Challenges 2022 – 2023

2023 – December Challenge Coming Home – Juror: Nan Raphael

First off Happy New Year..I hope you all had a great holiday season.
This was a really tough call for me to make especially not being a competent critic of artistic technique in mediums I don’t work in. . What I really like about all of my choices is that the theme of Coming Home had very different interpretations.

First place goes to Elin for Ella and Alma her beautifully executed water color of two very important people in her life that are no longer with us. As Elin points out, home is where there’s love. I also loved her Home Before Dark..the beautiful winter scene as the sun is about to set.

Second place Erin Thompson for her detailed and beautiful rendering of a dog waiting outside on the porch for it’s owner. theres nothing like a happy dog waiting for the owner returning home after a long day’s work or other outing.

Third place to Karen Cohen for her haunting photo collage of Bride Ghost.

Honorable mention to- Debbie Sease- for It Won’t be Long…a beloved tree that marked for her that she’s in the final stretch toward home.

Stay well and warm, Nan

2023 – November Challenge Me, My, Mine – Juror: Elin Whitney-Smith

This turned out to be a difficult challenge since only 5 artists submitted entries. They are all personal which makes them even more wonderful. Since they are personal and “heart challenging” I have included one submission from each artist. Other than the assignment of first all the others are in no particular order.

First prize goes to Nan Raphael’s “In my shadow” it express both that a dog is in one’s shadow and also acts as a shadow following and looking for what one is doing.

In many cases a dog serves as a second self which is also the theme of the paper box by Karen Zens. The medium and the subject are both reflection of the artist’s life during COVID and an homage to the dog Shamus.

Jane Mann’s “Ancestors”  The deed superimposed on the photo of the land reflects the theme in both that we are shaped by those who have gone before and their ties to their place and the life it imposes.

Ancestors shape us and we shape our children this is expressed in “Photographer’s Assistant”,  by David Mann – thus there is a continuity of what constitutes My, Me, Mine.

This sense of continuity is also expressed in “3 Rings” by Marilyn Saks-McMillion. Her wedding ring, an anniversary ring and a gift from her aging parent symbols of continuous love.

This challenge has been challenging to write and think about. It was, as it was surely meant to be, a source of self examination and reflection. 

2023 – October Challenge Fantasy – Juror: Steve Kunin

“Some of the submissions work so well together that I considered them as diptychs.
Worth mentioning:
Elin Whitney-Smith’s “Wolves Howling at the Moon” and “Alma and the Pups Wandering North….” Beautiful watercolors of a fantastical world. The best interpretation and rendering of the challenge, “Fantasy”.
Karen Zen’s “Fantasy” and “Fantasy #2” A wonderful pair of beautifully crafted 3D collages. They look to me like the life-fire that burns day (the orange background) and night (the blue background).
Marilyn Saks-McMillion’s “Shangri-La in Morning MIst”. A photograph of an atmospheric dreamy scene. Was it edited in post processing? Is that the view that the camera recorded or is it a landscape born from your imagination?
Nan Raphael”s “It’s a Fantasy to Hope for Unity”. An inspirational strong graphic image that would work well for a poster or T-shirt.

And the winner is…..
Elin Whitney-Smith’s “Wolves Howling at the Moon” and “Alma and the Pups Wandering North …”

Congratulations to the winners and thank you all for participating!

2023 – September Challenge Music and Poetry – Jurors: Karin Edgett and Camille Kouyoumdjian

Here are the winners of our September monthly challenge “Music and Poetry”.
First Place
Jazz Man by Steve Kunin

Honorable Mentions
Fern Hill by Elin Whitney Smith
All That Jazz by Victoria Lakes

2023 -August Challenge It’s Only Natural — Juror: Steve Mabley

To the participants in the August Monthly Challenge “It’s Only Natural“, thank-you for your participation and your artistic work! 
So, after much reflection and self-deliberation, I have the following report of which works most resonated with this juror’s aesthetic senses.

