryer. He prefers to work on canvases that are either 11- by-14 or 16-by-20 inches.
Ennis learned about the MetroScapes contest from Borgia’s art teacher, Kelly Mantle. He had gone to her to ask some advice on his paintings and also about places where he might be able to sell them. He and a friend, Ana Rembecki, who makes traditional paintings, had registered for a booth at the popular Union Middle School craft fair held in November, but he was looking for more opportunities.
Many fairs and outlets required participants to be 21 or older, Ennis noted.
With less than a year of painting under his belt, Ennis has already experienced success from his artwork. In addition to winning the MetroScapes contest, he also has sold quite a few. At the Union Middle School craft fair alone, he sold nearly 20 of his paintings.
“I think it’s just becoming the new style,” said Ennis of this acrylic pour paintings. “I’ve seen them on art pages more and more. I think a lot of people are drawn to them because of how they look. They each have their own look, their own style, and you can put them pretty much anywhere and you can hang them however you want.”
The painting that was chosen for the MetroScapes contest was intended to be a Borgia-themed painting, but the yellow blended too much with the blue and created too much green. He named it “Sandy Shores” because the yellow and blue arrangements looked like a sandy beach with ocean water.
Ennis said he has created some paintings that incorporate logos, and he is planning to donate one to the upcoming SFBRHS dinner auction. He also has created acrylic pour paintings on old records and on wooden boards instead of canvases.
To date, he’s made close to 90 paintings.
“They’re a lot of fun to make them,” Ennis remarked. “A lot of people in the contest had heard of this style of painting and wanted to do it, they just had never tried it because they didn’t know how to.”
Despite his artistic success, Ennis isn’t planning for a career in art. His goal is to become a veterinarian. Painting is just a hobby.
“I always loved art and wanted to try it, but I want to go into animal science,” he said. “This is just a little side gig that I can do. My friends come over and paint with me. They all want to try to do this, so I teach them, and they take the canvas home for themselves.”
Ennis has put his $1,000 cash prize into savings to help pay for college. He’s currently still deciding between Mizzou and Truman State. Either way, Ennis said he plans to continue painting. He finds it relaxing.
For more information on Ennis’ paintings, people can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Retirement Provides Time to Paint
Since retiring three years ago, Judge has converted a spare bedroom in his home just outside of Washington into an art studio set up for painting.
Art has long been an interest for Judge, but until retirement, he never had the time to devote to it. Throughout his life, he had done sketches and done little things here and there, but never gave it too much attention.
“I liked creating something like that — ‘This is mine, I did this,’ ” he remarked, recalling how he created charcoal sketches of each of the four members of the Beatles using portraits that came with the band’s “White Album.”
“Once you get into painting, you have to invest in all the brushes, the paints, the canvases, all of that,” said Judge.
Now he typically spends several hours each day in his studio painting, working a couple of hours in the morning and then maybe a couple more in the afternoon, but never more than four hours in a day.
“I started with acrylics, but I was drawn to oils. Everything I do now is in oil,” said Judge. “They are more forgiving, I always say. I can go in with a rag and wipe it off if I don’t like it. Acrylics, if you wait 10 minutes, it’s dry. So I prefer the oils.”
Judge grew up in Jennings and went to West Point Academy right out of high school. He served a decade or more in the Army Signal Corps, from the mid-70s to the mid-80s, and afterward took a job with AT&T.
“Nothing was ever related to art,” said Judge. “I waited and waited and waited. I’ve always wanted to do this.
“Between leaving the Army and my first job, I was a stay-at-home dad, and my daughter would get off the bus around noon, when Bob Ross (‘The Joy of Painting’) would come on TV. We’d sit there watching Bob Ross every day, and I just started getting interested.
“It was so soothing, like you weren’t afraid to make a mistake,” Judge recalled with a smile.
These days, Judge finds YouTube videos helpful in learning how to achieve a certain detail or color in his paintings.
Judge looks for places to sell his artwork, but that’s not the reason he does it.
“I don’t know what I would do with my time if I wasn’t doing this,” he said. “I’d be downstairs staring at the TV for hours.”
Painting, although it doesn’t keep him physically active, engages his brain, which is vital now that he’s retired.
“You are continuallly learning, and the more you do it, you get quicker at it and your mind has the opportunity to look a little deeper and notice more,” said Judge.
In an effort to be even more active and engaged, he’d like to try his hand at standing while he paints, rather than sitting down. He uses a dowel rod to steady his hand as he paints.
Judge searches the internet to get ideas of what to paint, scrolling through images in the public domain, or he paints something from a photo that he takes with his smartphone. The piece he is working on now is a street scene of New York City that he found online.
“I like the contrast,” he said, “the bright lights against the dark.”
He also has done half a dozen or more pet portraits in the last year.
Judge is a member of several art groups, including the St. Louis Artists Guild, the Crossroads Art Council in Wentzville and Best of Missouri Hands. Those connections have helped him in creating his art and finding outlets to sell it.
The MetroScapes contest, however, he found on his own through a search on the internet.
He currently has about 20 of his paintings for sale in the Artisans on Main shop in Downtown Washington.
Judge, who has created around 70 paintings over the last few years, finds that his hobby is keeping him busier and busier these days. He started out three years ago creating one or two a month, but now finds that he’s creating one a week.
That generates a lot of art, he said, with a smile.
Ideally, Judge said he would like to sell all of his paintings, but he will continue to paint them regardless. He just enjoys it too much.
Other MetroScapes Winners
“Cakes” — by Eliyah Grimes-Jackson, a fourth-grader at Jefferson Elementary School who has been drawing since she was just 1. It was inspired from a book her art teacher, Theresa Hopkins, told the class to look through.
“I was like, ooh, I should do this, because almost everybody in the world likes cakes,” said Grimes-Jackson.
“Maya Angelou” — a vibrantly colored portrait of the American poet, singer and civil rights activist by Tyler Carlis, a fifth-grader at Jefferson Elementary School.
“Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” — by Samuel Avery, St. Louis, features a vivid koi fish, celebrating the resiliency of the koi, which is known for swimming upstream against all odds, even being known to swim up waterfalls as if no mission is impossible.
“Hand” — by Rachel Linn, St. Louis, underscores the importance of the role our hands have in everything from daily tasks and communication to affection and art.
“Ducklings” — by Joyce McClain, Barnhart, a two-time winner in the MetroScapes program, was created by replicating an image in a photograph using water soluble oils to create the life-like baby ducks with feathers viewers will almost want to touch.
“Happy Party Hamster” — by Rosa Nevarez, St. Louis, another two-time winner.
“Letter Bending 1” — by Erik Thompson, Wildwood, is part of a series exploring the art of text and reflects Thompson’s interest in literacy and penmanship in the modern digital age.
For more information about MetroScapes, and to view this year’s winners and selected artwork from previous MetroScapes, visit artsintransit.org.
MetroScapes is supported by funding from the Regional Arts Commission.
Metro Transit operates the St. Louis region’s public transportation system which includes 400 clean-burning diesel buses that serve 83 MetroBus routes in eastern Missouri and southwestern Illinois. Metro also operates MetroLink light-rail vehicles on 46 miles of track serving 38 stations in the two-state area, and operates Metro Call-A-Ride, a paratransit fleet of 122 vans. Metro Transit is one of five enterprises operated by Bi-State Development.