Sunday, March 29, 2015

Portrait Artists of Arizona's Fifth Annual Juried Exhibition and Sale, March 28 - April 24

On Saturday night, the Scottsdale Artists' School hosted the opening reception for the PAOA's Fifth Annual Juried Exhibition. Together, more than thirty artists were represented, showing over 50 original portraits, all of which will hang through April 23, 2015.

With thanks to Judge Nancy Chaboun, the Scottsdale Artists' School and the Portrait Artists of Arizona, I was completely thrilled to be awarded Best of Show for my portrait, "William Whitaker: American Artist".

The exhibit is free and open to the public during the Scottsdale Artists' School's regular hours Monday through Saturday.

Here are just a few pics from the show:

Above: Portrait artist Chris Saper with two her entries, a self portrait and "William Whitaker: American Artist", which took the Best of Show award

Above: Jim Garrison with his portrait of  a firefighter

Above: artist Rosalie Vaccaro with her triptych 

Above: Jean Hildebrant's portrait

Above: my portrait of NY artist Oscar Peterson

Above: Patti Georgas being hospitable!

 Above: Legacy Gallery's Scott Jones and thinking about thinking about our upcoming presentation. We will need to think about that some more.

  A gorgeous Phoenix evening for outdoor Awards Ceremony.

I don't have much more in the way of pics but the PAOA website link at the top of this blog, and also on the links at the right will take you to more photos.

Friday, March 27, 2015

"Our Great Hope", Contemporary Children’s Portraits April 9 - May 23, 2015 Portraits Inc, NYC Gallery - Opening Reception Thursday, April 9th 6 - 8 pm

The newly opened Portraits Inc Gallery on Manhattan's Upper East Side is hosting an exhibit showcasing a number of its portrait artists, featuring children's portraits. Curator Michael Gormley continues to dazzle NYC patrons with his selections, hosting events that are both elegant and cozy in the gorgeous new digs at 6 E 92nd St.

I am really thrilled that he selected four of my portraits for the exhibit, shown below.

Above: "Mary in Blue", oil, 12 x 12

Above, "Max", oil 20 x 16

                                                           Above, "Grace" oil, 12 x 9

Above, "Sam", oil, 20 x 16

The portraits are on exhibit through May 23rd, and I hope you'll stop in if you are in the area!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Jaren, Freedom 58 Project, Oil, 16 x 20

Some months ago I was contacted by Bob Swenson, director of the Freedom 58 Project , which is working to raise awareness of the fact that there are some 30 million slaves in the world today, and 2 million children annually trafficked in the sex trade, a $32 Billion criminal enterprise that is rapidly growing and threatens to become worse each year. Women and children, some of whom are as young as 6 years old, constitute the majority of victims.

Freedom 58 has invited a number of portrait artists to paint images of those who have been rescued from sex-trafficking to create traveling exhibits. The art exhibits are dedicated to raising awareness about modern day slavery and other forms of violent oppression, and they are a component of the Justice Movement strategy to mobilize university students, faculty and communities in this endeavor. The exhibits are designed to be displayed at various venues such as schools, libraries, museums, churches and numerous events.  

Artists of various disciplines donate a portrait (or their interpretation) of people who were formerly enslaved and/or oppressed from actual case stories supplied by participating organizations. The secondary purpose of the exhibits are to drive people to the web site for more information, resources and opportunities for action.

My subject, Jaren, is a young woman who was rescued from slavery in the far east. 

If you would like more information or, as an artist, would like to volunteer to paint for the Project, please follow the contact information on the website or reach out to Bob Swenson at

Saturday, January 3, 2015

...and what about those female self-portraits?

“The third in a series where we explore the female self-portrait in contemporary realism.

When we show our self-portraits, one of the more common questions is why we’re so serious.

If we’ve spent the better part of the month staring at ourselves in the mirror, trying to perfect a likeness on a face so familiar you don’t even know WHAT it truly looks like anymore, the answer should be obvious. But, the general public…and the people who know and love you…want to see you smiling and happy like you are in your Facebook party posts. That’s how they know you. Not as an intense art professional perfecting their craft.”

