Sunday, February 26, 2012

Great advice from other artists -Part Two Connecticut Society of Portrait Artists Weekend Symposium on Portraiture 2012

This is Daniel Greene checking out my pastel portrait of him called "The Mentor"

These are photos of the "Faces of Winter 2012" juried portrait exhibition and top two photos are of Daniel Greene the honoree  , middle photo is Dan's wife and artist Wendy Caporale and bottom photo is friend and artist Doug Auberg who are each taking their time to view the portraits on display. Before, during and in between sessions of the portrait symposium, artists would drift off to the gallery room to take time to look at and study each portrait alone.

Wendy Caporale and me in front of her lovely portrait of a young woman which was impressively framed in classic and traditional gold and was the perfect finishing touch for this skillfully executed oil portrait. The purples and blue greens in this painting remind me of Dan's choices of color dating way back in the seventies. I too love this color combination and contrasted against the skins tones I think is exciting to the viewer. I also noted the sound archival way in which the back of the painting was stretched and prepared for her painting. It was braced with both a wood and aluminum contemporary set up , archival  and sound. I was working on receiving day and checked the backs of paintings coming in to see what professional artists are using today for stretching their canvas or linen. I believe as a professional artist, it is essential to be concerned with the archival qualities of your work and supplies you work with and present. That is being responsible and putting value into your work.

The first day of the Symposium began with a talk by Peter Trippi from Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine on "Realism's Revival Nationwide" He used a large screen with constant revolving images of paintings done by many of today's artists, being careful to say that they were randomly chosen. I knew many of the artists we viewed and of their individual styles of work. It was disturbing for me to hear that the center of the art world, New York City still likes, markets, shows and advertises"new modern art" and Trippi said that "New York City is letting down the USA". He did say that the rest of the country has a better pulse on the realism (going from tight contemporary realism to a looser style of plein air impressionism) and that the younger generation of artists today are embracing more old traditions in training to be artists but using more creativity in their expression of that. Trippi went on to say that Choosing/Discerning/Analysing were the three things artists need to employ and be mindful of. He also noted that today's generation of youth are not able to talk aesthetics! They can't talk about art because they haven't been taught to. They are not exposed to the arts enough in grade or high schools or in their families. Artist Mentors are in great need for our new generation of artists. When I heard that I knew I validated all that I have done and still do in life as a mentor and instructor. I have young talented Atelier students who I selected from high school art competitions and found that their local art programs and teachers gave them very little. It is not just the skills that need to be taught but the sharing of experience, art philosophies, teaching of art histories and contemporary work of today as well as taking them to museums and galleries and learning to speak about what they see and feel.

This is a photo of portrait artists' John Howard Sanden and Joel Spector, and Peter Trippi from Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine

Trippi commented on portrait painters needing to have that connection between people. They need to have emotion and subjectivity and not fear subjectivity. We need to have "slow art" patience in our crazy fast computerized world. In our Capitalistic society, "we have dollars that equal value that equal importance" Slow and patient art is counter cultural.
To give an example, Trippi noted that a painting done by Alma Tadema the artist was sold recently for millions but no publicity was given to this and hardly anyone knows of this. I have always been attracted to Lawrence Alma Tadema's work( Dutch painter 1836 - 1912) and even recently studied one of his magnificent paintings at the Clark Museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts on an art study trip with my friend Jan Blencowe. His skill, color, drama, perspective and knowledge of the human figure was extraordinary. He was known for his portrayal of scenes of Classical Antiquity.
Lastly, Trippi said "We should have an eye to the young student". He said that they will show the significant art movements in our society and they will pay homage to their teachers and mentors.   Of course as a teacher and mentor to gifted young artists, I treasured the thought of being remembered and honored for sharing all of what I have with them. However the sting that many older accomplished and skilled painters felt with the thought of never reaching that goal of success and acknowledgement with our own personal work lingered on for the next day of the symposium.

