Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Art of the Portrait: Recap Day 2

Day 2 of the "Art of the Portrait" (April 15) was jam-packed with wonderful things, including the opening ceremony (which includes a slideshow presentation of all the faculty, finalists and Certificate of Excellence winners), and an incredibly educational and entertaining lecture by James Gurney about the science of facial recognition and seeing. He also shared a clip from his new video, "Painting Portraits in the Wild."

James Gurney was followed by a two hour demo by Quang Ho and Rose Frantzen. These two are the painting dream team. Rose was like a hurricane on stage... her energy could not be contained! Her start consisted of throwing paint on the canvas with a rubber spatula! Quang looked over and said, "What the hell are you doing?" The whole demo was hilarious and entertaining, but we shouldn't overlook that the finished paintings were skillfully done, with masterful observation and aesthetic decision making. And as always, I learned a great deal from both Rose and Quang's honesty, and shared love for artistic experimentation. Rose, who never holds back, even left the audience laughing and nodding emphatically when she said, "We're all gonna die! So we might as well paint without fear." I wish I could remember everything that was said, but I was too riveted to take notes!

On the big screen: Quang's painting on left, Rose's on right

Immediately after the demo, I was assigned to the lobby for book signing. I had only brought six copies of my book, "The Wait and the Reward," but every copy sold, and I found myself signing them (a surreal experience, to be sure!). I have to give a huge shout out to the people who bought my book - THANK YOU! I hope that it proves to be inspirational and encouraging to you all!

Photo by Maria Bennett Hock

After book signing, I got in line for a different book signing: Daniel Gerhartz. He was a guest of honor this year, since this was his first time on faculty for the Portrait Society. He was very kind and gracious as always. I am going to enjoy perusing the pages of Dan's book, "Not Far From Home", as I can relate to his work on so many levels. He paints about life, family, the beauty of God's creation... his level of mastery is what I hope to achieve someday.

I am proud to now own a signed copy of Dan Gerhartz's book, "Not Far From Home"

Emily and I visited the vendors/materials room for the first time. My favorite frame maker, Michael Graham for Masterworks Frames, was there, and of course the famous Rosemary brushes, represented by Rosemary's lovely daughter Symi. I stocked up on brushes (see my materials link to see which ones I use :-)), and some paints from the Gamblin booth (which had sold out of Radiant Green and Radiant Turquoise thanks to my use of those colors in the Face Off!), then it was time to rush off to afternoon break-out sessions.

Breakout sessions, which happen simultaneously, are always hard to choose from - there are usually drawing workshops, lectures on marketing and selling art, and various slideshow presentations that are extremely beneficial to artists who are hungry to learn. This year though, there was one breakout session I wouldn't miss for the world: Sam Knecht's unveiling of "Ernesta" by Cecilia Beaux. Through Sam's guidance, the painting was recently bequeathed to Hillsdale College, Emily's and my alma mater. Sam, and one of his senior art majors, had carefully driven the priceless work of art all the way from Michigan to D.C. for this special event.

I've known Sam for thirteen years, having been his student and mentee from the time I arrived at Hillsdale as a pimple-faced freshman. Sam is an excellent teacher and artist. Over the years, we've kept in touch, and I had the privilege of getting a "sneak preview" of Sam's research on the Beaux painting when I saw him at the conference last year. That being said, this lecture and unveiling were the culmination of three years of laborious research. If you do a Google search for the painting by its original title, "On the Terrace," you probably won't find it. That's because the painting hasn't been seen by the public in 80 years! 

Sam's lecture was absolutely fascinating and covered C.B's life and studio, as well as her relationship with her niece Ernesta (the subject of the painting, and also the one person Cecilia painted the most). Then Sam delved into the research he did, as there was a great deal of mystery surrounding this particular painting. Beaux submitted it to various shows after it was completed, but she completely reworked the background several times. The most curious thing of all was that some time after Beaux's death, the painting had been cut down to two pieces so that all that was left were the head and hands, and the shoes.

There ought to be a documentary or a book written about this amazing story. In the meantime, you can read the Hillsdale Collegian's version of it here.



The three versions of "Portrait Study," or "On the Terrace"

The remaining pieces. The rest of the painting is lost.

Beaux's niece and model, Ernesta

Sam unveiling the portrait!





Emily and I reunited with our college art professor :-)

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