PleinAir Salon Contemporary oil paintings - John Whytock -
"Alley Kitty" by John Whytock, First Place Overall, PleinAir Salon April 2020

Congratulations to John Whytock (, whose work has been recognized in the PleinAir Salon, a bi-monthly art competition with many categories in which to enter your art. Whytock’s painting “Alley Kitty” (above) won First Place Overall in the April 2020 PleinAir Salon.

On the Oil Painting “Alley Kitty”

Every now and then, a scene will grab my attention, stop me in my tracks, and fill my mind and heart with wonder and admiration. For me, it’s usually a sunset, a mountain, a stormy sky or a beautiful face that draws me inexorably into it. But lately, I’ve been noticing alleys. There’s something honest and simple about alleys. Nothing is being sold, nothing is perfectly landscaped and everything meets – or has met in the past – a basic human need. An alley is the face behind the façade. It’s the backstage door where the mystique of the performer dissolves in the sodium vapor. Alleys are places where dark things are hidden in plain sight.

The alley in the painting “Alley Kitty” is right across the street from the Fresh Gallery in downtown Springfield, Missouri, in which I was a member for a while. It grabbed my attention and held it on many a First Friday Art Walk evening. Ultimately, it was the light that caused me to want to paint it. I couldn’t resist the challenge of attempting to render the amber of the street lamps reflecting off the red brick and the mysterious color of the night sky.

I sketched the buildings en plein air, painted samples of the sky color, and finally took photos before I started the actual oil on linen painting. I finished it in about 10 days. But when done, it was missing something. It was too cold and uninviting. I added the kitty walking out of the alley. That didn’t work, either. I turned my little friend around and headed him back into the alley, adding just the right attitude to confidently traverse a scary place at night and invite the viewer to tag along.

The most difficult part of the painting was maintaining the perspective on the bricks in the opposing walls. The diffusion of the light was also very challenging. Thank goodness I was working in oils. That kind of gradation would have been impossible with acrylics (short of using an airbrush). I faked the kitty – lots of fun. I’m grateful I had gotten the color of the night sky, as it was so unusual.

The PleinAir Salon competition really gives us something to shoot for. The caliber of art that has been submitted is some of the best in the world. It is quite an achievement to be a finalist, as the judges the publishers employ are world class. I encourage any artist who believes their art is of similar quality to enter. You may be as surprised as I was when you walk away with a first place.

Additional Oil Paintings by John Whytock:

Contemporary oil paintings - John Whytock -
John Whytock, “Little Girl And Big Boy 4014,” Oil on Belgian linen, 20 x 16 in.
Contemporary oil paintings - John Whytock -
John Whytock, “I See Hawks in J.T.,” Oil on Belgian linen, 20 x 16 in.
Contemporary oil paintings - John Whytock -
John Whytock, “In for the Night,” Oil on Belgian linen, 16 x 20 in.
Contemporary oil paintings - John Whytock -
John Whytock, “Missouri Summer,” Oil on Belgian linen, 16 x 20 in.
Contemporary oil paintings - John Whytock -
John Whytock, “Wapiti Wolf Pack at Old Faithful,” Oil on Belgian linen, 40 x 30 in.
Contemporary oil paintings - John Whytock -
John Whytock, “The Writer,” Oil on Belgian linen, 18 x 24 in.
John Whytock, “Calm Morning in Chioggia,” Oil on Belgian linen, 20 x 16 in.

Why should a contemporary realist enter the PleinAir Salon?

Because this art contest is created by PleinAir magazine, which features not only plein air paintings, but also studio paintings, all types of paintings are eligible and do not need to have been completed in plein air, but should originate from a plein air study or plein air experience. As we know, many studio paintings start with plein air sketches. Our interest is in rewarding great paintings.

PleinAir Salon art competition

The PleinAir Salon awards $27,000 in CASH each year! Learn more at, and enter your best work for your chance to win this art competition. Enter now – the next deadline is coming soon!

Enter Now

If you’ve never entered, it only takes a couple of minutes to create your own account. Once you do that, just upload the images of your best work and select the categories you wish to enter – very manageable to do!

All of our awards are CASH, with the grand prize winner getting called up on stage at the Convention & Expo to claim their check for $15,000. That grand prize winner will also have their winning painting featured on the cover of PleinAir magazine (can it get any better?).

There are smaller cash awards, too, and you can find out all about them here. Remember, even if a previous judge did not select your painting, our current judge just might find it to be a winner!

Related Article > Painting and the Search for Excellence

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