Almost two weeks have gone by since Dave and I got back from the Portrait Society of America conference. I attribute this gap partly to the fact that Dave and I felt like we had a fire lit under our asses when we got back and we just wanted to paint paint paint, but mostly to the fact that I kind of forgot the exact title of my award. I was pretty sure it was Best Bikini Body, but Jeff Hein got the same award as me and he swore up and down that it was Best Guns. But luckily for all of us Matt Innis was paying attention and took notes while the rest of us puzzled over that weird dessert with the syringe full of lime juice. I got an Exceptional Merit, which is like the "you're a special butterfly, too" award. I'm actually super pleased and didn't expect anything more. It was such a great line up that I would have been embarrassed to receive anything higher.
If you normally go to the PSoA conference, you know what it's like; but if you haven't ever been, well, sonny, LET ME TELL YOU. Hundreds of reclusive, socially inhibited art geeks crawl out of the woodwork, put on nice clothes that they probably had to borrow from a friend who doesn't get away with wearing sweatpants to work, and bask in the glorious sensation of being part of the crowd. Dave and I don't get to hang out with other artists very much, so when we go to the PSoA conference we lap it all up. We catch up with old friends and take this opportunity to make new ones. There's always a crew of incredible people there. The conference program is busy and interesting, with demos and lectures during the day; there is a vendors room where you can stock up on art supplies (a big deal for us, since ordering from the US can be expensive); and at the end of the day when the program winds down, there is always the lounge. The lounge is where all the gossip is tossed out. Oh, glorious art world gossip. I wasn't sure I would be able to afford conference tuition this year, but I was planning on accompanying Dave, who had complimentary tuition from his win last year, and spending my days hanging out at the bar chatting up anyone who came through.
And here I am dishing out the shit with a subset of my Women Painting Women crew. We're doing a show together this fall with Principle Gallery.
Left to right, me, Terry Moore Strickland, Cindy Procious, Sadie Valeri, Mia Bergeron, and Diane Fiessel (you'll have to imagine Alex Tyng and Linda Tracey Brandon). Terry and Mia were each awarded a Certificate of Excellence.
Above, Dave and I are visiting with George in his and Tania's Natural Pigments booth. They have an amazing colour chart now which we found very helpful. For us, the vendor room is 90% all about Natural Pigments. We kind of just spend the time hovering around their booth listening in on what George and Tania have to say about their products. And the customers don't let them rest. I do think that the PSoA coordinators need to come up with a relief system so that these poor vendors can tend to their collapsed blood sugar levels and exploding bladders. I'm thinking IVs and catheters.
One of the highlights of the weekend was modelling for Jeff Hein. Every year on the first day of the conference there is an event called "Face Off." A dozen or so artists paint an alla prima and the masses vote for the best one, which determines who paints a demonstration on Saturday. As it happens, Jeff Hein (also a finalist) was attending the conference for the first time this year and because of a cancellation, was asked to fill in for the Face Off. He did a phenomenal painting and took the gold, because nobody told him that you're actually supposed to try to be second best so that everyone thinks you're awesome but you don't have to go to bed early on Friday night for the privilege of demoing in front of eight hundred people the next morning. As it happens, he did an incredible demo and I found it almost impossible to keep from laughing the whole time from his commentary. I also got to live my fantasy of being a megalomaniac despot with my face projected on three jumbo screens in an enormous room full of people.
I've been painted many times before, but Jeff is the first one to get my hostile neutral expression. I can't help it. I can be thinking about angora rabbits nibbling lettuce and I still look like I want to stomp someone's face in. True story: Dave's nickname for me is Princess Pissy Pants. Another true story: within two weeks of meeting Dave I realized he was the first guy I had met who wasn't fazed by this expression, and I would probably have to marry him out of necessity.
Another fun thing they do at the conference is something called the 6x9 Fundraiser. At least a hundred artists donate a six by nine inch painting of whatever subject matter they like, and the work goes for sale anonymously for a flat rate of $250. This means you could potentially walk away with a painting worth several times that amount if you wind up with a bigger name artist. Dave and I each donated a piece this year. I did a prank portrait of Matt, channeling some Van Dyck mustachios and a ruff.
And of course there's the banquet night. Personally, I think that if you can't get a banquet ticket you may as well not go to the PSoA. Just stay at home and drown yourself already. Whether you're a finalist or not, the food is awesome and it's so much fun to get all dolled up and sit around with other artists who are also dolled up, and pretend to yourself, "You know, I really think I'm going to start dressing better. I mean seriously. I going to put on real clothes every day when I get home and not just paint in my pajamas." The PSoA does an amazing job with the presentation of awards. I felt real swanky participating. Afterwards, everyone floods the lounge and partays. I have a memory of the following morning, waking up at some ungodly hour from the sound of Dave rattling the bottle of Advils. I rolled over and saw a pill on the bed inches from my face. I stuck out my tongue and picked it up like a frog, then went back to sleep.
Our last day in Atlanta was kind of a whirl. We had to dash around to say goodbye, pack up our paintings (we had some on display in the Natural Pigments booth), and steal Jeff's painting of me. One thing I know about stealing artwork is that if you grab it like you own it and walk out without making eye contact, nobody will stop you. Extra points if you thoughtfully pick out a hair with your finger nails and frown as you look at it.
And that, folks, was the PSoA. I can't think of any other way to wrap it up. But I would like to say one last thing: holy crap are the PSoA staff is well-organized. I tender my thanks for making my international shipment a breeze and for thinking of everything. Party on.
Thanks to Felicia Forte, Terry Moore Strickland, Matthew Innis, Suzie Greer Baker, Mia Bergeron, and Tania Zaytseva for the photos. And thanks to Tom for the beers. It made us feel like special little butterflies.