The final 2 demos of the conference were a bit different.
First, Daniel Greene gave us a demo on Finishing a portrait, including how to get started again after weeks or months away from a painting. It was interesting for color theory, too, since initially the model had been wearing a dark jacket, but for the new sitting he was wearing a light one. About halfway through, the model’s wife ran upstairs in the hotel to get his dark jacket and it made for crazy changes in value and light references.
Then the last demo of the conference was on charcoal portraiture, and featured a rather salty artist, Burton Silverman, creating two different works – first in black charcoal on white paper, then in black and white on toned paper. This was very interesting, too, because he made no bones about it when he made a mistake – and it was a bit reassuring to see him do so. Even the greats can go wrong and recover.
When not in demos at the conference, I spent some time out in the suburb of Atlanta where we were staying. Â There was an art supply store right across the road. Convenient, or subtle torture? How to fit all the discounted deals into a carry-on? Â Then there was the Banquet at the conference, featuring everyone’s favorite, a gold-foil wrapped chocolate medal. Â And also the awards, of course.
I also got to view a couple of amazing galleries at the conference: first, the finished pieces from the Face Off Thursday night.
Plus the beautifully appointed library gallery of Finalists in the annual Portrait Society of America competition.
Obviously this isn’t all of them. Â These are the ones that particularly struck me in the gallery. Â I didn’t get a photo of a few that I really loved, including my vote for “People’s Choice” (Mother Courage, by Ricky Mujica, which beautifully captured a New York City subway car and map in a few choice lines of color.)
So it turns out that a Portrait Society of America Conference is actually just a whole bunch of painting demos with mics on the artists, plus a few panels on one afternoon and a big banquet.
Which is not to say that it was boring or not what I paid for. Â It was incredibly interesting. I would not have said, before this, that watching two painters chat and paint, live and alla prima, in front of an audience for 3 hours would be that interesting. But it was. I was riveted to pretty much all the demos.
There was a lot of reassurance in the varied ways that everyone approached a painting. Some started messy and became miraculously neat and accurate. Some stayed messy yet achieved likeness. Some started meticulous and ended the same way. Above, you can see Jeffrey Hein on the left working broad and messy, while Michelle Dunaway keeps it meticulous.
Above you see my favorite demo: Quang Ho and Mary Whyte with a bearded model. Quang was painting in oils on a board. Mary was painting in watercolor. Â From the start, their approaches were incredibly different, and not only could we observe it, but they kept up a truly interesting conversation about methods and approaches throughout the presentation.
There is just so much to learn and know. Â I was a bit disappointed to see such an emphasis, and a clique-ish favoritism for, oil painting over everything else. Â Oil pastels are barely edging in, and watercolor, despite Mary’s demo, was a far far distant competitor. Â Acrylics are basically nowhere to be found, and colored pencils, I was told, were featured in a piece by a finalist in the contest for the first time this year. Â So my preferred media are not really the stuff of Portrait Society fame and fortune. Â Nonetheless, the experience is one I will be able to remember and use in future for a lot of things.
One thing this experience did solidify was my determination to submit to a lot more juried shows, just as soon as I can frame some more paintings. Â I need to get a broader local and regional presence, and juried shows is one way to do that.