Friday, December 8, 2017

Adventures and Accolades

2017 has been quite a year. As the new year approaches, I inevitably look back and reflect on all the changes that have taken place and what I've learned from this past year. I'm very thankful to have received several notable awards and accolades just this past month. For those of you who have been following my journey on social media and here on this blog, you know that this kind of recognition means a great deal to me. I've worked really hard to get here. While I do acknowledge the existence of "talent", I believe even more in the relentless pursuit of one's passion. To me the biggest compliment is not, "You're so talented," but rather, "Your hard work is paying off."

So... maybe some of the hard work is paying off. And the affirmation drives me to keep doing better work than before, to make a painting that is even better than the last. I know, it's a little crazy. Like a dog chasing its tail... I'm never going to reach perfection, whatever that looks like. But in my opinion, it's still a worthy pursuit.

Earlier in November I flew out to Saint George, Utah, to attend the OPA Western Regional and opening reception and weekend festivities at Illume Gallery of Fine Art. Much to my great surprise, the juror, William Schneider, awarded me with the top prize (gold medal!) for my self portrait, "Silent Snowfall."  

Knowing my chances of ever becoming an Olympic athlete are...well, zero... this was probably the only time in my life I'll ever wear a gold medal around my neck. It felt pretty good.

But the best part of the trip to Utah was the hiking. I got explore Zion National Park, and Snow Canyon State Park, for a glorious day and a half before heading home. During those contemplative moments of hiking and painting, I enjoyed reflecting on God's goodness and how He cares about the smallest and biggest moments of our lives. I looked at the world with a renewed sense of awe for its beauty and the fact that I get to have a place in it, even if it's short and probably insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I'm grateful.

So why has 2017 been different? I've definitely had a lot LESS time in my studio than in years past. But I'm trying to become more patient when I'm there, a better listener to the work and what it needs. I've also had more freedom within my work to experiment more, try things without the hindrance of fear, and to be okay with it if it doesn't turn out. Part of this is because there's been less financial pressure on me, thanks to my hubby who ROCKS at his job (!), but it's mostly because I'm finally listening to the right advice and learning to be more nurturing in my craft.

Over the course of the past few weeks, there has been more good news. My self portrait also received a second place award in the Portrait Society of America's Members Only Competition, and my peony still life, "Spring Bouquet," won 8th place in the still life category. There were over 1000 entries this year!

"Vintage Tutu" was awarded First Place (out of over 2000 entries) in Southwest Art Magazine's annual "Artistic Excellence" competition, landing it a full-page editorial in the December issue (see image below). Today I was told that this same painting will grace the cover of a prominent publication... to be announced next month (my first cover!)!

Finally... and I'm still giddy over this... prominent artist and good friend of mine, Quang Ho, invited me to join him on the main stage at the upcoming Portrait Society of America's "Art of the Portrait" conference in April for a portrait demo entitled,  "Approaching the Blank Canvas with Confidence."  We'll be painting in front of 800+ people! Of course, this is old hat for Quang, who is a beloved regular at this event, but for me it's going to be nerve-racking and awesome.  I can't wait! So... if you are still on the fence about coming to the Portrait Society this year, maybe I can convince you to join us. It's going to be a blast!

Finally... the last thing I want is for this post to sound like a brag fest. For those of you who feel like every day in the studio is a struggle, and you enter every online, regional, or national show that comes up... I have been there. So. Many. Times. For years I threw my paintings towards every opportunity for exposure, hoping something would stick, only to realize that I wasn't being smart about it... or patient. I've learned to wait for those rare and special paintings that really sing, and enter THOSE in juried shows and competitions. This year I've only had two or three outstanding paintings, but I'm very proud of them, and judges and collectors are taking notice. Everything else in my studio - the hundreds of figure studies, plein air pieces, and unfinished paintings... will either have their day, or will never see a collector's wall. And that's all right. What matters is that as artists, we are continuing to challenge ourselves and grow. If you make exceptional work, people will start to notice. :-) Happy painting!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Rest from the Noise

Okay, it's been a while since I've posted and I'm going to be vulnerable with you.

