Monday, June 2, 2014

2014 Art Excursion 1/3: Art of the Portrait Conference

At the end of  May I was fortunate to go on a two week excursion to Washington DC and New York City for The Portrait Society of America's: Art of the Portrait Conference and to visit art galleries in both cities. It has taken me several weeks to process the experience.  I have so much to share about my art adventure that I have decided it's best to write it in a series of 3 blog entries.
Here is the first article about my trip...
The Portrait Society of America's: The Art of the Portrait Conference
   Just outside of Washington DC, is the town of Reston, Virginia. It was there that The Portrait Society of America Hosted their 16th annual conference titled The Art of the Portrait. Hundreds of artists from around the world gathered at the Hyatt Hotel and Conference Center for this 4 day intense conference that focuses on encouraging, educating, and inspiring artists that create and study the figure and portraiture in their art practices.
   In Reston, a community full of office buildings filled with suits and ties, there was suddenly an influx of hundreds of people in colorful scarves caring sketchbooks. To kick off the conference was an evening I didn't think was even possible and just by walking through the doors of the Grande Ballroom my mind was blown. I walked into a crowd of hundreds of artists that all study the figure. That alone was incredible. I have never seen so many artists under one roof let alone in one room before. Then to top that off there were 5 incredible models with 3 renowned artists stationed at each model. Together the 15 artists were simultaneously painting live demos for 3 hrs. We artists milled about networking and intently observing the artists that are headlining today's art and art collecting magazines. I couldn't believe the artists I read about and follow were painting right in front of me!
This photo was taken on the first evening of the conference. It only shows a tiny portion of the room and there were several rows of people behind me. In the middle is David Kassan and on the right is Quang Ho.

Going through the Ballroom I watched Jeffrey Hein who, in my opinion, painted the best painting of the evening and was one of the first ones finished. After I took this photo he turned to me and we had a conversation where he asked if it was my first time attending the conference, I replied it was, and he stressed to keep an eye on every one's name tags because as he put it "you won't believe all the incredible artists that are here!" He seemed pumped to be there. As it was my first time traveling alone and first time at the conference, it meant a lot to me that he was so kind and personable. He gave me the first impression of many that I was warmly welcomed and that I belonged there.

From morning to night there were back to back talks, demos, and sessions. There was never a dull moment or an occasion that there was nothing to do. In this photo Daniel Greene is giving a live painting demo. There were two large movie projection screens on either side of the stage so you could get a really great view of the demos. Not only were the demos and events scheduled priceless in their value but so were the times in between finding a seat or during the short breaks where everyone quickly networked as fast as they could. Everyone wanted to meet as many people as they possibly could, and I joined right in. Everyone wanted to know who are you and what do you do? It was an experience like no other where everyone there was important and everyone wanted to meet you and see your work. I handed out well over a hundred business cards personally. That also means that I met and introduced myself to over a hundred artists.  Every evening when I thought I really should go out and mingle with the other artists at the lounge I would start to yawn at the suggestion, because I was so exhausted and overwhelmed. So I would call home to say good night, post a quick note to facebook, and sleep like I have never slept before. 

I was taking in so much information that when I went to my room at night I felt like my brain went completely blank after being filled all day. It was just too much for my mind to digest and comprehend. That is probably why it has taken me so long to write about it. As always, I had my trusty sketchbook in hand and was constantly jotting down notes and ideas. I had brought materials thinking I would be so inspired that I would want to draw or create at the end of each night. Those good intentioned plans were completely unrealistic. I have never experienced art and artistic practices in this magnitude before.
The above photo is of a demo by Mary White who has given me a new found appreciation for watercolor. Within the last year I have been dabbling in watercolor as a medium to use in my sketchbook. Watching Mary White and James Guerny demo and seeing such amazing watercolor work on my trip has given me a new found understanding and appreciation of the medium. I look forward to using watercolor more often in my studies and sketchbook. (I highly recommend checking out James Guerny's blog).

Above is the very reserved David Kassan who is a quiet powerful force of perfectionism. He is a master of his craft and you can tell he draws and paints everyday for several hours. He has put in his time, and at the conference it was announced that he had just been shortlisted for the extremely prestigious BP Portrait Award. Everyone, whether you are an artist or not should check out his youtube videos as he is just simply amazing.

Here is a photo of Robert Liberace and Rose Frantzen demoing side by side from the same model.

These are the paintings they were working on, Robert Liberace is on the left and Rose Frantzen is on the right.

This is a drawing I did during a break out session that was instructed by Robert Liberace and Juliette Aristides. Robert Liberace, as with all of the presenters and artists there are so incredibly in love with what they do that there passion and positive energy exudes out of them, especially at the conference where they are in there element.
 The Art of the Portrait Conference was an incredible life experience that I will treasure forever. I am sure that my memory of it will seem grander with each year that passes. The knowledge that I have gained from it I will use forever. My entire trip has furthered my skills and knowledge exponentially. Experiencing the Art of the Portrait Conference for the first time is one of those moments in my life that I will file away as being one of those Incredible Firsts. I am grateful to all of those that made it possible for me to be there.