Portrait Conference: Hanging with Our Own Kind

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Last year I introduced Allison Coleman, a returning adult art student of mine, to the wonders of the Portrait Society of America’s annual conference. She said later, “It changed my life.”

Now we both have just returned from her second, and my eighth, this one located in Reston, Virginia, on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. The first night of the 18th Annual Portrait and Figurative Artist Conference of the Portrait Society of America, we wandered around the circle made in a humongous conference room, sitting in the chairs behind a segment of 3 painters actively painting one model. We rotated around a circle of 5 models and 15 painters. Seeing the rich variety of viewpoints and media used was enlightening, as the Society painters showed us the superior merits of painting from life, and in this case, a la prima, or, all at one sitting.

Getting the Likeness

Getting the Likeness

On Friday, we cased the art materials’ room, buying what we had determined we would beforehand, in some cases more or different. This year, I found an awesome frame with birch panel insert for the painting that I substituted for my usual auction sale, an event which is so much fun, I went to the Mystery Art Sale and decided what I would have purchased, since last year I bought one painted by my very favorite portraitist, Bart Lindstrom. (http://joriginals.net/portraitists-a-glow/).

This year, there were fewer freebies to be had, but we lucked into a few, plus some very good deals.
We did all our scouting on Friday, since Allison had to help in the book selling section this year. They have awesome books. I did buy the book, 100 Masterpieces, the National Galleries of Scotland, by Sir John Leighton, our keynote speaker. Of course, I got his autograph.

This year and last, the products from the Thursday night paint-out were sold in a silent auction, punctuated by a loud ending to aid the bidding process. Two years ago, I bought one of those. Last year I bought a painting from the mystery sale, a fixed-price, blind auction of 6 x 9’s painted by famous artists here and abroad. I always pick one board which has several I like, because if two of you want one painting, there’s a drawing of names from a hat, and you lose time.

Winning Artist Poses as Her Model

Adrienne Stein Poses as Her Model


Adrienne Stein Poses as Her Model

For four days, we raced from celebrity demonstration to illustrated lectures to sight-size stage demonstrations by the best artists, seeing their creations emerge in mirrors right next to the models’ faces.

In between, we looked at fellow artists’ portfolios, learned new presentation methods, and I competed in same.

In stolen moments from a charged program, we viewed the International Portrait Competition finalists’ works, went to a mix-and-talk party with them,

and I got so many wonderful interchanges and pictures I hate I can only share a few. But I talked to artists from Canada, Scotland, the U.S. and many other countries.

I particularly enjoyed my interchanges with Adrienne Stein from Pennsylvania, whose winning painting was done of her sister, and Katie O’Hagan, listed as from New York, but I’m sure she talked about living in Scotland. In any case, she told me how the birds would really fly at you as seen in this painting, a very bold white on white sort of background with white birds.

On one of my break-out sessions, I got to draw several models and be critiqued by veteran master Max Ginsburg. When you are around so much art in the making, your fingers literally itch to perform your own versions of the models, which I did happily for a couple of hours. We had amazing models in this session, and got to switch out models during the time.Katie O'Hagan, "Deflection"

Katie O’Hagan, “Deflection”

Allison got to mix with a different set of us, working in the book-selling setup of the Society. Together, we will share notes and impressions. All of the input we got here should help us to strategize better for entering their phenomenal shows, or any big shows, for that matter. We received crucial tips directly and by viewing the paintings selected for awards and for sale in the auctions.

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