2016 Art of the Portrait Conference: Day 1 (part 2)

by Matthew Innis |
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Michael Shane Neal introduces Quang Ho and Rose Frantzen for their painting demonstration, Style/Personality: The Connection.

After James Gurney had warmed up the crowd at the 18th Annual The Art of the Portrait conference, it was time for two veterans of the main stage to step up and show how they paint.  At first Quang Ho and Rose Frantzen may have seemed like an odd pair to team up;  Ho is sedate and contemplative while he works, while Frantzen appears to be anything but.  However, the two had more in common than may have been guessed, especially the way in which they both began in abstraction, and pulled the sitter’s features out of the swirls of color they initially applied.  The were entertaining as well as illuminating, and it’s likely that after the demo, many in the audience decided to raid their kitchen drawers and repurpose some of their spatulas as studio tools.

Following a lunch break – and posing for the alumni photo – attendees split into smaller groups to participate in the Breakout Sessions, a series of focussed classes and workshops led by members of the faculty.  In Painting from the Inside Out, Teresa Oaxaca and Robert Liberace – who was standing in for an ill Jeffrey Hein – offered a simultaneous painting demonstration in the grand ballroom.  Though it would have been interesting to see the participants as originally scheduled, the combination of Liberace and Oaxaca offered something truly special as student and mentor working alongside each other showed how students can retain the lessons of their teachers and yet produce significantly divergent work.  Carol Arnold, Ryan Brown, Casey Childs, and David Kassan convened in another session led Dawn Whitelaw in which participants discussed establishing a balance between working from life and working from photographs.  Though other artists may have a definite bias against using photography as an aid, these artists view photography as a necessary evil and a useful tool if used correctly, that is in conjunction with life work, and not just as a crutch.  Gallery owners and managers, Gary Haynes, Scott Jones, and Beverly McNeil got together for Presenting Your Best Self, in which the three experienced art dealers offered valuable information about how emerging artists should market themselves and seek the attention of a gallery that matches their needs and aesthetic.  In Improving Your Work Through a Critical Eye, participants who volunteered beforehand to share their original artworks received educated critiques from professional artists and teachers Sam Adoquei, Alicia Ponzio, and Rhoda Sherbell.  Professor Sam Knecht, Chairman of the Department of Art at Hillsdale College in Michigan offered participants a special treat when he unveiled Ernesta (and Ernesta’s Feet), a painting by Cecilia Beaux which had not been seen for 80 years.  This portrait of Beaux’s niece, Ernesta Drinker, had just entered the collection of Hillsdale College the previous week, and Knecht chose the conference to offer a presentation on the origin of the work, Beaux’s struggles with the piece, and the history that led it to being cut into two smaller canvases.  The final session, a drawing workshop, gave participants the chance to watch two talented draftspeople – Tony Ryder and Elizabeth Zanzinger – draw from life, and afterwards draw from the same models themselves under the supervision of the two teachers.  Due to the one-on-one interaction with the instructors, the workshops are always kept small, and fill up very quickly.  All six of these sessions were held simultaneously, and participants had to elect which program they wanted to attend at the time they purchased their tickets to the conference.

After a full day of learning from some of the nation’s top representational artists, attendees were then given a chance to purchase some of those same people’s artwork through one of the conference’s most popular, semi-regular events, the 6 X 9 Limited Size, Unlimited Talent Mystery Sale.  In the sale, interested parties can indicate which 6 X 9 artwork out of the dozens available they wish to purchase, and if they are lucky, they are chosen by lottery to purchase that piece for a fixed price of $250 (fleet footed and fortunate buyers sometimes win more than one artwork).  The artworks are donated to the event by participating artists, and the proceeds from the sales go to benefit the The Art of the Portrait conference which then allocates the money for scholarships.  These works are unsigned, and most buyers do not know whose artwork they are buying until the piece is won.

In recent years, the 6 X 9 auction would have marked the end of the first full day of the conference, but this year, attendees were given one more program to attend before calling it a night.  For many people, far from home and energized by the creative spirit of the day, this was a welcome addition, and those who attended were treated to a drawing demonstration by four greats of the medium, Rose Frantzen, David Kassan, Rob Liberace, and Tony Ryder.

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Quang Ho sets his palette before the demonstration begins.

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Quang Ho and Rose Frantzen preparing for their main-stage demonstration.

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Quang Ho’s palette.

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Rose Frantzen’s palette is set, and the model waits to take his pose.

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The two artists frequently set each other to laughing with their comments about each other’s work, and painting in general.

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Anything goes in Frantzen’s arsenal, which included worn artist brushes, house painting brushes, oil sticks, squeegees, and spatulas.

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Quang Ho’s finished demo.

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Rose Frantzen’s finished demo.


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Many of the visitors to the conference have been coming for three or more years. These are only some of the alumni in attendance at the 18th The Art of Portrait conference.


Break Out Sessions

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Rob Liberace demonstrating during the session Painting from the Inside Out.

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Teresa Oaxaca

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Liberace’s finished demonstration piece.

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Oaxaca’s finished demo.

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Carol Arnold, Ryan Brown, Casey Childs, and David Kassan discuss working from life and work from photos with moderator Dawn Whitlaw.

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David Kassan

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Ryan Brown and Casey Childs

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Casey Childs

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Gary Haynes, Scott Jones, and Beverly McNeil offer advice on Presenting Your Best Self

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Scott Jones of Legacy Galleries

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Sam Adoquei critiquing an attendee’s submission.

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Alicia Ponzio offering her views on the same piece

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Sam Knecht with Cecilia Beaux’s Ernesta

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Tony Ryder and Elizabeth Zanzinger leading a brief drawing workshop.

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Robert Liberace (detail)

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Anthony Ryder

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David Kassan

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Rose Frantzen

10 comments

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    What a wonderful summary of the day, Matthew! Thank you!

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