Wednesday, October 4, 2017

"Mary Whyte: Observer" by Christine Egnoski

Mary Whyte, Dr. Ralph Brinster, 41.5x21", watercolor
"Sketches and life studies are some of the most valuable tools a serious artist can have", says Mary Whyte.  An acclaimed watercolorist, teacher and author, Mary used these tools as well as others in creating her recent portrait of Dr. Ralph Brinster for the University of Pennsylvania, which portrays the National Medal of Science honoree in his laboratory.  Mary was able to successfully create a compelling composition that tells Dr. Brinster's life story but at the same time kept her subject as the focus.  To prepare for the painting, Mary spent many hours observing Dr. Brinster in his office and laboratories to ascertain a suitable pose and background, identify interesting props, and determine the lighting.  Later, Mary sat with him in his office, sketching him and taking notes as they talked. Mary believes drawings and paintings done on location, from life, can expand one’s visual knowledge about the essence of the model or a particular scene.  Mary adds, “These smaller, abbreviated works will also be charged with your personal emotion, which is an ingredient that can be missing in photographs.  Any kind of life study is beneficial, as it helps us become better artists by understanding the key components to light, color, shape and form.”

Mary also believes that when commissioned to create a portrait, the foremost consideration of any portrait artist should be that he or she is creating a painting and that the painting may also happen to be a portrait is secondary. The success of Mary's portrait is steeped in the fundamentals of composition, color and design. In her painting of Dr. Brinster, she chose to play up the crisp shape of the white lab coat against a dark background and opted to portray her subject standing to give an added sense of confidence and authority.  The strong diagonal of the foreground with the microscope and equipment points toward the figure while at the same time balancing the light shape of the figure. The dark background includes soft suggestions of research paraphernalia, which adds to the work’s narrative.  Mary says her biggest challenge was not letting the gold medal become a distracting ‘bulls eye’ against the white jacket. By placing the model’s hand in proximity to the medal, but more clearly in the foreground, the medal then becomes secondary.

"Every face has aspects that are interesting and worth painting, which was certainly true with this gentleman.  However, equally important is how a person stands, their gestures and how they hold their head and hands."  Mary was able to gather all these important details into one painting that expertly portrays Dr. Brinster's impressive accomplishments and warm demeanor.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

"David Kassan: Painting a Link to the Past" by Christine Egnoski


Louise and Lazar Farkas, Oil on Panel, 46" x 42"
You could feel the level of excitement and anticipation at the 19th annual The Art of the Portrait awards ceremony as David Kassan's name was announced as the winner of the Draper Grand Prize.  David was welcomed to the stage with a standing ovation.  Selected from over 2,100 entries, David's painting titled Love and Resilience is a portrait of Louise and Lazar Farkas and inspired by their story of love and survival.  It is the latest in a series of paintings of Shoah Survivors that has changed the course of how David thinks about life and his art.


Upon accepting the award, David said, "Thank you so much Portrait Society of America...This was definitely a dream for me, and I share these awards with the Survivors, whom have all shared their sometimes painful, but mostly glorious and inspiring lives with me." 

Louise's story began in Northern Romania, where her parents led a comfortable middle class life producing dairy products and running a store.  Lazar spent his youth across the border in Czechoslovakia where he attended business school and then worked in a wholesale grocery business. For a while, the borders between Romania and Czechoslovakia were open, and Lazar would cross over to socialize, talking over coffee and walking the sidewalks with a group of young women, one of whom was Louise. 


Portrait of Sam Goldofsky, Survivor of Auschwitz,
Oil on Aluminum, 41" x 27"
As anti-Semitism in German-occupied countries grew, Lazar was pressed into forced labor. Working from early morning to late night, he helped build bunkers. Louise was about 20 when she was deported to Auschwitz: “A woman that was in power at the time liked my shoes,” says Louise, “and she took them and I had no shoes. I was barefoot. It was cold...we struggled.” Louise lost her parents and three of her siblings. But the tides were turning against Germany and security was unraveling. “We walked out of the camp. Just simply,” says Louise of her and her sister’s escape. “We had no place to go and no money and no food. We went from country to country from there."

