Ortner told Graham that, at the age of 50, he was at the point in his career where he began to wonder if his work would ever be recognized. In fact, after a friend entered his work to the inaugural ArtPrize competition in 2009, Ortner was simply hoping it wasn’t a scam.
His large-scale, hyper-realistic painting titled "Open Water #24" ended up taking first prize.
Not being from the Great Lakes State Ortner said, “I had no idea that Michigan had such an intimate relationship with water.”
Ortner credits the win at ArtPrize for taking his art career to a new level.
“ArtPrize was just like a bolt of lightning from the heavens, I mean it was amazing…” he said.
Thanks to the national exposure from the ArtPrize win, Ortner's career jumped to a new level. He says he’s forever grateful for the award.
“Thank you, so much to Grand Rapids… for Artprize. It’s been a life-changing experience for me.”
Listen to the full interview above to hear more about his inspiration for his winning piece and why art is so important.