Friday, April 28, 2017

The Portrait Society Conference - 2017

by Howard Lyon

While what seemed like every single person I know on Facebook was at Spectrum, I was at the Portrait Society Conference in Atlanta.  I had to limit my time on social media so I wouldn't be reminded of how much fun you were all having!

Fortunately the Portrait Society Conference is pretty wonderful in it's own right. It is full of impressive art, demos, art material suppliers and some great panels and lectures.

Below are three of the many fine paintings that made it to the final round.  The portrait portion of the painting directly below was stunning, but I think I loved the landscape even more.  It was on par with the best I have seen. Anywhere.
Ming Yu
First Place Painting
"In Bvlag," 15.75x19.69", oil on linen by Ming Yu - First Place Painting

Mary Sauer - Caitlin - 36" x 48" oil on canvas

Gregory Mortenson - The Butterfly Effect - 14" diameter, oil on linen


The conference takes place over 4 days, kicking off on Thursday night with the portrait "face-off".  I really enjoyed this part of the conference.  15 artists all painting from 5 different models at the same time.  3 artists to each model.  There were many different approaches used.

It was apparent that some of the artists were not direct painters.  I myself an not a very accomplished alla prima painter (working on it though), so it gave me a little comfort to see some excellent painters struggle a bit and I admired their courage to paint in such a public forum.

Jeff Hein, Casey Childs and Anna Rose Bain really stood out to me.  You can see shots of the face-off portraits over on Matthew Innis' excellent site - Underpaintings.  A quick plug - His site has some free content (like the Portrait Society coverage) but I recommend paying the annual fee to support his efforts.  I have found a huge amount of inspiration from his site and he works hard to provide a regular stream of articles and news.  Worth every penny.

Here are some of the face off paintings.  Photographs used courtesy of the Portrait Society Facebook Page.

Jeff Hein

Casey Childs

Anna Rose Bain


Friday things took off with some break-out panels and workshops.  I attended the "Choosing the Path to Selling Your Art" panel with Scott Jones, Bart Lindstrom, Beverly McNeil and Mary Whyte.

It was very informative.  Scott Jones is the director of the three locations of the Legacy Galleries.  They have a focus on western art, but carry a broad variety of work. Beverly McNeil is from Portraits, Inc.  Portraits, Inc is really fascinating to me.  They sounded quite particular about the artists they take on, but then you have access to some really high end portrait clients.  Impressive work. Bart Lindstrom is a portrait artist who works with Portraits, Inc and Mary Whyte is a very impressive artist who served as the moderator.  Mary creates some of the most beautiful watercolor paintings I have seen and did a stellar demo from life that was one of the highlights.  She was also featured on a CBS news segment for her Working South series.

Here are three of Mary's impressive watercolor paintings





Scott Jones shared a couple points that were surprising.  More than half of their work is sold online and 85% of nudes are purchased by women.  Bart Lindstrom said while building your career get your work in front of as many people as possible.  People usually remember two images from you, your best and worst. He suggested keeping the 10 paintings you most admire on hand as prints and whenever you finish a painting throw it in with the 10 and see how you measure up. Sounds like a good exercise.


Johanna Harmon - Messengers - 12"x18" oil on linen

Ricky Mujica - Father - 30"x58" oil on canvas

Pramod Kurlekar - Determination -  35" x 36'', oil on canvas

That night, they had a fun tradition where faculty and former finalists contribute a 6"x9" unsigned painting to be sold at a fixed price of $250, with the proceeds going to the scholarship fund. You don't know for certain whose paintings are whose (but some educated guesses can be made) which adds to the excitement.  After a 15 minute preview, you can put your badge in for a lottery for one painting at a time.  The paintings are distributed among 15 or so sections, so you have to decide what you want to try for the most.  At best you can try for about 10 paintings because while you are putting in for one painting another 15 are being decided.  It is very exciting and fun to cross your fingers that your badge is drawn.  I tried on 6 or so paintings but they were all high demand and so 20-30 others were also making the attempt.  Lots of fun, win or lose.  Underpaintings comes through again with shots of all the entries if you are curious.


Sookyi Lee - Bridget - 18" x 24" charcoal on paper

Tracey Ference - This is Marshall - 23"x21" pastel

The third day of the conference I attended a lecture by Daniel Sprick titled Finding Your Unique Vision.  I have admired Daniel's work for sometime, but I came away an even bigger fan. If you know me or have read many of my posts you know how much I admire the classical influences in art. I find that a lot of contemporary fine art leaves me wanting more, but Daniel manages to create works that feel both classical and contemporary at the same time.  He showed some work where he had procured a dead horse, boiled it down for the skeleton, re-assembled the skeleton, put a real human skeleton on top and then created a four-horsemen of the apocolypse piece.  12 feet wide.  Jaw-dropping in the ambition and execution.  Unfortunately, I don't think he has released images of it, at least I couldn't find any online.  So until I do, here are some of his other works:






The afternoon presentation was titled Masterful Influence -  with Kathy Anderson, Scott Burdick,
Michelle Dunaway, Daniel Keys, Susan Lyon and Molly Schmid.  It was a touching tribute to the influence of their mentor, Richard Schmid.  Schmid was there and had a few pieces in tow.  Inspiring as always.  I took some cell phone pictures.  Not my best work, but still show some neat detail.






That night was the awards banquet and presentation of various honors.  David Kassan was the overall winner and his portrait was powerful.  I as surprised at the impact it has in person.  There is a powerful sense of light in his flesh.  It is very detailed with all the wrinkles and spots and imperfections handed with equal diligence and care.  I had picked out his piece and Casey Childs as the two favorites to win so I was happy to see that one of them ended up taking it.

David Jon Kassan
Draper Grand Prize
"Love and Resilience, Portrait of Louise and Lazar Farkas, Survivors of the Shoah," 46x42", oil on panel


Casey Childs
Third Place
"Take These Broken Wings," 48x24", oil on linen

The last day ends with a inspirational hour early in the morning, this year by Michelle Dunaway, followed by a couple more presentations with the conference ending by lunch.

I had a wonderful time. I was surprised at how many people there, that I introduced myself to, were readers of Muddy Colors.  MC's reach goes well beyond our fine circle of the fantastic and sci-fi friends!  I hope to attend again next year and am crossing my fingers that it doesn't happen at the same time as Spectrum Live because it has been too long since I have seen many of you.




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