Lazar also managed to run away from his forced labor. “I wound up somewhere in Poland, I don’t know where," he says. He eventually volunteered with the Czechoslovakian army and ended up stationed in his hometown. He learned that people were escaping from the camps and wanted to look for Louise.  Eventually, after several times of just missing each other, Lazar found Louise and the two were soon married.  Lazar's uncle was able to arrange for their immigration to the United States and they settled in Brooklyn where Lazar got a job in the grocery business.

Twin Survivors of the Holocaust; Roslyn and
Bella,
Oil on Panel, 56" x 43"
Love and Resilience is one of several paintings David has completed of Shoah survivors.  He is calling the project the EDUT (Hebrew for testimony) Project: Living Witnesses, Survivors of the Holocaust. His first portrait of Auschwitz survivor Sam Goldofsky was selelected from over 2,500 entries to be part of the BP Portrait Award 2015 held annual at the National Portrait Gallery, London.  A portrait of sisters Bella Sztul and Roslyn Goldofsky, whose mother hid them from the Nazis with the help of Catholic families, was also completed last year. David says, "With the paintings I've completed so far of the Survivors, I feel that I have a responsibility to not only represent them in the most authentic possible way, but also to document a deeper understanding of their lives and not just the horrors of what they witnessed early in their lives.  My goal is to capture their resilience throughout their lives. This goal is a tall order for a painter."

Meeting with Survivors of Auschwitz at the
Museum of Tolerance. Photo by Andy Romanoff
Always trying to improve and challenge himself with paintings that are of increasing complexity and importance, earlier this year David traveled with videographer Chloe Lee from New York City to Los Angeles to meet with eleven Survivors of Auschwitz. His idea was to take his current series of paintings to the next level, so he is now working on a life-sized representation of all eleven Survivors.  The finished painting, which will take approximately two years to complete, will be 18 feet long and 8 feet high and consist of 5 panels put together, a work that David hopes will be, "so large that it can't be ignored."  David explains, "Chloe and I have been filming interviews with all of the Survivors in the series in order to document their lives and inspiring words. We are also going to film each step of the process in the creation of this large painting in order to educate about the artistic journey as well as the journeys of the Survivors." He is documenting the entire process on patreon.com/davidkassan.

Setting aside his gallery and commission work, David has dedicated himself exclusively to the project.  Plans are in place in the Spring of 2019 for an opening, exhibition and catalog featuring the large work and drawing studies, as well as the film, at the Fischer Museum of Art.  David's commitment to the project runs deep; he says, "These paintings represent the perseverance and the strength of the human spirit. I endeavor to respect and show the dignity of each survivor and tell his or her story."
Digital painting thumbnail for composition purposes. [painted in ArtRage on the iPad Pro]

David sees his role as a conduit: to listen with my painting and to document it in an intensely intimate way. He feels there are three components to each painting -- the artist, the subject, and the viewer -- and he does not want his 'painting ego' to get in the way of the viewer and the Survivor. Each aspect of his work is in service to the accurate and honest representation of the Survivor.

Work in progress for one of the five 
panels for the large painting
David also has a very personal connection to the project. In 1917, a young Murray Kassan immigrated to the United States, escaping ethnic cleansing on the border of the Ukraine and Romania by the Cossacks. Murray was David's grandfather, and his story of survival is a vague unfocused legend in his family for many reasons. When his father was fifteen years old, Murray was estranged from the family and his father never saw him again. He passed away when David was very little and he never got to meet him. His grandfather's story of survival is now only fragmented memories for David. "Painting for me is also my way of understanding the world around me, my way of connecting, and my excuse to interact and learn. In this project, it’s my personal way of connecting to my grandfather’s lost story. With every survivor’s story that I hear and record into a painting, I feel that I move closer to the connection with my grandfather that I never had. My brush paints a link between us."