Technological Media
3rd Place: “On the Edge”, digital photograph by Jane Mann
The desolate mountainous landscape was a study in neutrals that seemed to be dramatically ruptured by the bolt of darkness presented by the deadwood and it’s shadow.
2nd Place: Digitally altered photograph from a trip to Maui several years ago by Nan Raphael.
The silhouette of a tropical shoreline overlain with another dimension of colored texture .
1st Place“Consciousness newly arranged by the light of orange nasturtium flower” by Karin Edgett
The mechanically altered capture of a flower produced a contemporary impressionist swath of colors allowing the viewer some choices on how to reassemble and reperceive the subject.

Hand-marked media
3rd Place: “Summer Garden”, by Karen Zens
The assembled construction suggests layers and intersecting spaces among the flowers of the garden.
2nd Place: “Little Falls Stream”, oil on canvas by Ken Bachman
A dreamy soft and calming space by a creek invites quiet reflection.
1st Place: “Still Standing”, collage on paper by Camille Kouyoumdjian
The layers and tiers of color and textures invoke a summer landscape inviting the viewer to wander.

Congratulations to all for your efforts!

2023 – July Challengs Signs of Patriotism – Juror – Jim Huttinger

First Place:”Finish the Job!” by Steve Mabley. The first amendment of the US Constitution grants us “freedom of speech and the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Second Place: “Capitol Hill vibrant neighboring rowhouses with UK, US and Ukraine flags” by Marilyn Saks-McMillion. US and UK’s exhibits patriotism in supporting Ukraine’s protection of its democratic freedoms

Third Place: “Icon” by Jane Mann. The military oath of enlistment “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”

Congratulations to all the winners and thank you everyone for participating!

2023 – June Challenge Black and White – Juror – Elin Whitney-Smith

Black and White proved to be a very popular theme which made picking winners very difficult. As it is I couldn’t narrow it down to three. I did manage to get it to four.

First Place:

Jim Huttinger’s “15 & L Street NW WDC” black and white Analogue Photo.
I loved the Escher/Hogwarts feel of this photo. My eye goes from walkway to reflection and back again. I especially like how the topmost walkway is continued in the reflection of the second walkway. And the reflection of the building connects the reflection the lowest walkway to the top walkway reflection. I also appreciated how the lights inside the building echoed the stripes in the railings of the walkways and looks like a ladder that might lead somewhere else entirely.
Nice noticing nice photo.

Honorable Mentions in no particular order:

Steve Kunin’s “Tree Abstract” (digital photo) gives me the same kind of feel as Jim’s photo but with a more “organic” focus. I am free to follow the maze of branches at will. There is also a nice crisp way that the black background makes the fine detail of the tree stand out.

Rosa Vera’s “Jigsaw” The concentration of the people comes across and their connection over the puzzle at hand. I like to think they are father and daughter. The father perhaps getting past it and the daughter finding things to that they can do together. The somberness of the black and white palette adds to my sense of ending whereas the light coming in illuminating the table and the people gives the piece lightness and perhaps love.

Karen Zens’ – “Cataclysm” mixed media collage: Though Cataclysm suggests destruction there is also hope in this work. The black strips look like the ashes of a cleansing fire and the net and the ruffled edges suggest a wedding – hope and love coming out of destruction



2023 – Challenge Flights of Fancy – Juror – Kathleen Zeifang

This month’s challenge provided the opportunity to interpret “flights” as
ascending movement, creatures adapted to flying, and perhaps aerial visions.
It also provided freedom to interpret “fancy”, something perhaps humorous
or otherworldly. A wonderful range of creative pieces were submitted for this challenge. It was difficult to choose only three for awards from this group of very talented CHAL members.

First Place
Starry, Starry Night and Sunset by Elin Whitney-Smith is a bold interpretation of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. The deep blue/black in the foreground juxtaposes against the fiery sunset traveling over the middle of the photographic image. The use of watercolor in delicate star patterns bleeding into the sky is highlighted by the thin swirling lines bringing the upper sky close overhead as the sunset retreats. The reflection of the stars into the water finished the composition by bringing the movement in the air into the other moving body, the water. This is a work to contemplate.

