Thom Bierdz
10 min readDec 5, 2019

Painters, photographers, sculptors and digital artists from 63 countries competed in the most prestigious online art call, AMERICAN ART AWARDS, https://www.americanartawards.com/, where America’s 25 best galleries and museums score art in 50 categories. In this column, I’ll reveal the world’s best contemporary artists of 2019 one category at a time.

There are so many brilliant works entered that America’s top 25 galleries and museums have a hard time deciding, consequently many phenomenal pieces do not get enough votes to be winners — however the featured works in this article received the most votes and won 1st to 6th Place in the 2019 AMERICAN ART AWARDS. Congratulations to all these artists for scoring above the stiff competition.

BIO OF 1ST PLACE WINNER MICHAEL WILLIAMS: owner of a healthcare-related business in Phoenix, Arizona / became interested in digital art about 11 years ago after several years of using Photoshop on his own photos. As time went on, he found he wanted to achieve a more painterly look than was possible with the art brushes found in Photoshop.

“I found that painting with Corel Painter was not only satisfying from a creative standpoint but a tremendous stress-reliever for me after a busy day. As more sophisticated versions of the software became available year by year, I found that I was able to achieve results very close to what could be achieved using traditional media.”

A graduate of Arizona State University, Michael evidently inherited his passion for painting from his mother, a skilled oil painter who always used traditional media. “I am hoping someday to find a business niche utilizing my art skills — possibly providing high-caliber painted portraits to photographers who wish to offer their clients an adjunct product to their photographic masterpieces. I am most grateful to AMERICAN ART AWARDS for the honor of a first place tie in the Digital Art (Representational) category.”


BIO OF 1ST PLACE WINNER: Catharine A. Deever formalized her life-long involvement in the visual arts when she launched her company “River Dee Designs”, January 2018, with the filing for her trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Born to a church minister and an elementary school teacher, Catharine benefitted from meeting and learning from experts around the world, those who excelled in a wide variety of professions.

At the age of 16, Catharine left her home in the US to study for a year as an exchange student in Germany. It was in Germany that she gained appreciation of photography — and began studying it.

Returning to America to graduate with a BA degree in foreign languages and a Masters degree in Communication Arts, Catharine received more formalized instruction in Theatre (set design, lighting and costume construction) — along with oratory / forensic communications and debate.

After graduation, she became a teacher. Her career evolved with community projects into:

* corporate training

* government administration

* non-profit management and advocacy

* directing, filming and editing training films

Now a digital artist, Catharine creates new images from foundation photographs that she has taken personally — or from photographs taken by the very talented photographers in her own family.

Catharine’s varied artworks have been heavily influenced by the diversity of the cultures in which she’s worked and lived . . . and her drive, molded by a community-caring family, is solely focused on benefiting the people her artwork serves.



1ST PLACE-TIE MICHAEL WILLIAMS USA https://www.facebook.com/MyDigitalPainting/ “Bowl Of Lemons And Limes” 23.4mb@350px” Corel Painter inspired by photo on Pixabay.

1ST PLACE-TIE CATHARINE A. DEEVER USA www.riverdeedesigns.com “Pond Through The Trees” Digital.

2ND PLACE-TIE ALAN STECKER USA www.alanstecker.artspan.com “Evolution: Saving Face” 24x36" Digital art, printed on backprint film, using a Canon 12 ink printer.

2ND PLACE-TIE CATHARINE A. DEEVER USA www.riverdeedesigns.com “Dawn In The Southwest” Digital.

3RD PLACE I-CHEN LU (JENNY) TAIWAN www.jennyluillustration.com “Still Life” 10x13″ Painted in Photoshop.

4TH PLACE-TIE CATHARINE A. DEEVER USA www.riverdeedesigns.com “Transition Fortress” 1000x800px Digital.

4TH PLACE-TIE SHU YU CHINA https://kj16761552.icoc.bz/ “A Million Possibilities” 180x120cm Digital painting.

4TH PLACE-TIE CATHARINE A. DEEVER USA www.riverdeedesigns.com “Roll On” 1000x800px Digital.

5TH PLACE-TIE CATHARINE A. DEEVER USA www.riverdeedesigns.com “Fruited Plain Beside The Pond” Digital.

“Blue Horse #7, The Horses Collection” 26x35" Digital, mixed media.

6TH PLACE-TIE SHU YU CHINA https://kj16761552.icoc.bz/ “A Little Happiness” 120x95cm Digital painting.