I've had a lot of noise in my life lately. There is, of course, literal noise, such as the little voice from the back seat that calls me out when my mind begins to wander and says, "Mommy, you need to talk to me!" and who requires 3-year-old conversations throughout the day about puzzles and rain boots and Dora the Explorer. I don't mind that noise - it is a sweet time right now and oh so fleeting. But I will admit that when I'm in the car by myself I shut off the radio and soak up the silence.

No... the loudest noise in my life has been coming from within. It manifests itself in an insipid string of lies that speak to me in the first person, saying, "You're not doing this right. No one really likes your work. You must not be cut out for this. You're failing as an artist and a mom. You're a terrible friend. All these things you're doing - teaching workshops, acting like you know anything about anything... you're a fraud." I could keep going but I don't want to depress you.

Anyone else experience that terrible inner noise? That voice that won't leave you alone, that constantly undermines your confidence and your motivation to keep striving? 

Well, I've dealt with it most of my life. But I've been reading a book lately (another recommendation from my wise and dear friend Linda), that is helping me to decipher the clutter and open up room in my mind for God to breathe fresh life into my art and everyday activities. With His help I can learn not just to ignore the noise, but banish it for good. The book is called "Unseen: the Gift of Being Hidden in a World that Loves to be Noticed," by Sara Hagerty. The title alone made me uncomfortable at first. I mean, my whole vocation revolves around being "seen". I'm an artist. My work is meant to be noticed, considered, appreciated, acquired. My life too, has become public because so much of it is rooted in this thing that I do, this gift that I share with the world. And my personality type (I'm an INFJ and an Enneagram 3; look it up!)... well, this just reinforces why it's so hard for me to let go of both my inner thoughts and my public image. Claude Monet was very concerned with his audience's perception of him. The same man who described his water lily paintings as a "haven of peace" is also known to have slashed or kicked holes through hundreds of them in his rage over the work not meeting his standards. I haven't resorted to violence toward my art yet... but I can relate.

I'm beginning to realize that "hidden-ness", though very hard to attain in this day and age, is something I desperately need more of in order to be grounded in my personal life and in order to continue making art that matters. My natural impulse is to communicate what I'm thinking and feeling as directly as I can, because it feels good to let it out, and to find others who relate to my experiences (hello? Isn't that why we enjoy all those likes and comments on social media?).  But as I grow older and [hopefully] wiser I am hiding more things in my heart.

The constant demands of inner and outer noise often rob me of my purest moments for creation. I began to unknowingly grapple for peace this past summer every time I retreated to the mountains to hike and paint. I thought I was getting a good workout and hopefully a good painting, but the more I cared, the less satisfied I was with my results. On the few days when I retreated to the quiet landscape, with a mind that was actually open to my Creator's prompting (even if there was still some noise -- the key was to be open), I came back truly refreshed in my spirit, and it didn't matter whether or not my painting had turned out. My soul was fed.

So my goal for the next few months is to enter a season of rest (yes, even with the holidays approaching!). Less self-inflicted pressure, more openness to creative possibilities. Less noise, more quiet listening and meditation. I think it's important that quiet hidden-ness becomes a regular part of everyday life. For artists especially -- if we don't slow down, we will burn out.

My husband wisely planned a vacation for just the two of us this past month. He knew that if we were only gone 4 or 5 days, we wouldn't truly decompress. So we spent 9 days in Maui... and it took at least the first half of the trip to really unplug and let go of our regular performance-driven habits. As I relaxed, I felt less pressure to paint, and so I painted better. The letting go of expectations gave me greater freedom to enjoy the beauty of my surroundings.  This, I think, was a good first step. I hope I can carry this new mindset into everyday life as I return to responsible adulthood here in Colorado.

Below are some of my paintings from Maui. I lived in a swimsuit all week and gorged myself on seafood. It was healing. I hope these paintings inspire some of the peace I felt while making them.

Above: 8x8", painted on location at Ho'Okipa Beach. 

Above/Below: 6x8", sunset at Ho'Okipa Beach

Above/Below: 10x8", Wailuku, HI. 

Above/Below: 8x6", moonrise over Kihei, at Kamaole Beach Park III.

All paintings are available. Email me at if interested! :-)


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Healthy Summer: Painting and... Crossfit

August already... it has flown by, but this summer has been a good one. I kicked the season off with a trip to Dallas in June to teach a sold-out portrait painting workshop. I was in Texas for a full week and painted almost every day, either for private commission work or for teaching demos. It's amazing how daily practice creates momentum and catapults you forward in your skill set! I wish I could say I painted every day ALL summer, but unfortunately that was not the case. When life gets crazy, you just have to adapt and find ways to make it work, even when you lose your inspiration or feel tired and unmotivated.