Honorable Mention
Morning Yoga by Alexandra Treadaway-Hoare. This watercolor painting exudes uplifting movement and joy in the dance of this bird, wings extended, head pointed to the sky, one leg causing a ripple as it leaves the water to take flight. The happy mood is enhanced by the sparkle of the fanciful stars coupled with fresh but spare brushstrokes of bright colors overlapping one-another in the water and marshland. The whole painting is a Flight of Fancy.

Honorable Mention
The unnamed photo by Julie Byrne captures seven seagulls traversing from the dome of the US Capitol Building. There is an ominous quality to the scene as the birds fly toward us, the viewers. The gull on the left squawking at the others. Are they escaping political turbulence? The muted atmosphere, barren tree limbs and flag at half mast suggests that might be the case.

Congratulations to all the winners and thank you all for participating!

2023 – April Challenge Construction Deconstruction – Juror Camille Kouyoumdjian

First Place: “Origami Gone Wild”, by Kathleen Zeifang

This painting really intrigued me as soon as I saw it. Achieving such energy through use of line and color harmony is no easy feat. I admire the workmanship that went into the planning and execution of this beautiful work of art. Like an architectural design, it must have required planning from the ground up: design and placement of the “bones” and structure, carefully taping and painting each angle, and time for drying in between. I imagine it came together, and was “constructed” layer by layer. I can see how it resembles an 3-D origami structure, with its intersecting folds and planes.

Honorable Mention: “Rooftops”, photomontage by Jane Mann
This photo captures some key principles of painting and bridges the artistic divide between photography and painting. The shapes of the rooftops and some windows are enhanced with straight and squiggly lines, which reveal the basic shapes of the buildings. When painting, we’re often told to find the geometry in the subject matter, whether it’s a traditional landscape, figure, or abstract concept. This image deconstructs the architecture and in so doing, becomes art.

Honorable Mention:”Islamic Doors”, paper construction by Karen Zens
I love the intricacy of the 3-D design. I wish I could touch it and explore the many “doors” in person. Within each “room” there are more hidden gems to explore. Its constructed walls and ceiling are left open, allowing the viewer to enter and exit from many angles. Each room is different, painted with intricate designs. Deconstructed, each could stand on its own as a design.

2023 – March Challenge – Oceans of… – Juror: Karen Cohen

Thank you Jane Mann for choosing my photograph Memories for last month’s challenge. I have always loved Jane Mann’s photographs. We both love to digitally manipulate our photos. Jane’s In the Depth photograph montage is a deep ocean blue with mysterious shapes and a background of peeling paint… Amazing as always, Jane. That image stopped me in my tracks but I decided that Jane had won a prior month’s challenge and I would move along to the other images. She does get a “special mention award”!

  • First Place: Camille Kouyoumdjian’s Raging Spring. Camille’s use of poured acrylic paint hit the mark on this ocean theme perfectly. The sky, the water, the land are divided into 3 sections and the paint roars on the right side in a big wave of all 3 colors. The motion is the ocean! This is a winning work of art  that I would love to see in person.
  • Second Place: Steve Kunin’s Olympic National Park. This is a panoramic photograph with contrasting orange skies and sand against the turquoise blue ocean. Serene and powerful. Don’t you just want to set up a beach chair and watch the tide go in and out as the sun descends? I do. 
    Gorgeous, Steve! Steve is another one of CHAL’s amazing photographers. His travels have taken him all over the globe. I read he has a solo show at Dr. Halim’s right on Capitol Hill on 6th Street. I hope you all stroll over there, a great neighborhood where I bet all the spring trees are blooming (my old neighborhood), take in Steve’s wondrous photographs there. The receptions at Dr. Halim’s are always fun, too, scheduled for April 21. 
  • Third Place goes to  artwork, unnamed by Steve Mabley, a brand new member of CHAL. Welcome Steve! Silhouetted figures stroll the beach as one person stops to take in the beautiful sunrise/sunset over the ocean. The yellow/orange sky has that glow that is hard to capture with paint but Steve has done it! Congrats Steve. 
    You will love being engaged in the artworld with CHAL. 

