A Weekend with Arts Finest...

 Some of you have been wondering...if the Dude has said “Hasta” to the fine art world, why did he, I say, WHY did he just return from attending the renowned Art of the Portrait weekend in Atlanta, GA.?
Simply, for the same reason the Dude does not take baby steps to the top; he climbs directly to the top rung.  Meeting the top people in this field has always been my intent, and while most artists are content to drive in the slow lane, hoping beyond hope to spot an occasional Lamborghini, the humble Dude is simply more comfortable going from zero to 80 m.p.h. right in the fast lane.  Thus, my shrewd and brilliant rationale for attending this all-important convention.
So??  Did I have a good time?!
You bet!
Starting on Thursday afternoon, as everyone watched the top artist’s as they began painting from various models during the inaugural “Face Off” contest, I had the good fortune to bump into James Gurney, the author and illustrator of the famed Dinotopia books, and recent winner of the world’s “nicest guy” contest (recently held in a remote suburb of Hoboken, I believe), where we promptly headed off to the nearest restaurant to compare our respective artistic ideologies.  We talked shop, discussed our mutual interest in our favorite illustrators like Sundblom and Loomis, and tried to watch our weight by ordering something under 1,000 calories.
Ed Jonas is the head shaker of the Portrait Conference, and we had a nice chat as I introduced myself to a world mostly deprived of any awareness the name “Dude.”  That’s OK.  We’ve all got to start somewhere...
Mary Whyte is a watercolorist and she’s top notch.  Ever notice how few people actually list watercolor as their main painting medium?  But after seeing how temperamental the stuff is, most can’t run fast enough back to our oil paints.  Mary is a top mover in the field, and as I was pathetically reverting back to my nervous school-kid self upon our introduction, once she realized the inborn prominence of my larger-than-life personage, she quickly offered me the chance to become part of her world-class entourage--namely, she needed someone to heft all the heavy boxes she brought along.  Hey, us boy scouts are always trying to “help other people at all times”, right?  Well, here I am, honey!
The various demo’s featured throughout the weekend by the Society’s top players all had various degree’s of success, as I studiously took note of the individual strengths and failings of each artist’s work.  Talking and demoing is an art in itself, but one in which all serious craftsman should be in pursuit of.  I’ve certainly done my share of public demo’s—they’re always fun and challenging—though some succeed and other’s just plain don’t (see previous blogs for all the failings).  For the serious artist, measured thought must employed to make these demo’s successful, and seeing these other artists up there on stage gave me reason to reassess the next time I myself might be doing the honors—and hopefully do better next time!
The convention smartly reserved space for many of the top vendors, all set up to sell their art supplies—I think Rosemary and Co. sold more badger tail brushes than Trump sells high-rises, and I had the good fortune to meet the famed art manufacturer, Jack Richeson, who sets up shop in Kimberly, WI., not too far from where the young Dude grew up in nearby Madison.  He even gave me a copy of his autobiography, which I’m reading with interest during occasional stolen moments between getting paint all over my hands.
The Portrait convention wrapped up on Sunday, where we all herded on the bus and toured the local museum.  The highlights?  So glad you asked.  For starters, viewing the Robert Henri, the Rockwell, and the Sargent weren’t bad places to begin.  Old Norman would’ve glowed with a knowing satisfaction upon seeing his work displayed just around the corner from such luminaries.  And a previous unknown named Joseph DeCamp (1922) stunned me with a painting he christened “The Blue Kimono”.  It was just amazing what a few tubes of paint and good sense of color and can do for a guy.
So, my friends, that brings us to the close of another new chapter in the life of the Dude, and all the new acquaintances he just met.
But wait--there was still Sunday night to account for, right? 
Well, being the ladies man no one ever predicted I’d be, I spent the remaining evening at the hotel bar with with 3 female artists, who couldn’t seem to get enough of the humble comic-book artist now in their presence.  Of course, I signed books to all of them, for which they expressed their ceaseless appreciation with all the ice-teas they ended up buying me.
Note to future auteurs—always keep enough comics at hand to pass out to the fawning masses.  You never know when they’ll be demanded of you!
And finally, what did the Dude produce art-wise while in attendance during this magnificent Portrait Society event?  Well, that’s Gino’s dept.!
Take it away, Yayness...!
Hotel bartender, just before at the banquet on Saturday night

Open drawing session on Friday

One of several sketchbook pages from the weekend
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