Demonstrating for students in Dallas, June 2017 

"Hathor" - 16x12" - oil on panel - finished class demo

Something that has helped me work through this regular conundrum of high/low moments in my art is that I've started attending Crossfit classes 4-5 times a week. This sounds random and unrelated, but hear me out.

I have spent the last 10+ years of my life focusing so intently on my art career that I can't say I willingly gave 100% to any other effort (except for my family, of course!). I suffered with horrible chronic back pain during my first year and a half of motherhood. But because I was so worried that if I stopped pushing myself to paint regularly, my career would dissolve--I didn't put time or effort into getting healthy. Instead, I kept painting, suffered through the pain, and tried to accomplish two things each day: keep my kid alive and do something--anything-- art or business-related.

I have since learned that life requires more balance than this crazy cycle I put myself through. I started Crossfit two months ago, and I'm completely hooked.  Steve says I talk about it way too much, but it's hard not to talk about something you're excited about! It's the first time in my adult life that I've pursued something just for me, free of expectations of making money or using it in some way to further my career. I like the challenge of doing a different workout every day, and just trying to become the healthiest, strongest me I can be. As a result, I actually end up being a happier and more loving wife and mom. Sometimes my shoulders hurt after a hard workout, which makes it tough to hold up a paintbrush(!), but I just laugh about it and push through.

It doesn't hurt that my gym is inside an airplane hanger and boasts a great view of the front range! Also, the instructors are awesome. :-) Check out MBS Crossfit here

Here's how Crossfit has actually helped my art:

  • Because the bar is set SO high, I'm learning to show myself some grace, all while pushing myself harder than I ever thought possible. In my art, I am my own toughest critic. Both of these disciplines--Crossfit and painting--require a healthy balance of gentleness and grit.
  • Being new to Crossfit, the learning curve right now is exponential. I haven't experienced that kind of "newness" with my art in a very long time. The excitement of learning all these cool skills (like power lifting and climbing a rope), has renewed my hunger for learning to paint. While that hunger has always been there, sometimes it gets pushed aside by commission deadlines and mundane responsibilities. I'm giving myself permission to more regularly attend painting demos or watch instructional videos, to keep asking questions, and to keep experimenting with new techniques and subject matter.  
  • The daily practice I mentioned earlier... it's true of both fitness and painting. Just as we must exercise our muscles every day in order to grow strong, we artists must also keep practicing the skill of direct observation.
  • Being healthy makes you capable of doing so much more! I can hike ten miles with a 20-pound pack (holding art supplies, of course!) and the payoff is I get to paint at some pretty amazing locations that most artists wouldn't bother trying to get to.  

One of my plein air paintings in an early stage, at Mills Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

As summer continues, some of the challenges I set for myself remain unresolved. I can't really do pull ups yet, and my power cleans are not good (as evidenced by the grapefruit-sized bruise on my thigh). Certain paintings sit abandoned in my studio, waiting for the work to resume at a future date when time and experience have helped me find the solution. Whether "failed" or "successful," each piece is propelling me forward in my comprehension of the visual world and making me better at my craft. And, each failed rep at the gym makes me stronger and more determined.

Artists are human beings... sometimes weird ones who struggle to find balance in life. Our work is a reflection of our culture, our experiences, and our hearts. We pour ourselves out like an offering in each new creation, and when a collector takes home one of our paintings, they are taking a piece of our personal journey with them, which includes both the ups and downs. I'm thankful for my collectors, and for everything I'm learning this year. And of course, I'm always thankful I get to do what I love.

I'll post the new work soon!


Monday, July 10, 2017

Epiphany: On Music and Breaking the "Rules"

This post was recently published on the OPA blog, but I thought I'd also share it here. :-)

I am a professional artist, but what some people don’t know about me is that I've played piano since I was eight years old. I was classically trained all the way through college, with a major in art and a minor in music. I took all the music classes: ​ ​ theory, aural skills, counterpoint. I even took voice lessons and sang in ​the ​choir. I loved music with a passion that rivaled my love for art… it was that big a part of my life.

