Face Off: Alla Prima Portraits Live

It’s the first night of the 2015 Art of the Portrait Conference from the Portrait Society of America.
Tonight was the Face Off: 15 artists, 5 models, 2.5 hours.

The opportunity to watch so many master portrait artists at work was fantastic. And intimidating! Looking into the future here, I guess.  There’s a long way to go.

Not only were there a huge variety of styles in play, but the methods of application and building up palettes were fascinating as well, especially for me as an artist.  Until I started this deep dive into the world of acrylics, I honestly hadn’t given much thought to the chemistry and the subtlety of color mixing. It’s crazy! The first time I went paint shopping I felt like I was channeling one of Terry Pratchett’s Assassins’ Guild fashionistas: there were so many colors of black!

Now I know better, and realize just how much art theory I missed out on in college-level studio art classes.

I am getting more practical color theory and composition practice in these painting classes than I remember from any of my previous art courses. And that’s a really good thing. My creative composition really needs work.

Our current project is “the portrait in another time, place, or world.” So I am working on my most ambitious portrait yet.

My narrative self-portrait is almost done, too.  I have a little bit of color re-balancing to do first, but it really did come out well.

It’s time to step up and get some pieces done that I’m willing to put in front of a juror.  (I really need to get it together re: frames, too.)

But back to the topic of the Portrait Conference. It was terribly interesting to follow the brushwork of some of these artists.  There was a giant screen in the main room where the staff projected some of the canvases as they were in progress, and crowds gathered their chair under them to watch there, because you could see such detail in the paintings as they added color.  At one point I watched a brush I would have thought was entirely too large to make such delicate marks dance across the canvas and leave beautiful highlights in its wake.  The eyes of the painting came to life under that brush. I cannot wait to see more of the conference, and to see the paintings up close tomorrow.

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