When Stella Sherman went to bed at 11 p.m., she was in first place.
Her acrylic painting, “Tropical Rolling Waves,” had earned the most votes in ARTomania, an online art contest hosted by Fine Art America, an online marketplace and art community.
At 6:27 the next morning, Friday, March 11, after weeks of voting, the contest ended.
Out of 736 pieces of art submitted by 256 Fine Art America members, a painting by Sorin Apostolescu of Romania won first place, while Anna-Maria Dickinson of Canada took second. Though Sherman of Biddeford had slid down to third, she was excited for the recognition. It was the first online contest in which she had placed in the top three.
“It gives you exposure to other galleries, if they should ever want you,” Sherman said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “Especially if you win a contest, a lot of people are going to look at those finalists when they wouldn’t look at anyone else. There are thousands and thousands of artists on this site [as well as art collectors and gallery owners]. I never know where it’s going to take me.”
Sherman works mainly in acrylics, but she also paints in watercolor and oils and draws in graphite and charcoal. She stumbled upon the Fine Arts America website while searching for paintings online. She joined the community for free after the holiday season and got to work creating an artist profile and posting artwork. Now she pays a small annual fee so she can post more artwork, create galleries, link to her website and enter contests.
“I found that I was getting a lot of recognition from other artists,” said Sherman. “Every time I would add a painting, it would go on ‘new artwork’ [on the website’s main page] for a day and artists would see it and comment on my art. Then I’d go and comment on their art. It was an everyday thing to check.”
Sherman was born and raised in Milo. She has been interested in art her whole life, and has painted in Germany, Italy and Austria, and participated in the Sidewalk Art Festival in Bangor. But it wasn’t until 2003, at age 55, that she decided to make art her profession. She enrolled at the University of Maine in Orono to earn her bachelor’s degree in studio art.
Now living in Biddeford with her husband Chuck, she teaches art to young students, paints portraits and sells regional paintings in the form of greeting cards and prints at stores such as Rebecca’s and the gift shop at St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor. Her newest project is to create watercolor illustrations for a children’s book, “A Moose on Main Street” by Milo native Jean Hamlin.
One of her more-sought-after prints is of Bangor. One frigid January morning, she took photos from the fourth floor window of St. Joseph Hospital, where she used to work as a technician. From the photos, she painted “Bangor Sentinels at Dawn,” smoke stacks rising from the houses of downtown. The scene is painted on three pieces of canvas, creating a final piece that’s 22 inches high and 71 inches long. Sherman donated the painting to the hospital to be displayed at their conference building at 600 Broadway. She sells limited edition “Bangor Sentinels at Dawn” prints.
Sherman had kept her art within Maine borders. Fine Art America has changed that.
Some contests can only be voted on by members or are evaluated by judges, but this contest was open to the public, so Sherman called up her friends and family to vote for her painting. Her three daughters were among them.
Sherman just started submitting her paintings this month, and already has gained followers from being a finalist for all of the contests she has entered.
An artist from Poland selected Sherman for his “favorites” list, which means he is notified every time she puts up a new painting. And last week, she exchanged phone numbers with Anna-Maria Dickinson of Canada, who won second place in ARTomania. They spoke on the phone about their artwork and congratulated each other for their success.
The three finalists of the contest are allowed to enter their artwork into another contest, which has a prize of $30-$50.
“I’m not that excited about the money,” said Sherman, laughing. “I’m more excited about exposing my art to people who didn’t know my art was there.”