But there came a point when I had to choose, because I couldn't devote 100% of my time to both. These art forms each demand much more of a person when it comes to choosing a career path. I chose painting, and the music gradually diminished from my life.

Recently, however, I’ve returned to playing piano once in a while just for fun. Since I've played some of the same stuff over and over for the last 15 years, I decided to order some new sheet music to freshen up my repertoire.

At first I was excited to play through the new material, but I quickly realized that the music was just "ok". Honestly I got rather bored playing through these lovely but cliche arrangements of popular songs.

This made me realize that I have changed. I'm not a student anymore, but a person who is capable of taking something and making it my own. And as a recovering rule-follower, it has taken me years to realize that I can do this. The possibilities are limitless.

Now I know why my high school piano teacher was pushing the "Fake Books" on me, but I never wanted to try them. Now I know why jazz musicians can really let loose, and why improv performers can take an ordinary tune and turn it into something amazing.

What does this have to do with art? Well, as with the music, I am arriving at a similar place in my painting. One can spend a lifetime playing scales or painting color charts, and working solely on technique, but at some point, we have to break away and start becoming artists. We have permission to use our imagination and just roll with it. Let the art carry us on an unexpected journey. Those of us who struggle with perfectionism will constantly hear voices in our heads telling us to play it safe, and do things the comfortable or traditional way. Follow the "rules" because they are time tested.

But that is ridiculous! I have the vocabulary, and I’ve had it for years-both as an artist and a musician. Why did chord charts always scare me? Because it meant I had to take something and be "original" with it! Why does breaking away from classical art scare me? Because it means I am forging new territory and I have to own it.

I've been having conversations with other artists about ways that we can break away from traditional molds. Here are a few ideas:

  • ​Glaze an area down to improve the value structure and overall design.
  • Eliminate or add elements either from another reference source or from your imagination.
  • Do an entire painting in only one color family.
  • Choose unusual subject matter (I am currently starting a series on people working out at the gym!).
  • Go through stacks of old studies and paintings and analyze why they worked or didn't.
  • Drastically change some of them to see if your problem solving skills have improved since you first painted them.

The list goes on and on but I’d love to hear what you have to say about this. How are you successfully ​"breaking the rules" in your art?

"One More Rep" - 12x20" - oil on panel

Above: This piece is the first in a series that explores subject matter outside my usual repertoire. I'm excited to see where this goes!


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I SEE YOU: The Art of Capturing a Likeness

I've been thinking a lot over the past month about a comment I received more than once while painting my Face Off demo at the Portrait Society of America conference. Several observers said, "You nailed the likeness. You really captured her soul." I know it was meant as a compliment, but I wonder if these kind folks realized the gravity behind what they were saying. To go from "nailing the likeness" to "capturing the soul..." well, that's rather profound. And I've been thinking about what it really means to see someone, and translate that image to marks on canvas in a way that is meaningful.

So what is behind the art of capturing a likeness and what does it require? Is it more than simply copying a person's proportions and tones? Is it a natural ability or intuition that some are just better at than others? Who are some artists who do this really well?

I'll attempt to answer these questions as best I can, but before I get into the technical aspects of painting a good likeness, I think it's important that I offer some brief insight into my worldview.  My pastor gave a sermon a couple of months ago about Hagar, from a series on the life of Abraham. The title of the sermon was "The God Who Sees."  In the account from Genesis 16, Hagar becomes pregnant by Abraham and gets banished by Abraham's wife Sarah to suffer in the wilderness. In spite of every party involved wronging the other (Sarah abuses Hagar, Abraham is complacent, Hagar despises Sarah), God still blesses each of them in the end. We know from Scripture that He gives Sarah a son in her old age, and that Abraham goes on to father the nation of Israel. But the part of the story that really moves me is when God sees the lowly servant woman Hagar, in her oppression and despair, and calls her by name. He blesses her and promises that her son will grow up to be a mighty warrior, with descendants too numerous to count. She responds to Him in verse 13, "You are the God who sees me."

As my pastor says, "God's seeing is a form of compassion." He sees into us - sees our souls, the essence of who we are, and He cares for us. And He doesn't just see us in our lowly state; He does something about it. He overcomes sin with grace, and He blesses the oppressed.  Do we see people the way God sees them? To have compassion in their suffering, and in spite of their flaws? I certainly hope I do, and painting is the channel I use to see and bless others.

