Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Inspiration By The Books at the Portrait Society Conference

Each year as I get ready for the Portrait Society of America meeting, I pack with an eye to leaving space in my luggage for all the new art books I’m going to buy.

Over the years I’ve amassed a small library of inspirational art books purchased at the veritable artists candy store that is the PSoA Book table.

Portrait of Maquoketa by Rose Frantzen
I shall always remember my first PSoA book purchase; “Portrait of Maquoketa” by Rose Frantzen. After seeing her win the face-off, watching her riveting demonstration, hearing her speak, meeting her and learning about her epic portrait project painting the citizens of her hometown, I snagged a copy of the book. Fortunately I got one before they sold out and lined up to have her sign it too. Since then I have had many breakfasts and late night snacks while poring over the 180 portraits it contains.

Breaking the Rules of Watercolor and The Intimate Eye by Burt Silverman,
New York Creative from Raymond Everett Kinstler and
Self-Portraits and Oil Painting Secrets from a Master from David Leffel
At subsequent conferences I also discovered where Burton Silverman, Raymond Everett Kinstler, and David Lefell had been hiding since I first heard about them 30 years ago from my Portrait Painting teacher, José Cintron at the Cleveland Institute of Art. Over the next couple conferences, I bought their newer books and even dragged my 30-year-old tattered, oil-paint and coffee-stained ones from my collection at home for them to sign. It was a thrill to meet these gentlemen, who were, for me living legends from my early training.


Nelson Shanks from Nelson Shanks and Alla Prima by Richard Schmid
At the Portrait Society book table, I was also introduced to Nelson Shanks and Richard Schmid…can you believe I’d never heard of them before I came to the Portrait Society? I bought both their books and ensured another year or so of inspiring breakfast book dates.


Visions and Voyages by Susan Lyon
And then there was the incredible Susan Lyon’s book. When my room-mate bought her book one year, I pored through it, but was already over 50 lbs in my luggage that year. I vowed to come back and buy it the following year. Fearing a sellout like Rose’s book, however, I came back the next day and bought it anyway. I could always bring it as carry-on. I knew her book as my breakfast companion would be a catalyst for delicious and meaningful brushwork for years to come.

The Incognito Project by Terry Strickland
Last year, I was thrilled to see The Incognito Project by Terry Strickland at the always crowded Portrait Society Book table. I followed her project where she enticed her friends and family to reveal their secret selves and pose for her. This was of special interest to me because there were similarities in process to my own Chicks with Balls project. Lucky for me I had already ordered the book online and didn’t have to fight for one before it sold out…but I was thrilled to finaly meet Terry after only talking to her on facebook.

Working South by Mary Whyte
And I’ll always remember the Portrait Society Conference where I saw Mary Whyte speak about her working south project. She bowled me over with her brilliant, quiet, thoughtful descriptions of her meticulously observed series chronicling the jobs of manual workers in vanishing fields. When she sat down with us for a glass of wine at the bar, it was confirmed I was in the company of a profoundly talented and gracious artist. Next chance I had, I made her book mine and had her sign it. Since then, I have been her groupie and have followed her shows to the Butler Institute and the National Arts Club in New York!

This year I’m looking forward to seeing what treasured books await me at the fabulous Portrait Society of America book table…along with seeing my own book there for the first time ever!

So, please, when you come to the conference this year, leave room in your luggage…or bring a sturdy carry-on totebag! You’ll go home with inspiration to last you a lifetime!

My Portrait Society book collection is growing!




  1. The fact that our lives somehow evolve around work, the traffic, the television, our mobile phones, the internet and social media shouldn't license them to dictate how we should live our lives. Doesn't it feel odd that instead of creating our own place in the Society, the Society dictates how we should live the perfect life as victims of the no-way-back society rules.

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