Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Art of the Portrait Conference: Recap!

Posted by: Kate

The month of May whizzed right by in a flurry of dense crowds, tripod lights, moonshine and twice daily desserts.  My fat jeans are now my skinny jeans and my skinny jeans are a fond memento of slimmer, sexier days gone by.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, after the PSoA conference, I was due to teach a workshop in Carthage, NC, and another in Ashburn, VA.  And then, when I finally landed on Vancouver Island a little over two weeks ago, I took a good long look at my scheduled upcoming exhibits and realized I had to come up with a whole new painting in less than a month.  So the past few weeks have been ballz to the wallz painting.  May was an exhilarating and productive month.

True to tradition, I've waited until everyone else has posted all of their conference photos so that I can rip them off for my blog.  First up, you're probably wondering how the Face Off went.  Seriously, guys, so much fun.  I'm just going to put it out there to the universe, in case the universe is listening, I would be thrilled to do it again next year.  There were these awesome little bowls of candy everywhere, so I grabbed one of those and put it on my taboret when I was setting up.  I even unwrapped a bunch so that I could just pop them right in my mouth.  Instant art fuel.  I put my headphones on (connected pocket.  Because no iPod.  So I actually heard every single cough and burp behind me while I painted, but hey, no interruptions).  And then, it was Go Time.

I entered some sort of painting wormhole where every second felt like a minute.  I kept painting right through the model's breaks.  Like usual, my painting looked like crap for a good while.  As usual, it stirred up a massive panic hurricane.  I painted, painted, painted, all the time fretting about my 2.5 hour limit.  But finally, I stepped back and realized I'd done it.  I had a likeness.  It looked good.  It was probably a bit better than most of the alla prima portraits I'd done.  I was not going to bring disgrace upon the house of my ancestors.  I heaved a big sigh of relief, popped my thirty-fifth candy, and asked my timekeeper how much time was left.  He said an hour and a half.  Say wuuuuut.  So I kept painting for another hour and twenty five minutes, hit that special point that happens in every alla prima painting when each additional brush stroke becomes a step backwards instead of a step forward, and then walked away like a queen with five minutes to go.  Shablammo.

Okay, it's just an alla prima.  Whatever.  They purposely set us up to fail and then we feel an over-sized sense accomplishment when we don't.  My model was fantastic, maintaining a perfect head tilt the whole time.  She practically painted herself and I couldn't resist playing up those dewy, lash-y eyes.   When I finished I kind of couldn't believe I painted something so sweet looking.  I should have just put some tears on her cheeks and a little snowy white lamb in her arms.  For a more comprehensive coverage of the Face Off, take a look at Underpaintings Magazine.  He's got some fantastic photos up, and coverage of the whole conference broken into multiple posts.

Next up, I exorcised my massive public speaking demon and presented with Dave for a break out session.  Our topic was "Social Media and Your Art Career."  We co-presented with Chris Saper, who discussed self-publishing, and Scott Jones of Legacy Gallery, who talked about the artist gallery relationship about twenty four hours before I propositioned him about taking my painting Poppet (now hanging at Legacy Gallery in Bozeman, MO).

Have you heard of the "My Daily Lie" meme?  I made one.

Later that same day was the 6x9 sale.  Here is mine.

Okay, ramble.  This was such a fun painting to make.  I used only three colours: Lead White #2, Hematite, and Cyprus Raw Umber Dark.  When the palette is that simple, the painting goes so, so quickly.  Of course, the colours you pick out have to be the right colours.  In my case, the hematite and white were all I needed for her flesh because Maddie is so rosy fair.

Saturday found me doing an alla prima portrait demo at the Natural Pigments booth.  And I'll be damned.  It was my same lovely model who showed up.

Some random Albertans even descended while I was painting.  Represent!  They even knew my artist friends from my hometown.

I tested out a somewhat different approach to painting the eyes.  I did all my practice alla prima paintings under natural light, which gave me no shadow shapes to work with, but under artificial lighting for this demo, my model had dark shadows in her eye sockets.  I painted her entire eye socket with a shadow colour and then gradually teased light shapes into the dark socket shape.  I heard somebody by the name of Sargent or something used to do this?

And now for the banquet, that time when everyone cleans up and scrubs the paint out of their cuticles.  There were a lot of lovely photos taken that night but I get the feeling that most people are so over actually bothering to post these pictures to Facebook.  I got several messages from people promising to send me pictures of myself looking fabulous (on the one day of the year I look fabulous) but that never panned out.  Shame on all of you.  You're lousy friends. 

Carlos Lopez (3rd Place winner), Moi, Tania Zaytseva of Natural Pigments, Quang Ho, and Dave, positioned so that his head doesn't look small compared to everyone else's.

Yep, I got Fourth Place!  With the Grand Draper Prize ahead of First Place, that means I actually got fifth.  But the PSoA has a real knack for making everyone feel like a special winner.

Well, that was fun.  Thank you very much to workers behind the operation--the people who tuck in the loose corners and somehow bring it all together, and don't seem to put themselves anywhere prominent so that we can thank them properly at the conference: Christine, Kim, Rachel, Karey, Amanda, Krystal, Tyler, and the various volunteer rock!

Thank you to Dianne da Silva, Tania Zaytseva, Sivananda Nyayapathi, Matthew Innis, and Caleb Goggans for the images.  Actually, I don't know if I ripped off pictures from the last two, but I think I thought about it.


  1. Beautiful work, as always. May I ask what your palette was for the third portrait...I love the yellow. Was it lead tin?