One of the common threads that ties us all together - and gives me reason for believing in a Divine Creator - is RELATIONSHIP. God chose to create us for the purpose of being in relationship with Him. And our earthly lives, for better or worse, are shaped by relationships more than anything else. That is why I love painting people. Although I am introverted by nature, I think it's unnatural to completely avoid fellow humans. I relish the time alone in my studio, but I find it even more important to spend time with people, whether they be my family and friends, other artists, or my models.

Whatever your worldview, I think it's pretty obvious that if you are going to do your human subjects justice, you need to actually care about them. The common thread is that people MATTER, and their intrinsic value is far beyond quantifiable worth.

So... from a technical standpoint, how does one capture a likeness? Obviously, strong drawing skills are a must. An artist must be able to identify the unique relationships between shapes and values within a face.  Overall structure and carriage are more important than detail. We recognize friends and family from a long way off because we know the shape of their head and hair, and the way they carry themselves. Eye color, wrinkles, and even skin tones, are relatively unimportant when it comes to likeness.

It helps to talk to the model and become familiar with their mannerisms. It is possible to paint a child from life and capture their likeness, even though they can't sit still. If you take the time to observe them carefully, you will notice positions, head tilts, or expressions that they keep returning to, if just for a split second. Choose one of those familiar gestures, and you'll be on the right track. Impose your own ideas about a pose on someone... and the spirit will be lost.

I used to try to make the model fit my idea or concept by posing them exactly how I imagined they should look in my head. Once in a rare while, the painting would turn out, but most of the time, the resulting image looked stiff and unnatural. I've discovered that it works best if artist and model can collaborate together on the pose, so that both are bringing something of themselves into the final work.  Below are some examples of artists who truly excel at capturing a person's spirit and soul.

Rose Frantzen

Max Ginsburg

Jeffrey Hein

Nancy Guzik

Jeremy Lipking
And while it's hard to follow such amazing examples of painting who SEE people, I offer here a few of my own works:

"Colquitt" (14x11", class demo painted from life in about 4 hours)

Detail from studio painting, "Native Daughter, Modern Woman"

"Judy in Blue," 18x14", a portrait of one of my dear Texas artist friends

Detail from studio painting of my daughter Cecelia, "Looking Through"


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The "Art of the Portrait" 2017

I returned home from Atlanta late Sunday night, April 23... and I'm still recovering. Actually, I just haven't had much time to write, since I got thrown head-first into potty training Cecelia... but I'm sure you don't want to hear about that. :-)

This year's annual Portrait Society of America conference was particularly exciting for me, albeit exhausting. I came back with a very full heart and have spent the last week or so sifting through photos, following up with artists I met at the event, and catching up on time with my family.

Before I left for the conference, I made sure to get a photo of Cece with her portrait. I borrowed the painting back from a collector in Scottsdale, and had it re-framed by Masterworks Frames just for the conference. They did an amazing job and I would highly recommend them! Somehow, my little 8x6" painting was able to hold its own in the room of finalist artworks, all of which were substantially larger and more commanding.

The opening event of the conference is a popular demonstration called the "Face Off," in which 15 artists gather in the ballroom to paint from live models simultaneously, for a total of 3 hours with breaks. It usually ends up being three artists to a model, and this year, our models were also artists. We don't get to find out where we'll be set up or who we are painting until the last minute, when numbers are drawn. This year, I drew a spot painting Lea Colie Wight, and was set up between Alicia Ponzio and Tony Pro. Even though this was my second year participating in the Face-Off, I felt incredibly humbled to be in the company of these amazing artists. There's no pressure like painting with your peers. Thankfully, my painting turned out okay. :-)

Photo by Matthew Innis

Photo by Maria Bennett Hock

My finished demo with Lea Wight. I painted my demo on an Artefex panel and absolutely loved the surface!

The next morning, PSOA's executive chairman, Ed Jonas, gave the opening welcome speech, and a video was played highlighting this year's faculty, finalists, and certificate of excellence winners. I teared up when I saw my sweet girl on the big screen. This means so very much to me!!

