The Art of the Portrait Conference 2016: Opening Night

by Matthew Innis |
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The Finalist Room, with Rick Casali’s self-portrait bust in the foreground.

If it is true that the opening act sets the tone for the show that follows, then the Face Off event that opens each The Art of the Portrait Conference never fails to promise a great weekend.

During the Face Off, a group of artists split into parties of three, with each smaller group working from a single model, painting portraits from life in front of the Conference’s attendees.  For the The 18th annual The Art of the Portrait Conference, 15 professional artists were chosen to create pictures while 5 of their peers kindly agreed to assume the role of muses.  Max Ginsburg, Michele Dunaway, and David Kassan painted Shana Levenson; Judith Carducci, Anna Rose Bain, and Teresa Oaxaca painted Wende Caporale; Carol Arnold, Casey Childs, and James Gurney painted Rich Nelson; Robert Liberace and Romel de la Torre painted Tony Ryder, while Alica Ponzio sculpted a bas-relief of him; and Elizabeth Zanzinger, Ricky Mujica, and Quang Ho painted Leslie Adams.  The finished painted sketches, created in under 3 hours, remain on display for the entire weekend, and are later sold at auction with the proceeds benefitting Portrait Society of America programs, including those that offer tuition for deserving young artists to attend future conferences.

The structure of the Face Off allows attendees to watch many top artists at work all at once.  Some observers pick a particular artist to watch from start to finish, and possibly ask questions of the artists during breaks.  Most of the audience, however, remains in flux, checking the progress of all the participants, while making use of event to find friends from previous conferences and socialize.

At the same time as the Face Off took place in the Grand Ballroom at the Reston Hyatt Regency, the doors were also open to the Art Material’s Room and to the Finalist Room.  In the latter, the paintings chosen to compete for the prestigious William F. Draper Grand Prize were on display for everyone to examine closely, and to vote upon for the Popular Choice Award as chosen by the attendees.  In the former, makers of some the highest quality, professional-grade artist materials were on hand offering items not generally found in the average art store at specially discounted prices.  Attendees freely moved through each room from 4:00pm to 7:30pm.

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Carol Arnold and Casey Childs at work during the Face Off.

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Carol Arnold painting fellow-artist, Rich Nelson.

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Casey Childs

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James Gurney

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James Gurney filmed his process with the help of his wife, Jeanette. Between easel, lights, two cameras, and the crowd, Gurney had little room to move during his first participation in a Face Off.

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Teresa Oaxaca

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Anna Rose Bain and Judith Carducci painting Wende Caporale

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Anna Rose Bain

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Judith Carducci

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Max Ginsburg, Michelle Dunaway, and David Kassan work from the model while Daniel Greene watches on from the background.

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David Kassan and Michelle Dunaway

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Max Ginsburg

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David Kassan’s initial stages in his Face Off portrait of Shana Levenson. Kassan’s Parallel Palette can be seen in use to the right of the canvas.

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David Kassan, Michelle Dunaway, and Max Ginsburg at work on their portraits of Shana Levenson.

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Quang Ho, Ricky Mujica (seated), and Elizabeth Zanzinger painting Leslie Adams.

Quang Ho

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Ricky Mujica

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Ricky Mujica and Elizabeth Zanzinger

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Quang Ho

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Alicia Ponzio (far left), Romel de la Torre, and Robert Liberace painting Tony Ryder’s portrait.

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Alicia Ponzio sculpting a bas relief of Tony Ryder

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Robert Liberace’s beginning stages of his portrait of Tony Ryder

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While at work, Robert Liberace strikes a pose nearly as dramatic as the contrapposto figures in his own paintings and drawings.

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The early stages of Romel de la Torre’s painting

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Romel de la Torre

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The Finalist Room

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Katie O’Hagan

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Jeffrey Hein

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Michelle Dunaway

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Susan O’Neill

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Dan Thompson

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Matteo Caloiaro

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Adrienne Stein

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Jim Salvati

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Rose Frantzen (front)

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Rose Frantzen (back)

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Casey Childs

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Carla Crawford

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Mary Sauer (l.) and Susan O’Neill (r.), on display.

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From left to right, Casey Childs, Pramod Kurlekar, and Jeffrey Hein

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Michael Klein

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Deon Duncan

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Alicia Ponzio

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Aapo Pukk

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Seth Haverkamp

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Jeremy Manyik

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Mary Sauer

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Adam Vinson

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The Finalist Room

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Art books for sale

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In the vendor room

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