Thanks to all who entered March’s challenge and I can’t wait to see April’s submission. 

Keep Creating!
Karen Cohen/photoartist

2023 – February Challenge – Memories – Juror: Jane Mann

Fellow Artists, I want to thank all the entrants for their wonderful interpretations of their “memories”.

  • Winner: I congratulate Karen Cohen for her digital photograph, Memories. The monochromatic colors with just a hint of blue, especially in the eyes of the doll, allow the textural elements to stand out. They look like neurons allowing our brains to capture and recall memories. The cardboard box that holds these memories gives the image a twist of humor.
  • Honorable mention: Carolyn Rondthaler’s Bluebird with Cruet Set is a charming reminder that “things” can have real importance in returning us to a cherished event or person. Again the neutral and blue colors are soothing. The outlines of the subject make me reflect that, although we say some memories are crystal clear, they become less substantial each time we retrieve them.
  • Honorable mention: Karen Zens gives us Roma. I can’t help but think that anyone who has been in love with or in a location will always treasure both the place and the time. The individual images were well executed. The little windows were a perfect metaphor for recollections shut away until opened.

Thank you again, Jane

2023 – January Challenge – Deep Midwinter – Juror: Carolyn Rondthaler

These are my choices for recognition in the January Challenge.

  • First—Jane Mann for “Village Cemetery.” I think this best fit the theme of “Deep Mid-Winter” and it is an excellent composition with a good range of values. It gives me the chills to look at it.
  • Second—Steve Moen for his collage with the “cuppa.” I didn’t see a title, but it definitely conveyed the warmth of being inside and maybe enjoying the time with a friend
  • Third–Victoria Lakes for “Walk on the Brooklyn Bridge.” The subject looks very cold and very determined and the setting is memorable
  • Honorable Mention–Ken Bachman. I didn’t see a title, but Ken’s work is always strong. It is a good composition and strong colors
  • Honorable Mention–Steve Moen for the haiku paired with the painting. Very creative..”gathered on the Bough….”

I hadn’t realized how hard it would be to choose as all of the entries were interesting. It was fun, though, to take a good look.

2022 – December Challenge – Holliday Spirit – Juror: Ken Bachman

There are many entries that capture the spirit of the holidays making it hard to narrow down to a few choices, but here are mine:

  • First Carolyn Rondthaler Ukrainian Snowgirl (#1)
  • Second David Mann Milk and Honey
  • Third Karen Zens Watercolor Sketch
  • Honorable mentions for GS Moen and Deb Hurtt

2022 -November Challenge – Feast — Juror: Parisa Parsafar


Here are the winners from the “Feast” challenge. Thank you all for participating and sharing your work. Special thanks to our juror, Parisa Parsafar, for taking the time to select each piece and sharing her insights. Read below for her choices and remarks-

Congratulations to the winners!


2022 – October Challenge – Crossroads — Juror: Steve Kunin

As usual there were plenty of good images to choose from. In my judging I leaned slightly more to the idea of “being at the crossroads”; having to make a choice between two or more options rather than an image of a physical crossroads.

With that in mind I have honored the following submissions:

  • 1 st place: “Gauging Potentials” by Parisa Parsafar. I was attracted to the lines, colors, and shapes. It’s a very graphic image that can be taken in at once and explored in more detail with further inspection.
  • 2nd place: “Junction” by Gregg Adams. The image has captured the action of the moving train at the intersection of two metro lines. Conversion to black and white was a wise choice. This one did fit more into the category of a physical crossroad or intersection. (OK, so I have not been entirely consistent.}
  • 3rd place: “Crossroads Labyrinth” by Carole Rondthaler. Nicely conceived and colored. I had some fun tracing the path to the center of the labyrinth and out again. Very engaging. The image is probably more impressive in person since it utilized metallic pen.
  • Merit: “Untitled, 30” x 30” by Tom Chabolla. An extremely simple image. Although there is only one road leading into the distance, I can imagine someone on that road struggling with the decision to continue along that road into the unknown or to turn around and go back to safety. “