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Rising Tide

International Artist Magazine, Issue #116

Chairman’s Letter-Edward Jonas


Each month, the Portrait Society of America office will send over a box of new and renewing membership certificates that have been signed by the executive director and require my chairman’s signature. I will take the box to the kitchen table and remove the stack of certificates—some months this stack may be an inch thick and at other times it can reach 3 to 4 inches—and by the end of the year, I will have signed roughly over 3,000 documents. It is a task that takes some time but one that I find very enjoyable as I flip through the stack to see many familiar names of our longtime friends as well as the names of new members, confirming our healthy growth. We could easily just have those signatures printed on the certificates, but there’s value in hand-signing each one, as it emphasizes the personal connection our members have come to expect from the Portrait Society.
Often while signing, I wonder what the motivation was for this new member to join the Portrait Society. Artists are not known for being “joiners.” They are often regarded as an extremely independent lot and as well they need to be—the creative life tends to be a very solitary endeavor. We can appear to be self-absorbed, shutting ourselves up behind the doors of our studios while we concentrate only upon the “making” of our art. Deciding to join any group wouldn’t seem to be very likely.
The Signature Status program is a designation awarded
to artists who are dedicated to the education mission and
high aesthetic standards of the Portrait Society.
However, if you were offered the opportunity to interact with other serious artists, especially those whose work is respected, then perhaps there would be a reason to join. Artists seek camaraderie and the sage advice of experienced and knowledgeable professionals, and those professionals enjoy having a path to be able to share their knowledge to younger emerging artists that have a desire to hear and learn from them. Both benefit.
My own experience in art school and then while trying to establish my art career was a contributing factor in the formation of the Portrait Society of America. In commiserating with fellow artists, it became apparent that there was a need out there and that perhaps if there was somewhere to turn for answers on how to put it all together, that large vacuum could be filled.
The concept of building an organization where artists of all levels and abilities would share ideas freely and openly began to take shape. It was apparent that if you were going to ask artists to donate their time and talent in a supportive an unselfish manner, that organization could only be a nonprofit, educational organization.
To this end, Gordon Wetmore, Tom Donohue and myself, in 1998, filed corporation papers in the State of Florida and under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of the United States Government as a tax-exempt charitable organization.
Founding Board Meeting of The Portrait Society of America
The code strictly sets forth that all earnings of the corporation must be used to support the educational mission of the corporation, and none of the earnings may inure to any individual or shareholder. In this spirit, never has any officer or governing board member been paid for their service to the Society; in fact, they all have been generous patrons in support of our mission. Because of this, we truly are a society run by artists for artists.
The term “portrait” in our name is not to suggest that we are only concerned with the discipline of portrait painting or sculpture, but rather we embrace the practice of all representational art that takes as its subject the human figure and its environs. Jamie Wyeth said it best in 2002 when accepting the Portrait Society Gold Medal, “I consider everything I paint a portrait.”
 
Members receive the full color quarterly newsletter
The Portrait Society’s primary goal is to keep people on a constant path of personal and artistic growth. For the artist, nothing is more depressing to face than that sinking feeling of stagnation. Sometimes just a simple dialogue with people who are or have struggled with the same creative issues can really help you get back on track. Our goal is and will always be to continue to offer our members the highest quality of educational resources and the most innovative programs concerning the history and techniques of figurative art and portraiture. This goal has been the focus of our society since its beginning, and will continue to shape our future efforts.
Since our founding we have seen a growing interest and some progress in a return to the teachings of representational realism in art programs with some colleges and universities beginning to move toward inclusion of skill-based curriculums. In addition, we have witnessed the atelier movement catch fire over the past 20 years. I hope that we have played some small role in the furthering of this movement, and I am thrilled to see the growth and continued support of the Portrait Society.
Fast forward from our founding in 1998 to today, and our growth is reflected in over 20 programs and publications that have been established over the years that furthers art in America including:  

