Monday, May 11, 2015

Portrait Society of America, The Art of the Portrait Conference 2015

Face-Off Competition, Carol Arnold, Katherine Stone, and Chris Saper
 Inspiration, Insights, and Appreciation 

This year marked the Portrait Society of America's 17th Annual Conference. It was my third consecutive year to attend. The Portrait Society of America has approximately 3200 members, a dedicated permanent staff, and supporters and volunteer members.

Susan Gallagher O'Neill, Interwoven
2015 IPC Certificate of Excellence
The PSoA relies on an infrastructure of committed volunteer members. This community of artists gives back to the larger body of art and art education to make each conference a success.

Supported by the PSoA staff, the conference classes, workshops, demonstrations, and face-off, are all given and/or performed by artists/volunteers. In addition, nationally and internationally known artists support the organization through 
the Mystery Art Sale. For this event artists donate 6 x 9 paintings, and attendees purchase the paintings. Only after an attendee purchases a painting do they learn which artist painted the piece. This year, around 200 paintings were sold in the mystery sale.

So what first brought me to the conference?
Three years ago, I was at a crossroads in my life and searching for answers. At that time, I was examining whether it was possible to "become" a professional artist. Creativity and inspiration have always been close to my heart. While I had painted as a hobbyist for several years I did not know how to pursue painting as a profession. 

While speaking with a friend one day, she mentioned the PSoA. Then I decided with a leap of faith to join and sign up for the conference. While driving to Atlanta, my doubts were high. I didn't know anyone and was nervous.

Katherine Galbraith, Lillian
1st Place Members Only Comp.
Soon after arriving, my doubts were replaced with excitement. The sense of community I found at the PSoA conference was pervasive. This is where I found the spark that helped me focus, connect and learn.

That year, on my drive back home from Atlanta, GA to SC, I was refreshed and had a new outlook. I had found what I was seeking. I began to make plans on where to focus my time. I would revamp my studies and create a forward movement. This was the year to focus on drawing skills.

My artistic growth rings are closely aligned with this annual conference. Since 2013, I have met and created lasting relationships with dedicated professional artists. Now, it seems incredible that it's only been two years since I attended my first conference. 

Consequently, this time of year has now become one of reflection and goal setting. 

Besides sharing my own thoughts, I asked a few of my colleagues to share what the conference means for them, what inspires them about the conference, what they appreciate most. 

Casey Childs, Natalie
1st Place Drawing, 2015 IPC
Ann Kraft Walker, Texas: Each year at the PSoA, renewing friendships and making new ones is the icing on the cake. It is so stimulating to talk with other folks who are crazy about art. 

I'm inspired by the whole, multi-faceted conference. Gleaning insights about materials, process, inspiration, and encouragement to dive deep and try harder is a shot in the artistic arm. I appreciate the wide range of topics, styles and mediums presented. The demos are wonderful! To be able to watch the modern masters create is a real privilege.

I wish I could slow down time for those few days of the conference so I could be in multiple places at the same time. There is so much is going on, and I don't want to miss anything! 

I sincerely appreciate all that the staff and volunteers do to deliver such an amazing conference.

Blair Updike, Florida: This conference is the coolest thing I do all year. It is important to have a community of artists, both to keep you inspired and to offer critique when needed. I'm always so inspired by watching all the different (and sometimes scary) ways that people begin paintings. It helps me feel normal. Other than Quang Ho's, not all paintings start off resembling the sitter right away.

I love being around my people. When people clapped for Burt Silverman's statement saying "bacteria is good," I smiled so big. I also enjoyed Ed Jonas' rousing closing speech about the importance of making realism and skill-based training available in schools. 

Casey Childs, Nocturne on the Reservoir
2015 IPC Certificate of Excellence
Dr. Gillian Dunlop, Wahroonga, Australia: There are several reasons why I spend 18 hours on planes to attend the fabulous PSoA conference! First, the teaching is superb. The knowledge is imparted clearly, both verbally and visually. the audiovisual support means there isn't a bad seat in the house, even with a crowd of 800+. I cannot think of any other organization or college that can match this.

The conference is immensely good fun. The speakers are amusing. During the breaks, the bonhomie between delegates is warm and welcoming. I often learn great tips from other artists. I've enjoyed making new friends who are artists, and I look forward to seeing them at next year's conference. I also appreciate the trade show and often come home with innovations.

Karen Whitworth, Washington: I am very new to portrait painting. Portraiture can be both an inspiring and intimidating field to venture into given the incredible work of the masters, both past, and present - that fill, the museums, and galleries.

One element the conference provides is the human element - the opportunity to connect with those who have gone before me in a meaningful way. Connecting is so valuable! Through the demos, lectures, discussions, I can glean information that extends beyond the subtle style and technique of their work. This adds to my perspective.

Kristy Gordon, Cree
2015 Signature Status Recipient
Suzann Beck, Minnesota: What does it mean for a goose to join a flying formation? It’s instinctual... it’s irresistible... it’s exhilarating… it’s joining my tribe! Nowhere else can I find a room full of people who are willing to discuss likeness, bravura, alla prima, paint, and brushes with the same enthusiasm. Nowhere else can I find people who are making the same remarkable journey that I am now.

Portrait painting demands much of its adherent. In those long hours in the studio, I often wonder if my efforts will amount to much? At the PSoA conferences, I’ve experienced nothing but encouragement, helpfulness, and graciousness from faculty, staff, and attendees alike. For that, I am deeply grateful and appreciative. Thank you Portrait Society of America!

Annette Goings, (Me!)As I received everyone's responses, I saw they closely echoed my thoughts and feelings.

What keeps me coming back?
The talent and creative energy that flows through the hallways... The wonderful atmosphere and opportunities to create lasting relationships... 

At the 2014 conference in Reston, I experienced new and familiar faces, and more great classes. During one of the presentations, my goals seemed to set themselves. There in the dark, I began designing my next year. My focus would be on painting and anatomy.

Since that time, I've been working toward those goals. Due to taking various classes and studies in drawing, anatomy, and portraiture, my work has gotten progressively better. I have worked toward specific goals to establish myself as a professional portrait artist. In addition, I have created a website to showcase my work and blog (Living the Artful Life with Annette Goings). Looking back, I can see my own personal growth ring with each year of this conference. 

More importantly, I have also learned that by my taking that important step and subsequently sharing my journey here, I can inspire others to pursue their desires in whatever field sparks their flame.

I would also like to thank all the PSoA staff, volunteers, members, attendees, supporters, and others who created this year's amazing conference. We appreciate all that you do!

PSoA 2016: Reston, VA, April 14-17, 2016

So what does the 2016 PSoA Conference hold for us? Where will this next conference take us? What will inspire us? How are our goals developing?

I look forward to our 2016 meeting! For more information and to register, see
Portrait Society of America 2016 Conference

Saltness Parks

In Memory
This article is dedicated to the memory, of Saltness Parks who was the state representative for Arizona and my roommate during the 2013 PSoA conference. At that time, she had stage four cancer. Saltness died 2/25/2015. I will remember her as a considerate and high-spirited person. 

Thanks for joining me, and please continue to send me your comments.  I have been receiving emails, comments on the blog and on Facebook. I enjoy receiving your ideas, questions, and input. It's great to be bringing this to you. 

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Artfully Yours,

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Note: The Portrait Society of America is a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, founded in February 1998 to further the traditions of fine art portraiture and figurative art.