Aspiring artist takes first place award in 2016 Air Force Art Contest

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jessica Huggins
  • 460th Space Wing Public Affairs

Could you imagine possessing the talent to take oil paint to a blank canvas and create a masterpiece extraordinary enough to win an Air Force level award?

Staff Sgt. Matthew Knopf, 310th Aerospace Medical Flight health services management supervisor, received the award for most accomplished artist in the 2016 Air Force Art Contest.

He was presented the award Feb. 12, 2017, by Col. David Miller Jr., 460th Space Wing commander. Knopf received a $300 Amazon gift card as well as an Air Force certificate. His painting took first place of 326 contestants.

The 33-by-46 inch painting, titled “Hopeful Negotiations,” was done with oil paint on a canvas. Knopf said it took roughly 400 painting hours.

The inspiration came from a photo taken by a friend of Knopf’s from the 1st Combat Camera Squadron, Charleston AFB, South Carolina. The photo was captured in Afghanistan in 2013 during a meeting with local elders, he said.

While deployed to Afghanistan, Knopf often visited the 1st Combat Camera Squadron in search of inspiration. He said he would pick high resolution photos after spending time looking through their database. The most recent series he did was titled, “Faces of Deployment” and included mostly portrait photos taken by his friends.

Knopf added that two of the three paintings he submitted to the contest were chosen from this series, and the other, a detailed photo of a lion’s face, was from his wildlife series.

“The three paintings I chose to submit were some of my favorites in the series,” he said.

His favorite one was a piece he could stand back and look at with deep appreciation, because it was an overall exceptional painting, he added.

“I have a love for the craft of painting, with a passion for hyperrealism,” said Knopf. “I find this to be one of the most challenging styles of art.”

He began painting at a young age, he said. Knopf joined the Air Force after receiving his Bachelor of Fine Arts at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida.

“Fine art, to me, is the honing of a craft and a deep understanding of a medium,” said Knopf. “This is what I strive for with each new piece.”
Outside of military-inspired artwork, Knopf also enjoys painting nature and wildlife, especially since moving to Colorado.

He added that he doesn’t get to paint as often as he did while on active duty; he has a busy schedule trying to balance being a full-time student as well as an Air Force reservist.

His entry and others from the contest can be found at Other information and pieces of his work can be viewed at