  • The Art of the Portrait conference attended by 800 artists each year
  • Fall Portrait Academies, which is a series of intimate workshop weekends that features personal  instruction and advice
  • State Ambassador Program that serves as a local contact and resource for members
  • A volunteer committee, the Cecilia Beaux Forum, that promotes the role of women in the arts
  • Artist to Artist Critique program providing one-on-one feedback and advice
  • Signature Status designation recognizing those practicing and accomplished artists who are dedicated to the Portrait Society’s educational mission and high aesthetic standards
  • Conference Scholarship program providing tuition waivers to students
  • Online Members Only Competition showcasing recent work being created by our members
  • Recognition of leaders in the field through our Gold Medal, Leadership in the Fine Arts and Excellence in Fine Art Education awards
  • International Portrait Competition and exhibition held in conjunction with the conference, featuring some of the best work being created around the world
  • Quarterly, full-color The Art of the Portrait journal featuring techniques, methods and aesthetics, while connecting members to educational opportunities
  • 10-12 pages in each issue of International Artist and a full-page “Unveiling” article in American Art Collector
  • Fully interactive website and a social media presence with over 69,000 followers
I have been fortunate to be able to make my living as a practicing artist for more than 50 years, and in our present day, self-centered world, people may ask, “Why would you help other artists become better; aren’t you just creating greater competition for yourself?” I think the best answer to that would be to quote my dear friend and former chairman, the late Gordon Wetmore. When he would hear such comments would always say in his thick Tennessee, Southern accent, “Always remember, a rising tide lifts all boats.”

Friday, July 7, 2017

Tara Juneau By Kate Stone

Grow, oil on board, 20 x 30"
In a room full of their most recent artwork is the best place to meet an artist, and it was at her one-man show that I had the privilege of meeting Vancouver Island artist Tara Juneau.  I had moved from Toronto to an area with a completely different art scene—much smaller, and seemingly much less interested in oil painting, realist art, or figurative work.  During my time on the Island since then, I’ve realized that Tara’s prodigious talent is all the more impressive because of the relative isolation in which she has developed her craft.  The excellence in her art is the result of an incredible intuition for her medium and a powerful voice which forces its way out in each and every painting.

My respect for Tara’s work comes in part from knowing her personally and learning about the obstacles she faces to creating work.  Not only does she have a solvent allergy, which is a game ender for many painters, but she has returned to school to pursue a career in the sciences. Art-making has been relegated to the scant times during the year when she can steal a few consecutive hours and days for a project—in between studying and carrying out her responsibilities as a single mum. 

Self Portrait, oil, 20x16"
Stone:   My favorite paintings of yours are your self-portraits, and anyone who has spent any time getting to know your work will notice that it is a subject you return to again and again. Sometimes the work is clearly a self-portrait; other times you have cast yourself as a mythological figure or a character acting out a narrative. Can you talk a bit about your artistic intention and process?

Juneau:  I guess my intention is mainly to make a painting that is pleasing to look at. Mythical females are a subject I seem to return to repeatedly. They are dramatic, powerful and often taboo. Using myself as a model is just a convenience. I always show up on time when I am available to paint and I know what pose I am looking for. And I don’t mind the company.

Doing self-portraits from life is probably a bit like maintaining a yoga pose for an incredibly long period of time. When painting ‘Andromeda and the Blue Sky’ I basically did one body part at a time, using mirrors set up around the studio. It was painful. There are parts of the painting I wouldn’t consider done because I got to the point where I didn’t want to crouch in that pose anymore.

Stone:   If you could give one snapshot of your experience being a female artist—something that probably wouldn’t have happened if you were a male artist—what would it be?

Andromeda and the Blue Sky, oil, 39x24"
Juneau:  Having my physical appearance attached so closely to what I do. Given the fact that I do a lot of self-portraits, that is understandable, but say, for instance, I post a picture on Facebook of my work. It could be a painting of anything, a tree, fruit, a skull… there will likely be some comment in there about what I look like. There is a little experiment I would like to run one day: to make up a fake artist name and persona, but male, and see how my work or the persona are treated. It would be interesting.