Photo by Judy Takacs Pendergast

Friday morning was pretty fun for me; I had been asked to serve as the main stage moderator, meaning that I would introduce the morning's speakers, and make announcements before the breaks. After getting over the initial shock of the blinding lights and ear-splitting microphone, I really enjoyed the honor of welcoming the first demo artist to the stage, Jeffrey Hein. Jeff was supposed to be a faculty member last year, but cancelled last minute due to illness. It was pretty cool that this year, not only was he back and an active participant, but he got to do a solo portrait demo on the main stage. His demonstration was phenomenal!

Later on Friday I participated in a break-out session called "Doing Your Visual Homework," alongside Ed Jonas, Dawn Whitelaw, and Jeff Hein. Each of us discussed our unique approach to problem solving and planning out a painting.  Unfortunately I don't have any pictures from this discussion, so I'll just share here the opening picture of my slideshow, which demonstrated that painting and drawing from life can happen anywhere. :-)

Above: a photo from my "Visual Homework" presentation. I did this little study of Cece while stuck in a hotel room during a blizzard.

One of the best parts about going to a painting conference like this is socializing after the day's events. This year I volunteered to mentor a fellow artist through the Cecilia Beaux Forum's mentorship programs, and she and I enjoyed a delightful one-on-one dinner (rare to get at these kinds of events!). Sometimes I think I'm learning more from her than she is from me. :-)

Friday evening featured "meet the finalists," where we stood in front of our artworks in the gallery and talked about our work to anyone who was interested. This was followed immediately by the popular 6x9" Mystery Sale, . Below: my contribution this year. I was thrilled when the person who bought it introduced herself to me later!

Study for "Blue Maiden," 9x6", oil on panel - donated to the Portrait Society for their annual mystery sale

Friday night I went to bed early, saving my energy for the next day. I had to be up early to kick off the day with a panel discussion for the Cecilia Beaux Forum at 7:30 a.m. I really thought no one one would show up, since most people were up late conversing, but there was great interest and it ended up being standing room only! The panel consisted of myself, Judith Carducci, Dawn Whitelaw, and Katherine Stone, and our conversation attempted to broadly cover the topic of navigating a successful career. I talked about "painting what you're passionate about," and then nodded in emphatic agreement as Kate Stone discussed what it's like to be a professional artist and a mother (She and I later decided we should make a push for having a separate round table discussion on this topic next year). Dawn explained how she keeps her studio organized and manages her time carefully so as to maximize time at the easel. And Judy talked with fondness about her career from the standpoint of someone in their 80s, looking back. As I sat next to her and listened, I had to hold back some emotions. It was a huge honor to be on a panel with someone I've looked up to for so many years. I'm convinced Judy is part of the reason I've made it this far. :-)

After that I helped do portfolio critiques, and I signed a few books. I grabbed a quick hug from Nancy Guzik, who was there with her beloved Richard Schmid. Richard was signing copies of "Alla Prima II" (in my opinion, the best book on oil painting that has ever been written), and the line of people eager to meet him went out the door. Richard would be honored that evening for his contribution to art education.

Meanwhile, I was grieving the fact that I didn't have any more scheduled demos... so I crashed Tim Rees's party and set up to paint with him in the exhibitors' hall. The Raymar folks "adopted" us and let us paint there, even giving me one of their fantastic L64C lead-primed linen panels to work on for my demo. We roped Jeff Hein into modeling for us, and he was great. I think my painting would have turned out better though, if I hadn't been so intimidated to be painting such an amazing artist. Still, he ended up taking my demo home with him, which is the biggest compliment ever. Thanks, Jeff! :-)

Photo by Shana Levenson

Tim and I didn't want to stop painting, so we set up in the hallway and painted the amazing Gregory Mortenson. I wish I'd had more than an hour to do his portrait - what a great head! I had to rush off though and get ready for the banquet. It sure was fun to paint with the boys though.

Jeff let me try one of his ABS plastic panels for my portrait of Greg. I liked it. Now I need to find a local plastics manufacturer where I can buy this stuff by the sheet. :-)

I sat with my longtime friend and mentor, Michael Mentler, at the awards banquet. Some of the things he's told me over the years will probably stick with me forever... tips on design, form, anatomy, painting materials... the list goes on and on. I'm so honored to call him my friend!

When the awards were announced, I was privileged to receive an award of exceptional merit for my painting of Cece. All I can say is that I'm grateful. Thank you, PSOA!