This is the 11th anniversary for the international awards organization which decides the 25 Best Galleries and Museums in America, who decide the World’s Best Contemporary Artists. Gallery decisions are based upon years established, industry reputation, online buzz, location, size, socially relevant exhibits, motivational and educational programs, represented artists as well as artist, client and visitor references.

2019’s 25 Best Galleries & Museums asked to vote on art were:

BEST IN ARIZONA — EXPOSURES INTERNATIONAL GALLERY OF FINE ART: Rising like a gigantic mystical temple in Sedona, this 20,000 sf showplace displays the finest of every style from classical to contemporary. Serving private or commercial needs, offering small maquettes to monumental bronze and stone sculptures, original oil and acrylic otherworldly paintings, fine art jewelry, enchanting glass art… https://www.exposuresfineart.com/

BEST IN ARKANSAS — FORT SMITH REGIONAL ART MUSEUM: Originated in 1948 but fully re-branded in 2013. AWARDS: Preservation through Rehabilitation Award (2013), American Institute of Architects (AIA) Gulf State Region Merit Award (2014), and American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Gold Award… http://fsram.org/

BEST IN CALIFORNIA — EXCLUSIVE COLLECTIONS: History of six galleries between California and Nevada honed expertise to assist significant collections of fine art and enduring legacy. Their red-carpet events showcase today’s most celebrated artists — from young emerging masters to established international masters… http://ecgallery.com/our-galleries/solana-beach/

BEST IN COLORADO — MIRADA FINE ART: Both the booming Denver gallery and owner/curator Steve Sonnen continue to be prominently featured in national and international art publications as well as appearing on numerous ‘Best Of’ lists. Lively spirited art, insightful exhibits, a Colorado vortex. http://www.miradafineart.com/

BEST IN HAWAII — SUNSHINE ARTS: 4,000 square foot structure on the Windward side of Oahu, offering over 2,000 original art images by 75 best-selling artists. For 23 years, this heralded Kaneohe landmark has been a favorite of local artists and nearby residents as well as international designers and collectors. http://www.sunshinearts.net/

BEST IN ILLINOIS — TRICKSTER ART GALLERY: The only Native American owned and operated arts institution in Illinois. 10,000 sf facility exhibits contemporary Native art (post 1960s) and first-voice multi-cultural arts with themes of veterans and social justice. https://www.trickstergallery.com/

BEST IN INDIANA — HAAN MANSION MUSEUM OF INDIANA ART: Holds the most extensive Indiana art collection in the US, including paintings from the Hoosier Group and Brown County Art Colony. Specializing in major oils, over 100 artists are represented. Haan is a true find; a rare hospitable time-capsule cradling a precious past. http://haanmuseum.org/

BEST IN IOWA — MOBERG GALLERY: Exceptional eye for contemporary masterpieces and represents 50 phenomenal Iowan artisans, procured work for museums, corporate collections, private collections and public art projects across the nation. Sets the standard for modern art in the Midwest. https://www.moberggallery.com/

BEST IN KANSAS — EVA REYNOLDS FINE ARTS: 30 years specializing in European and American contemporary original paintings and sculpture. A world-renowned fine arts service record among collectors and represented artists. Recognized by Ingram’s as a “Top Gallery in Kansas City.” https://evareynoldsfinearts.com/

BEST IN KENTUCKY — E&S GALLERY: For 30 years an iconic African-American gallery. 11,000 sf. Three stories of stunning space and empowering art. Unmatched selection of artists, mediums, subject matters and genres. Premiere selection of original graphics and sculpture by renowned old master artists. https://www.eandsgallery.com/

BEST IN LOUISIANA — NEWCOMB ART MUSEUM: Since 1886 acknowledging the contributions of women to the fields of art and design. Continually presenting innovative exhibitions and programs that engage communities, spark idea-exchange and instigate cross-disciplinary collaborations. https://newcombartmuseum.tulane.edu/

BEST IN MARYLAND — ANNAPOLIS MARINE ART GALLERY: For 40 years providing the best of marine art to the Mid-Atlantic collector community. Located at City Dock in Annapolis, they have an extensive collection of originals and limited edition prints of renowned artists John Stobart, John Barber, Willard Bond, Patrick O’Brien, Paul Landry, John Ruseau, and more. https://www.annapolismarineart.com/