Stone:  In spite of the workshops you have had with Anthony Ryder and Jeremy Lipking, you have for the most part developed your method and vision in isolation in rural Vancouver Island. What are your thoughts on being a painter in a part of the world where there seem to be few figurative realist oil painters and few people who can even begin to understand this style of work?

Juneau:   Keep at it. For some reason artists (I’m not sure if this is a local thing or global) feel the need to put down realism. I’ve heard people who do abstract art say that they mastered realism and moved on, or that it is easy and boring (their skills always show otherwise). There is nothing boring or easy about realism. It’s hard! Even if I lived twelve lifetimes, I couldn’t master it! These people are delusional, don’t listen to them or engage them in conversation. It just makes you the person arguing with someone whose ego is bigger than their skill and you should be spending that time working at your art.

Stone:  Can you talk about your beginnings in painting? Did you have any important artistic influences early in your life?

The First Eve, oil, 30x30"
Juneau:   When I was about eleven my best friend and I found some oil paints in her mother’s storage space. We started playing around with them and I just couldn’t stop. Soon I got my own supplies and went at it. My father owns a house in Nanoose Bay, you may have driven past it, and it had a horse field next to it. I filled many a canvas with terrible paintings of horses grazing near the large oak tree, bald eagles hunting rabbits and sunsets on the calm bay. A little later on it was Leonardo DaVinci.  Not only was he an artist and scientist, he was a left-hander with quirky writing habits like myself. I loved the other worldly, soft faces of his figures, the way you could see where he had changed a line and not bothered to erase the old one. He will always be a source of inspiration to me.

Stone:  How has your personal life affected your art, and how has your art affected your personal life?

Juneau:   I process my emotions through painting. Painting somehow opens up a part of me that would not be expressed otherwise. It feels like there are two people living inside me sometimes; the person who lives the daily life is so different from the one holding the paintbrush. I still haven’t learned how to reconcile the two into one person. I think some of the people in my life have been in love or infatuated with one side and not the other. That has been a painful realization.

It is difficult to go long periods without painting. I definitely don’t process my thoughts and feelings as well in ordinary life and I need to paint eventually. Art has added a whole other dimension to my life. It has brought some really great and interesting people into my life (like you and Dave). It adds a richness to my life that makes it so…extra. It’s extra satisfying, extra sexy and extra challenging.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Congratulations to the Competition Winners


The Grand Ballroom was abuzz with excitement and anticipation as the winners of 19th annual International Portrait Competition were announced.  The twenty-three finalists from around the world were present with their original art work for display and final judging.  Over $100,000 in cash and prizes were awarded.  Congratulations to all the 2017 International Portrait Competition winners.



Congratulations to the 2017 The Art of the Portrait International Competition Winners

 William F. Draper Grand Prize & People's Choice Recipient

David Kassan, Love and Resilience, Portrait of Louise and Lazar Farkas, Survivors of the Shoah
An impromptu speech by David Kassan

First Place Painting

Ming Yu, In Bvlag

First Place Sculpture

Susan Wakeen, Marcy

First Place Drawing

Sookyi Lee, Bridget

Second Place

Johanna Harmon, Messengers

Third Place

Casey Childs, Take These Broken Wings

Fourth Place

Paul Newton, Self-Portrait-Dark Night of the Soul

Fifth Place

 
Mary Sauer, Caitlin

First Honors

Tracy Ference, This is Marshall

Second Honors

Matteo Caloiaro, Juli's Kitchen


Certificates of Exceptional Merit

 (Shown in alphabetical order)

    
A Fleeting Moment, Anna Rose Bain


   
Abby, John Borowicz


Shuhai Cao, A Bunch of Roses


 
Chung-Wei Chien, Watching


Seth Haverkamp, Fireflies


 
Pramod Kurlekar, Determination


Greg Mortenson, The Butterfly Effect


Ricky Mujica, Father


Caleb O'Connor, Deontay Wilder


Brooke Olivares, The Purple Orchid


Stephen Perkins, Henry Hensche Memorial

Jennifer Welty, Presley


Melinda Whitmore, Suspension