2022 – September Challenge – Juror: Rosa Vera

“Color field is characterized primarily by large fields of flat, solid color spread across or stained into the canvas creating areas of unbroken surface and a flat picture plane. The movement places less emphasis on gesture, brushstrokes and action in favor of an overall consistency of form and process. In color field painting “color is freed from objective context and becomes the subject in itself” (“Themes in American Art: Abstraction, National Gallery of Art.)”
Many of the submissions were about color and I took this into account in selecting the pieces for the September show. All of the pieces were beautiful, full of lush colors.
First place is Steve Kunin’s “Lifeguard Station, Venice, CA”
It is the colors and their placement that make the composition.
For second place, breaking away from the definition above, I choose Ken Bachman’s piece “Wildflowers”,
which is literally a field filled with lilacs.
Finally, for third place, Jane Mann’s “Swirl.”
which is an abstraction full of colors.

2022 – August Challenge – Nocturnal — Juror: Amy Bandel

“It was really hard to select a winner, so much good work was entered this month.

  • Winner
  • My selection for the winner is Night Visitor by Rosa Vera.<>It captures the colors, shadows and textures of night, along with the watery feel that light has in the dark.

  • Honorable mentions
  • The Riva Ends A’tween Two Hills by Elin Whitney-Smith.
    I like the colors, textures and patterned brush stokes. There is a spiritedness and vivacity that helps tell the story.
  • Moon Glow by Tara Hamilton
    shows the weight of darkness and shut off places that are their own world.
  • Taxi by Steve Kunin
  • is a bold image that stays in your head. Although just a taxi storefront, you think about the rest of the night that leads you to just eeding a taxi home.

2022 – July Challenge — American Landscape — Juror: Elin Whitney Smith

Morgan Run Trail — Acrylic paint by Amy Bandel
I love the contrast between swaths of color and fine line. I like the choice of colors especially the hint of purple at the edges. The whole piece works together so that I want to follow the trail.

Honorable mentions in no particular order;
La Verguenza, street in Puerto Rico — Photograph by Maria Helena Carey

This is wonderful for the color, the hint of what lies beyond – up the street/alley. And the flag reminds us that Puerto Rico is part of the American Landscape.

Mountain Majesty — alcohol ink by Karen Cohen
Liveliness! A fresh look at what mountains might be and might symbolize. It made me smile as soon as I saw it.

Monumental Beauty — encaustic painting by Anne Stine
Since I also dream and visit Maine I was instantly drawn to it but what made it special was the bubbles in the foam around the rocks combined that transitions to the sunset in a wonderful way.

All the artists who submitted work are doing wonderful work. It was a pleasure to see them all.

2022 – June Challenge – Duality —Juror: Nan Raphael

“Thank you to all who contributed to June’s Monthly challenge-Duality.

1st place- Elin Whitney’s Yin Yang Duality–was best (in my mind) in the literal sense. In addition to the contrasting colors the detail in the dragons..the texture of their skin, their faces effectively reflected the theme..not to mention the technical skill in creating this work.

2nd Erin Thompson’s Presence and Absence–tribute to her dad show masterful skill with pen and ink as well as the duality of something tangible that is a reminder of him in his absence.

3rd Martina Sestakovas Rupture–just with 2 of the three colors of the American Flag with white as neutrality, red being bold screams the horrors that our country has faced with all the shootings, Jan 6th etc.

Thank you to all who contributed and have a wonderful, artful summer.

2022 – May Challenge – Climate Change – Juror: Rosa Vera

The choices for this month were difficult to make. I wanted to take into account the climate change theme as well as the work itself.

First of all, let me thank all of you that entered for thinking about this theme and submitting.

My first choice is Nan Raphael’s @solopikolo digital photograph, “World on Fire,” both for successfully portraying the theme and also for the piece’s composition. The light and dark values make my eye move around the entire photograph. The colors are stark.

My second choice is Martin Rundle’s @district.gesture “Dwelling,” The beauty of the ruins amidst the traces of an ancient river on the cliff face are strong reminders of climate change. His description of the drought problem and that of water rights of the Navajos bring the climate change to the present.