BEST IN MINNESOTA — MODERN ARTIFACT: Buys and sells some of the world’s most collected and demanded fine art, antiques and memorabilia. Innovative. Headquartered in Minneapolis with clients all over the world. Daily relationships with many art dealers, collectors and top artists. https://modernartifact.com/

BEST IN MISSOURI — HILLIARD GALLERY: 45 years… one of the oldest and largest fine art galleries in Kansas City… voted by Kansas City Visitor Center as Best Gallery In Kansas City in 2012… voted by Kansas City Magazine as the Best Gallery In Kansas City 2014… https://www.hilliardgallery.com/

BEST IN NEW JERSEY — EVALYN DUNN GALLERY: For 60 years, a family legacy serving the community with expert, innovative and personable staff. Features the finest 20th Century American and European art. http://www.evalyndunngallery.com/

BEST IN NEW MEXICO — PIPPIN CONTEMPORARY: On historic Canyon Road, an uplifting world of vibrant color as expressed in contemporary art. The richly sensuous visual experience is complemented by a warm, engaging and insightful staff. Passionate artists; energetic and tactile, elements of surprise and beauty. A special oasis to access pure emotions. https://pippincontemporary.com/

BEST IN NEVADA — THE METROPOLITAN GALLERY OF LAS VEGAS ART MUSEUM: 20,000 sf facility dedicated to raising awareness, understanding and accessibility for a wide range of fine art by local, regional and international artists. Also offers insightful educational programs and cultural events. https://www.mglv.org/

BEST IN OHIO — LEE HAYDEN GALLERY: Mastered the Mid-western art business. Very prominent Cleveland gallery; a collector’s favorite for decades, offering paintings, sculptures and rare prints from both emerging and world-renown artists. https://www.leehayden.com/

BEST IN OREGON — BRONZE COAST GALLERY: In its 24th year. Oregon Coast’s premiere fine art gallery specializing in limited edition bronze sculpture and original paintings by more than thirty award-winning regional, national and international artists. Also provides education in sculpture and the in depth process of bronze casting. http://www.bronzecoastgallery.com/

BEST IN SOUTH CAROLINA — MARY MARTIN GALLERY: Located in the heart of downtown Charleston, Mary Martin Gallery is a gem of the city. Representing artists internationally in her two locations, Mary exhibits an eclectic mix of paintings and sculptures that appeal to collectors from all parts of the world. No matter if you own a large collection of art or only one painting Mary believes everyone should experience the joy of having their very own art collection. http://www.marymartinart.com/

BEST IN SOUTH DAKOTA — SOUTH DAKOTA ART MUSEUM: Since 1970, for almost fifty years, this museum beautifully houses the artistic legacy of South Dakota in all its diversity. 7,000 objects in its collection include Harvey Dunn paintings, Native American art, Marghab Linens, and much more. https://www.sdstate.edu/south-dakota-art-museum

BEST IN TEXAS — AO5 GALLERY: Austin’s largest contemporary art gallery, featuring hundreds of emerging and established artists from around the world. With over 7,000 sf to explore, there’s something new to see on every visit. https://ao5gallery.com/

BEST IN UTAH — SOUTHAM GALLERY: Premier Utah gallery for almost 40 years. Sells the work of some of the most highly regarded artists in the western United States. Stunning realism and impressionism. Experience and insight to guide serious art portfolios. Endless satisfied collectors. http://www.southamgallery.com/

BEST IN WASHINGTON DC — LIK FINE ART WASHINGTON DC: With 17 locations across the country, LIK Fine Art showcases some of Peter Lik’s most notable and award-winning photographic masterpieces. Peter has spent over 30 years pushing the boundaries of fine art. A self-taught pioneer in the field of landscape photography, Lik’s works make up four of the top 20 most expensive photographs ever sold, the highest selling for an astounding $6.5 million in 2014. https://lik.com/pages/lik-fine-art-washington-dc

BEST IN WEST VIRGINIA — WEST VIRGINIA STATE MUSEUM: Established 125 years ago with the intent to collect, preserve, present, promote and document West Virginia’s every aspect of history, culture, art, paleontology, archaeology, and geology representing all its people and industries. http://www.wvculture.org/museum/State-Museum-Index.html



* * * * (Info there on entering, too.)



Thom Bierdz

One of Medium’s TOP ART CONTRIBUTORS, award-winning author, actor, film-maker, painter. 12 books: 6 on art. President of WAA & AAA & ACCA.