Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How to Feel Better: Paint Something!

There was a moment (okay, several moments) of self-pity this past weekend as I perused Facebook and saw most of my artist friends living it up in Washington, D.C. at the annual "Art of the Portrait" conference. I so wanted to be there, taking it all in, talking about art, and learning from the best. But it wasn't meant to be.

So I painted something. Slept in. Walked the dog. Enjoyed the gorgeous weather. Spent time with my husband. Caught up with old friends.

I may not be counting down the days till my due date (the daily baby emails I get are doing that for me!), but I am keenly aware that life is about to change VERY soon. Something tells me I'm not quite ready yet. I still have a couple of paintings to finish. I've enjoyed working on several commissioned portraits, which I will post photos of very soon, but those are still not finished. I've also kept busy with numerous other projects to supplement my need for the challenges of figurative work, and the adrenaline rush of alla prima painting (and also to distract myself from the fact that I'm about to have a baby!).

One of those alla prima portraits happened yesterday at the Society of Figurative Arts. SOFA is the studio of the wonderful Michael Mentler, who is a very dear friend of mine and someone I respect immensely. I used to go there and paint live portraits every week, but since my world has been so crazy lately, I have only had the luxury of going a few times within the last eight months. I had a couple of reasons for wanting to go, of course. First, my energy level was excellent (one can never take that for granted when they are 9 months pregnant)! Second, I hadn't done a live alla prima portrait in quite a few weeks. Third, I wanted to hear all about the Portrait Society conference. Michael and several others from here in Dallas had been able to go, while I begrudgingly stayed behind thanks to airline travel restrictions for pregnant women. It broke my heart to miss it, having been to the last five conferences and knowing that they are often a major highlight of my year. Michael even described the PSOA as a "second church" to me... I think he is right!

I heard that the conference was one of the best they've ever had, if not THE best. I was very happy to hear from Michael that he visited with some of the most remarkable and talented artists alive. While I again felt some of the pangs that had hit me over the weekend, hearing about the conference made me more determined than ever to make it back next year.

Meanwhile, we had an excellent model at the studio (thank you, Ann!), so I let out my pent-up FOMO by painting one of the best 3-hour alla prima heads I've done in quite some time. It was invigorating and fun, and I felt so much better afterwards! The moral of the story... it's always better to keep busy and PAINT SOMETHING than to sit around wishing you were somewhere else. :-)

"Ann" - 16x12" - oil on linen panel (3 hours alla prima)


Thursday, April 10, 2014

For Love of the Demo

March was a busy month for me. With my third trimester well under way, I was a little concerned that I wouldn't have the energy for it all. But the passion and drive didn't wane, and I was able to accomplish a lot in spite of the need for much more sleep and the irritating plague of heartburn that happens when you're carrying high.

Between my two-day portrait workshop and painting at my gallery during Fort Worth Spring Gallery Night, I happened to be working in the public eye a bit more than usual. On Gallery Night (Saturday, March 29), I set up my easel in a corner of the gallery and collectors could come and go, or stay and watch while I worked on a current painting project. Many of them commented, "I don't know how you can stand having people watch you work!" I told them it didn't faze me one bit, and that I actually enjoyed being able to share my process with others. "I find it very fulfilling," I said, "to show someone what actually goes into making a work of art. I love sharing my passion with anyone who is interested!" Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures from that evening, but below are some pictures from past demonstrations.

With the model and finished painting from
Spring Gallery Night 2013

Okay, so here's my confession of the day. I absolutely LOVE to demo. It's no secret that I love painting portraits from life, but when given the added excitement of having a captive audience, I'm imbued with a heightened motivation to really nail it! I always thought my twin sister (the professional musician) was the real performer in the family. Then I realized I like to perform in my own way: when I teach and demonstrate portrait painting. Why is it so exciting? It's a huge responsibility, and I'm screwed if I don't get the likeness. But that hunger for perfection becomes so much more prevalent when I know that people are watching me. Knowing there are other sets of eyes fixated on my canvas makes me keenly aware of every brush stroke I lay down. I am forced to be completely intentional with every mark, completely in the moment. There's no liberty to zone out while giving a demo. It's a challenging and revealing display of one's current skill level--a "test," so to speak. I must be able to explain what I'm doing in detail. I ought to remember the color I pulled from on my palette, and explain why I put down that particular brush stroke in that way. I have to process and problem-solve the visual puzzle before me while explaining my reasoning for every move. Thankfully, my students are quite forgiving when I have a momentary brain lapse. They love it when I make mistakes... because I can demonstrate how to correct them!

A demo from November 2013 for an artist gathering at
Chase Oaks Church in Plano, TX

Below are some demos I've done in the past for some of the private classes in my studio.

Kia - 30-minute demo in white and transparent oxide brown (8x6")

Katherine - 30-minute demo in full color (10x8")

Misty - 3-hour demo in full color (14x11")
In spite of the pressure a live demo can put one under, I am always excited and honored when someone asks me to give one. For years now, I've had a secret (or not so secret) desire to be a featured artist in the "Face-Off" competition held by the Portrait Society at their annual conference. Since I've never won a major award with the organization, I tend to get overlooked because I'm not famous enough yet. But I hope that someday, I get the chance to try it. That would make me VERY happy. :-) 

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