A wood sculptor, Mark Knize hadn't tried working much with stone until he took a Modesto Junior College art class this summer.
Under instructor Tom Duchscher's guidance, he created one of his favorite works to date -- a rendering of a yellow-billed magpie. The piece took best-of-show honors at the Valley Art Association's Fall Carriage Exhibit & Art Show in Riverbank.
Knize, 55, carved the piece out of extra-hard black pearl soapstone, using hand tools like a hammer, chisel, file and rasp. It took the Tracy resident three weeks of working daily to finish, and when he was done, he knew he had something special.
"I used to say, 'Fly, darn you, fly' because I liked it," he said. "I liked it a lot. I fell in love with stone."
Art show judges Tina Moore, Dianne Stearns and Charles Waldman singled out the work for the top $500 prize from 219 pieces of art submitted. Some 174 pieces were chosen for display in the exhibition.
Knize has won several awards at local art shows, including those organized by the Central California Art Association in Modesto, Delicato Winery in French Camp and the Stockton Art League. He was president of the Tracy Art League in 2002, 2005 and 2006.
He had a 30-year career as a research scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab before recently accepting a buyout and deciding to pursue art full time. A native of Illinois, he moved to the Bay Area in the eighth grade and graduated from high school in Walnut Creek. He earned a bachelor of biological science degree from California State University, Stanislaus. He and his wife Gayle, who is a painter, have two adult daughters.
Knize said he loves being active in the local art community and entering shows. "It stimulates you to do your best work," he said.
Other art show winners:
CARRIAGE AWARD — Barbara L. Young. Merchant's Award: Young, Anne Sanguinetti
OIL & ACRYLIC — 1. Michael Severin. 2.Dorothy Girling. 3. Diana Eppler. MA: Randall Selander, Cindy Wilbur, Jay Osborne, Eliseo Contreras. Honorable Mention: Diana Eppler, Michael Severin, Florence Cardena
WATERMEDIA — 1. Yuki Vierra. 2. Lucy Ospina. 3. Young. MA: Virginia White, William L. Hamblin, Larry Potter. HM: Young, White, Mary O. Bucknam, Barbara Carnahan (2), David Rodrigues, Girling.
SOFT PASTEL — 1. Deidre Wolfley. 2. Barbara Beaudreau. 3. Lori Snable. MA: Eva Williams. HM: Maggie Dias.
GRAPHICS/MIXED MEDIA — 1. Scott Fergusson. 2. Barbara Gill Salerno. 3. Patti Wallace. MA: Jackie Johnsen. HM: Sharon Dambrosio, Angelina Humphries.
MINIATURES — 1. Jane MacIver. 2. Rodrigues. 3. Dias. HM: MacIver.
SCULPTURES — 1. Vonnie Muniain. 2. Janet Wilmeth. 3. JC Strote. HM: Fergusson.