Sunday, June 17, 2012

Art of the Portrait 2012: Day 3, The Final Day

(from l. to r.)  Michael Shane Neal, Mary Whyte, and Bart Lindstrom discuss the Various Paths to Success.

The morning of Sunday, May 27th, marked the beginning of the end of the 14th annual Art of the Portrait Conference in Philadelphia.  Though there were still many activities scheduled, the mood was, as is usual for the final day of the event, subdued.  In the midst of all that was left to do, artists were packing and saying their good-byes, and making their ways back to the solitude of their studios.  Underneath the excitement from the weekend, there is, on the last day, also a current of melancholy as everyone realizes the weekend has come to a close.

During the first presentation of the day, panelists Michael Shane Neal, Mary Whyte, and Bart Lindstrom offered advice to the audience on how to succeed in art despite the difficulties presented by the current economy.  Tapping into their personal experiences, the three provided ideas on The Various Paths to Success, and answered questions from the packed auditorium.  One of the solutions proposed was that working artists should consider supplementing their art income with teaching, an option that many people find intimidating.  Neal, who is a very popular teacher, shared his fears and feelings of inadequacy when he first considered offering lessons.  He had to be reminded and encouraged by his mentor, Dawn Whitelaw, "There are many people out there eager to learn, who know less than you do; even if you've only been painting for two weeks, you know more than someone who has never painted."

The normally mild Michael Shane Neal becomes irate when an audience member suggests it is too early in the season to wear a light-colored suit (though rumors persist that he was, perhaps,  just acting out for the camera).

Anne Hall introduces her friend and teacher, Nelson Shanks.

In a program titled East Meets West, the final presentation of the weekend, conference-goers saw a film discussing the recent history-making solo exhibition of Nelson Shanks' work in Russia.  Shanks, who was invited to show his works at the request of the Russian Academy of Arts in Moscow, is only the second living American afforded this prestigious honor.  Fifty of Shanks' paintings, including several of his most famous portraits, travelled to Russia to go on display, first at the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, and then at the Russian Academy of Arts in Moscow.  While traveling with his artworks, Shanks taught master classes at several locations within Russia, attracting large crowds from all over the former Soviet Union, and creating a media frenzy.  After the film ended, Shanks gave an onstsge-interview with artist Dan Thompson.

Artist Dan Thompson acts as interviewer during Shanks' presentation.

Shanks with his portrait of Margaret, Lady Thatcher, the first post-colonial English Chancellor of William & Mary College.

With the ending of Nelson Shanks' presentation came the official close of the conference, and immediately afterward attendees scrambled to either make their ways home, or to head for the hotel entrance where transportation for the weekend's optional last events were available.  By prior registration, conference members had the choice of either visiting the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, or to take a round-trip trolley tour to Shanks' Studio Incamminati, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  For those who were able to stay, there was still an afternoon of art-filled activities left to do!

Artist Juan Martinez, one of last year's finalists, saying good-bye to Rosemary Thompson, owner of Rosemary & Co. Brushes.

Brochures from Studio Incamminati.

Yours truly closely examining a painting by William McGregor Paxton
at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
(photo courtesy Linda Lee Nelson)

The Portrait Society of America's Art of the Portrait Conference is an event which has a lot to offer to today's figurative and portrait artists.  The International Portrait Competition, which attracts much of the attention during the conference, is only one part of this annual celebration of the arts.  There are of course demonstrations, presentations, and networking, too, but in all of the years I have attended this convention, the one benefit which has made itself absolutely clear is the sense of community generated by the weekend.  The Art of the Portrait conference offers large-scale camaraderie to a group of artists whose chosen discipline of realism has often made them feel like outsiders.  The support of one's peers and the inspiration instilled by bearing witness to the artworks currently being created in studios worldwide, is something which must be experienced to be truly valued.  And once you open yourself up to those feelings, you'll understand the goal behind the conference, and keep coming back year after year.

The Fifteenth Annual Art of the Portrait Conference will take place April 25th through the 28th next year.  Once again, the event will be held in Atlanta, Georgia.  Discounted registration is available now for those who reserve their spot before July 1st.  Please visit the Portrait Society of America website for more information.

See you there!

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