And finally, Rifat Taher’s @rif_sultana beautiful book cover, “Floating Words,” makes us reflect on what is happening to our rivers and oceans. The text is placed so well in the composition, it appears to fall from the hand, too.

2022 – April Challenge – Spring Fever – Juror: Kate McConnell

Spring is invigorating in many ways and the wonderful submissions reflected an aspect of this promising season.
For first place
Rosa Vera’s piece
Not only does the plethora of hues suggest the overwhelming sense of the spring ’s activity, it’s unique composition coupled with the painterly quality of marks, makes this an impressionable painting , a forest of spring.
Second:, Martin Rundle’s “Spring Break / Fever” photograph.
The composition and light is in prefect balance in this wide view. The unpredictable nuance of Spring is captured in this image, a necessary quality to Spring … when one is in short sleeves one day to only be in a snow squall the following day. When the balance of season’s is on the tip of one’s fingers… beckoning to stay.

And – Anne Stine’s “Family Tree”.
Anne’s incentive to paint this piece is symbolic for many of us who reside in Washington DC, the arrival of the Cherry Blossoms and their countdown is a rite of passage, marking the arrival of Spring.

2022 – March Challenge Great Women Artists — Juror: Jane Mann

Thanks to everyone for the wonderful entries making judging its own challenge. I appreciated the fact that not only world-famous artists were named but also women who are currently spreading the joy of making art. It also gave me the opportunity to discover new artists I may not have yet become familiar with. Elin Whitney-Smith’s story was probably familiar to many of us. We can remember that moment when our work was first recognized and praised. Sadly many people have been discouraged by the criticism or lack of interest of teachers or peers.
Here are my selections:
Challenge Winner: Kate McConnell, Mary Oliver Meets Rachel Carson. These two women have made their names synonymous with the love of and study of nature. The dynamic brushwork immediately made me think of the fraught meeting between humans and nature but could also show the positive energy that nature can inspire.
Honorable Mention: Martin Rundle, Joan Mitchell in Conversation with Donald Judd. I loved the juxtaposition of Mitchell’s colorful, passionate style framed by the very cerebral style of Judd. And the reflection and the title!
Elin Whitney-Smith: Sun, Moon and Stars. The movement, details, vibrant colors, diagonal composition and our one tiny ancestor captured the newly created earth for me.

2022 – February Challenge: I Have a Dream — Juror: Elin Whitney-Smith

The art was wonderful and diverse for the “I Have a Dream” challenge. After I made my choices, I realized that I too must be missing travel since two of the selections reference travel. My dream is that we all can again feel safe to travel, hug, eat together, go to art shows, receptions, and museums, visit one another freely, learn and grow.
For best in show
Jane Mann’s “The Traveler’s Dream” For me it evoked the feeling of a dream that is just out of reach. The purple and red give the work a mournful quality which contrasts with the gold of hope and, if you will, salvation.
She writes:
“This photomontage was created during the first COVID shutdown when travel to wonderful places like Cordoba was banned.”
For honorable mention
“Dream Landscape“, encaustic on wood panel by Anne Stine. The colors and textures and especially the little bubbles and golden foreground give this work its’ dreamlike quality. It makes me want to sail into it.
“MLK Memorial” by Julie Byrne. This work shows the child arrested in his walk by the sight of the sculpture though his mother seems to want him to move on. Mothers dream great dreams for their children. King’s short and heroic life make him a difficult role model for a child. We want our children to be heroes, but we also want them to be safe. The composition, the use of black and white, and the sculpture itself present a possibly disturbing dream.

2022 – January Challenge: Weather or Not — Juror: Ken Bachman

“There were many excellent and enjoyable entries this month so choosing winners was quite difficult, but these stood out for me:
First Place: Elin Whitney-Smith for Fog on the Marsh (and 4pm Maine)
Second Place: Nan Rafael for Convergence (and Kentucky Avenue)
Honorable Mentions:
Jane Mann for Winter Garden
Hernan Murno for Storm on the Water
All of these works demonstrated artistic excellence in composition fulfilling the theme and in execution. Congratulations all.”