The next speaker of the first day was Mary Minifie a portrait painter of the Boston School of painting. Paul Inbretson who studied with Ives Gammel who in turn studied with the great William Paxton. The lineage is very important in the line of art study. It is not just a workshop (as it is today) of a short day or two group study with a master. It is true mentoring in a total environment of dedication for a number of years.
Mary talked about the big picture of a portrait and all of the elements that it takes to complete a good painting. The elements she discussed that I found most important were
1. Psychological and emotional appeal! (Must give the viewer a feeling and an impact and perhaps a story of some sort)
2. Composition
3. Unity (and diversity)
4. Harmony (the way things go together)
5. Possess a larger beauty than what is there.
6. Spotting (a series of three light and dark patterns)
Mary discussed how she worked up a portrait with a thumbnail oil sketch, then a value work up and then finally a color sketch she presents to her client before she begins her final portrait painting.

The presentation panel of portrait artists on Sat. morning were from left to right:
Robert Alexander Anderson (the originator of "the Breck Shampoo Girl", Igor Babailov, Laurel Stern Boeck, Wendy Caporale Greene, Daniel Greene, Irene Hecht,
Mary Minifie, John Howard Sanden, Joel Spector and Peter Trippi.

Laurel Stern Boeck began with a small portrait she had already prepared so that she could do her demo on "Bringing it home, Finishing a portrait" I found her demo fascinating. We watched and listened as she brought the darks in her painting darker, the lights lighter and then proceeded to accent further with her individually selected darks and highlight even further in exactly the correct places to make her portrait come alive. I found her portrayal of her subject sensitively executed and carefully painted with each step. She talked about her simple palette and gave us her exact colors used with each mix of skin tone. She discussed using a full spectrum light bulb and the medium and brushes she used as well.

Laurel brought with her a variety of oil portrait sketches in various stages to view. I enjoyed her lecture and demonstration very much. I believe she is a thoughtful, careful, skilled and sensitive painter.

This is E.Raymond Kinstler who stopped by for some interesting and wise art talk and to see his fellow artist/friend receive his Life time achievement award.
The last of the morning speakers was Igor Balailov who studied with the Russian Academy of Arts with a most traditional  and classical art education. Igor talked about "The Importance of Drawing" and also when working with photo reference. I began my formal art training at 15 yrs. old with a scholarship to The New York Phoenix School of Design in NYC.after drawing intensely on my own for many years. I knew that I was an artist as a child and could never see myself as anything else. My training in NYC was classical art training with full day classes in cast drawing, life drawing, portrait drawing and drawing inside of the Metropolitan Art Museum.
Igor gave a list of important elements of fine drawing .
1. Goal of your drawing and COMPOSITION (which is so important to me)
2. The Psychology of the Portrait
3. Full pose, 1/2 pose, 3/4 pose of the model, standing or sitting and the Characteristic of model posing.
4. Background of your drawing or painting
5. Eye Level - position of surface
6. Balance - dark and light, mass and line, vertical or horizontal
7. Focal Point (where do you want the viewers eye to go
8. Conflicts- short/tall, dark/light, slim/chubby
9. Tonal values
10. Clothing - drapes and folds
11. Texture
12. Proportions/likeness

He stressed the artist knowing how to draw before they paint. I completely agree with all Igor said . I may have said the same things in a different way and would have been more detailed and gave more illustrations to prove my point. I love drawing.

Igor also gave a detailed way in which to transfer your completed drawing onto your canvas to paint from.
Igor also brought back to memory, one way to "Train Visual Memory" by
1. Drawing from life
2. One hour later - Draw same thing again from memory
3. Compare the first drawing to the second drawing and find out what you need to work on?

And that was just the morning session!

The symposium ran smoothly, on time and with all of Jeanine Jackson's hard work, it was a professionally co ordinated and well thought out event.

more to come


  1. Hi Claudia,

    I just found your blog and its awesome! I love the demo by Laurel Stern Boeck. Do you still have the notes on her palette? I would love to know what colors and mediums she uses. Ive searched around online but cant find any info on her technique.

    I just finished checking out your website, and your portraits are beautiful. Your portrait of Lauren is excellent! I wish I could work with pastels like you. Really wonderful work.

    Sincerely, Jason Peck