Photo by Adrienne Stein

The top awards went to Ming Lu (first place painting), Sookyi Lee (first place drawing), Susan Wakeen (first place sculpture), Johanna Harmon (2nd place), Casey Childs (third place), Paul Newton (4th place), and Mary Sauer (5th plcae). The Draper Grand Prize and People's Choice went to David Kassan for "Love and Resilience, Portrait of Louise and Lazar Farkas, Survivors of the Shoah." 

Several years ago when Leslie Adams became only the second woman in PSOA history to take home the Draper prize, I remember feeling like her victory was also my own. Life is so much about overcoming: fear, pain, doubt, guilt, ignorance, bias, etc. But I rejoice that David won this year because that is what his monumental work is about: two survivors who have overcome. You can see all the finalist works and awards on the Portrait Society's Facebook page here.

Meanwhile, I am going to shoot for becoming the 3rd woman to win the top prize... next year. ;-)

With the Draper Grand Prize winner, David Kassan. His work is so important and so necessary!

Richard Schmid was honored with a lifetime achievement award for Excellence in Fine Art Education. I lost it when he came up to receive his award, and there was a standing ovation for him. I've written a great deal on this blog about what his contributions mean to me personally, and it's overwhelming to think of how many hundreds of thousands of people he has impacted directly or indirectly. Either way, every one of us in that room were part of his legacy, and it was very moving.

 Photo of all the finalists, by Matthew Innis

After the banquet, the party began! I stayed up till 3 a.m. for the first time in years. :-) I loved hanging with so many friends, both old and new! Here I am with two fabulous ladies I'm privileged to know, Lacey Lewis and my conference roomie, Tina Garrett (who is one of the fastest rising stars I've ever met! Check her out!).

Sunday morning: breakfast with some of my favorite people (above:-)), and Michelle Dunaway (below) gave an absolutely fantastic talk and slideshow during "Inspirational Hour." I spent the rest of Sunday morning visiting vendors, chatting with fellow artists, and decompressing.

I'm still processing everything from the conference but I have to say that I'm so thankful for the Portrait Society and what it offers to artists: an extended family.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

News so Good it Made Me Cry...

This week I found out that "A Fleeting Moment" was selected as a finalist in the Portrait Society's international competition!

This is a really big deal... for me, anyway. :-) I've applied to the competition every year for the last eight years, but never made the cut of the final 20 or 25, although I have gotten top 40 two years in a row. The Portrait Society's annual conference is one of the biggest highlights of my year. Last year they honored me with a place on the faculty, and this year, I not only return as faculty, but also as a first-time finalist. My painting is one of only 23 works chosen from 2000+ entries and the work this year is... well, incredible.

When I got off the phone after receiving the good news, I had tears of joy running down my face. I have worked so hard for this and feel incredibly grateful!

I'll be borrowing the portrait back from my collector, and bringing it with me to display in Atlanta next month at the four-day conference and compete for top prizes. Most finalists exhibit work that is large-scale and costs a fortune to ship. My painting is only 8x6 inches... I can carry it onto the plane!

They asked me to describe my inspiration behind this painting, and here's what I wrote: "The subject is my greatest muse, my 2-year-old daughter Cecelia. She had been dressed up for a special occasion but instead of mingling with the crowd, she wanted to be outside, exploring the surrounding neighborhood. I watched as she flitted like a butterfly from door to door, but for a split second, she stopped and stared off contemplatively. Everyone tells me that these early years pass by in an instant. It was this concept, wrapped up in the immediacy of a single moment, that I hoped to capture in the painting. The portrait itself is but a wisp, a moment's breath conveyed through its small size, loose brushwork, and simple design."

I knew this piece had a chance at the competition when my good friend, world-class artist Quang Ho, had nothing critical to say about it. He described it simply as, "A big little painting."

Thank you, Portrait Society of America! I am truly honored and grateful!

"A Fleeting Moment" - 8x6" - Private Collection
2017 Finalist in the PSOA's International Competition

P.S. There will be a limited number of copies of my book, "The Wait and the Reward," available for sale at the conference. I will be doing a book signing on Saturday, April 22, from 12:30-1. Anyone who purchases my book and comes to the book signing will receive a signed limited edition print of this painting, "A Fleeting Moment" (only 12 prints available).  So please stop by!
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