Art Travels

Portrait Conference – Part 6

The show within a show at the Portrait Society of America Conference (one that I aspire to be juried into) is the PSoA International Portrait Competition Finalists Exhibition. I was in the “runner-ups” two years ago and received a Certificate of Excellence, but I digress. Here are my personal favorites from this year’s exhibition.

My personal favorite in the whole exhibition was Dan Thompson’s charcoal drawing. No, it didn’t win the Grand Prize. None of my top picks did, but I’m a sucker for a good drawing. Notice Dan’s attention to every bone in the wrist and the tendons that travel up the back of the hand to the knuckles. His line work and edges are so beautiful.

Dan Thompson

Here is Mary Sauer’s oil painting. Can’t you feel this little girl teetering on the top step of this store, and wouldn’t you like to know what she is thinking? Such a novel composition. It really helps you feel how large the world must seem to a small child.


Here is Casey Childs’ oil entry. You don’t notice it from the picture, but see it in person and you would find that the right shoulder and arm of this lovely elderly woman are much less finished than the rest of the painting. The jagged outline at her shoulder and down that arm reminds me of Cezanne’s dark blue outlines around his figures and fruits.


And the one that surprised me the most, the one I thought I wouldn’t like at all, was Rose Frantzen’s 3-D double portrait. This thing is 45x28x28″, and is described as oil on panels, organic matter, resin, and readymades. It’s made to hang suspended and lit in a way that it can be slowly turned, allowing shadows from the flowers and twigs to pass across the two faces which are mounted back-to-back. Participatory portraiture, go figure. You really had to be there to get this one, and the participants at this year’s conference totally got it. The votes were counted, and the People’s Choice Award went to Rose.

Rose Frantzen Locket

It is really encouraging to see so many different styles of portraiture in the International Exhibition; drawing, sculpture, very precise painting, very loose chunky painting and even 3-D collage. If you would like to see all of the finalists and see much better images than the ones I took with my phone go to the Portrait Society of America’s website or their Facebook page.

Tip: Your stylistic point of view should not deter you from entering this competition.

For some final tips, I point you to the two final speakers at the conference: Daniel Greene (living legend) and Daniel Gerhartz (rising legend).

Daniel Greene –

  • On skill: Paint miles and miles of canvas.
  • On choosing a generic background: You can not go wrong using a mid-value gray.
  • On solving problem areas in a painting: Contrast usually settles most problems.
  • On how to make an object in your painting recede: The temperature of the color does not effect whether the subject recedes. Aerial perspective does (hard vs soft edges) and value does (light vs dark shapes).
  • On when a painting is complete: Ask yourself, “Is the painting communicating what you intended?”

Daniel Gerhartz – 

  • On seeing your work from different vantage points: Instead of a regular handheld mirror, use a black mirror.
    • Looking at the model and your painting, place the mirror across and touching your brow and look up into it. You will see an upside down view.
    • Turn your back on the model and your painting, hold the mirror in front of you and look into it. You will see a reverse view.
    • The black version of a mirror helps you see problems in values.

And the best quote from the final day at the Portrait Society of America 2016 Conference goes to Dan Gerhartz.

“Allow yourself to be supremely moved.”

Read that again and let it soak in for awhile, then go find something to paint.

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