Thursday, April 29, 2010

"The Art of The Portrait Conference" - April 22-25. 2010

I've just gotten back from the PSOA's annual portrait conference in Reston, VA, and I feel excited and renewed as an artist - ready to dive back in to the difficult challenges of painting portraits! There was such an amazing energy there all weekend, as hundreds of artists congregated in one place and talked about the one thing they all had in common: that one thing which drives us all. It's that beautiful obsession with skin tones and shapes and relationships between values and colors. It's our inward desire to create impressions of the beauty that surrounds us. We can't live without it, and yet we struggle with its complexities and our own limitations. Being a portrait artist is an amazing calling!

In my latest newsletter, I talked about portfolios and how having a clean, professional and beautiful presentation has been a big step towards gaining credibility and recognition in the art world (hence, the honorable mention in the PSOA portfolio competition - this is huge for me!).

Here are a few of the other wonderful things I gleaned from this year's conference:

  • The secret to growing as an artist is painting from life
  • Think about sculpting the whole time - what is the structure underneath it all? Think about effect - what are the key descriptives of the form? Think about interpretation - what feels right?
  • If you're having trouble getting started, just go for it and let yourself make some mistakes so you can fix them. Key words: Inspiration, Persperation, Determination, ATTITUDE
  • Find ways of acheiving something different - something that no one has ever seen before.
  • Let yourself be a little uncomfortable - challenge yourself!
  • Note on materials: Rose Frantzen used oil sticks to draw and block in masses at the start of her demo. I can't wait to give these a try!
  • Why teach art? Because of the possibility of the experience - to help someone find the right question at the most useful time when painting.
  • Feed active questioning about purpose, meaning, approach, etc. What is my ultimate question?
  • Be around people who are passionate about painting.
  • There is a heirarchy of intention. "Is what I'm about to do next going to take me closer to the direction I wish to go, or further away?" (Schmid)
  • When it comes to having a good studio, there is no substitute for light and space. It's okay to have too much light because you can scale it back, but not enough light is going to be a problem.
One of my idols in the art world, Nancy Guzik, gave a generous amount of time to look at my portfolio and to talk with me about expression. She had so many words of encouragement, and it struck me when I mentioned something about edges (I guess I asked her something like, "How are you able to express so much through the use of soft edges?"), and she said, "Oh, that's just technique..." that I am finally starting to dig a little deeper as an artist. The expressiveness came to the painting not just through her use of brushwork and technique, but through her ultimate intention - she knew what she wanted to accomplish from the start of the painting, and the technique was simply her vocabulary. Nancy's work encompasses where I wish to be someday in my own work - her paintings express a kind of honest joy as she depicts women and children with great tenderness.

Anna with artist Nancy Guzik

So where am I going with this? I have a goal for my own work - whether I'm doing commission work or paintings just for fun - my goal is to make every painting an expression of gratitude. Before now, I kept asking myself, "Is my work relevant?" because my whole life has been relatively easy. Now I'm realizing that you don't need to have a life full of pain and strife to create art that says something meaningful. Beauty in and of itself is a worthy aim. Further, my Christian calling comes to mind in the mindst of this internal questioning, and I realize every day how truly blessed I've been, my whole life. Therefore, it would be wrong of me to express anything but gratitude!

I am a young artist, but I do have a lot to say, and I think my message will be relevant, especially in a society that is weighed down by its own moral dissolution. This year's portrait conference was good for me, because it helped me to dig a little deeper. I'm ready to dive in!

P.S. Here is the one souvenir I picked up from the National Gallery of with my morning coffee in it. :-) It says, "I am still learning."

I am Still Learning - Michelangelo



  1. Very cool Anna. Thank you so much for sharing. I love that you put your strong points in bullets. You really pulled out what you gained from the conference and made it into something of import, then expanded. Thank you!

  2. Thanks! I know I only scratched the surface of everything that was said last weekend, but the things I listed were all personally meaningful to me.


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