How to draw - Milno figurative art Plein Air Salon winner
Milno, “A Story Without Words," graphite on paper, 19.7 x 14.5 in., won in the Best Figure & Portrait category of the July 2021 Plein Air Salon

Curiosity and Kaizen: Graphite Drawings by Milno > “As you’d expect from a new great Japanese Artist, Milno lives the philosophy of Kaizen, or continual improvement,” says ARTDATAintel founder/CEO Mauricio Gonzalez. “As such, good is not good enough for her. So, she applies her God given talent and an insatiable curiosity to take her work to a higher level in each and every painting. Because she knows that an artist is only as good as her last work of art.”

Milno’s graphite drawing, “A Story Without Words” (above) won in the Best Figure & Portrait category of the July 2021 Plein Air Salon.

“I’m often asked how I have improved my technique and achieved this ‘soft look’ in my drawings,” Milno said. “Well, it does involve commitment, lots of experimentation and yes… the use of unusual tools and materials.”

Graphite Drawings > “A Story Without Words" process shots
Graphite Drawings > “A Story Without Words” process shots

That use of unusual materials stems from a sense of curiosity.

Figurative art graphite drawings
Milno, “Sleeping Beauty”, graphite on paper, 16.5×23.3″, 2020
Graphite drawings - "Sleeping Beauty" process shots
“Sleeping Beauty” process shots

“Without curiosity, talent is stillborn,” Gonzalez continued. “Curiosity is one of the great secrets of creativity. Milno has unleashed her creativity across: charcoal, graphite, pastel, acrylic, oil, color pencils, alcohol ink, gel pens, gansai watercolor, mica powder, fluid graphite, acetone, hand torn Japanese washi paper, yupo paper, kent paper, Strathmore toned paper, black paper, 3D experimentation with corsages, cut-out figures, jewelry or natural leaves. Finally, she’s defying traditional methods by replacing painting brushes with makeup brushes!

Milno’s main drawing tool ‘makeup brushes’ and a small sketch
Milno’s main drawing tools: nail art brushes and makeup brushes, and a small sketch

“All in all, Milno has stopped me in my tracks. Her talent, curiosity, openness to experiment without fear; and wonderful spirit of kaizen [a desire to improve her work with every brush stroke] convinces me that she’ll be escalating to the very top of her industry within the next five years.”

Other categories for the Plein Air Salon art competition include Best Building, Best Drawing and Sketches, and many more! Visit to view the complete list.

Why should a contemporary realist enter the Plein Air Salon?

Because this art contest is created by Plein Air 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.

The Plein Air Salon awards $33,000 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 Plein Air 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