And so begins the Portrait Society of America's Cecilia Beaux Forum blog post I read this morning. And brings me to this just-fresh-off-the-easel self-portrait, and wondering if I should just start out 2015 with angst and guilt, you know, just to save time having to apologize through the rest of the year.

As I've grown older I find that I have become more private, not less, despite, or maybe because of, the ubiquity of the share-it-all social media influence. I have more flaws than I can count, and no, I do not want to bare them in my self-portrait. I have no issue with artists who do, it’s just that I'm not one of them. I enjoy and respect all portraits that carry sincerity, discipline and skill, and in no way would diminish another painter’s choice about what to show.

If you take the time to get to know me, you will be able to discover some of my numerous flaws all on your own, and I am more than willing to share. And that is the part that I wish to keep personal. In a self-portrait, we each get to choose which of our personae we want to show. Sometimes that is the best part of what we keep in our hearts, sometimes it’s how we’d like to be perceived by others, sometimes demanding that others see us naked. Your painting, your choice. Here is mine.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Today's Portraits: Emerging Artists and Leading Masters" - Portraits Inc at Manhattan's Salmagundi Club

New York City's iconic Salmagundi Club hosted this fabulous exhibit showcasing works by selected Portraits, Inc. artists this past weekend, and it was a gorgeous show! Partners Julia Baughman, Beverly McNeil and Ruth Reeves, along with curating host Michael Gormley have worked tirelessly (well, actually they were all probably very tired by the end, but not that you'd know it by their astonishing energy levels) to put together an exquisite gallery event.

Below are some pics from the Opening Reception on Friday November 14, 2014.

All quiet, beforehand...

...and   a wonderful crowd arrives...

...and a bunch of mug shots, with all of The Usual Suspects:)

Below, with Burton Silverman, one of my mentors and heroes, in front of my portrait of him:

Below, Portraits Inc partner Julia Baughman with artist Kerri Gibbs

Paul Wyse and Burt Silverman:

...yours truly with my friend and mentor, John Howard Sanden, and Portraits Inc partner Ruth Reeves...

Artists friends, Laurel Stern Boeck, Patty Watwood, Ed and Deb

I can't tell you how relieved I was that Burt's self-portrait wasn't right next to my portrait of him, sigh:) It was such a stunner!

...and finally my painting below:)

Burton Silverman: American Artist, oil 28 x 28

Friday, November 7, 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

Just completed: "Megan", oil, 20 x 16

I loved meeting this lovely child, she is as sweet as she is beautiful. In this painting, I wanted to capture her quiet, inquisitive nature and patient demeanor.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Kathy, life study, 20 x 16, October 2014

Last Friday's Open Studio at the Mountain Artists here is what I wanted to work on during the session: using more paint, thicker paint, and gaining more variety in brushwork. I misjudged  my composition thinking I'd have time to add more scarf and sweater to the right....I usually spend a lot of time before I even start, especially with a profile view, to place the head correctly. If were to frame this, I'd  crop to fit on 18 x 14 stretchers.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

New YouTube video! "What to expect at your portrait commission photo shoot"

I often get inquiries from people who haven't ever commissioned a portrait before, so I created a short slide show/video to help my clients know what to expect.

This is one of several little videos I plan to make ove the next few months - I hope you enjoy this and as always, I really appreciate your sharing it through your social media networks!

My thanks to my little subject and her family and to Ori Galili ( for his help in creating the video!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Gamblin Dedicated Workshop Instructor

I am so honored to join the Gamblin Company as a Dedicated Workshop Instructor! As my students and artist friends, know, I have used and loved Gamblin's materials for many years and am now able to offer even more to my students - through free samples, in-depth information and new products as they come on the market. Recently I wrote an article for Artists' Magazine (April 2014) on Gamblins' new Solvent-free Gel Medium - which has now become the only medium I use.

If I can help answer any questions for you, please just contact me!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Painting the Lovely Julie - Six step all prima portrait study

How lucky was I this morning to find that Julie was modeling at the Mountain Artists' Guild Open Studio!?
Julie modeled for my recent Prescott workshop and although I didn't get to paint her, I did have benefit of studying her face from many angles, over many hours' time. Below is my morning study.

Step 1: Size and place the head. Drawn with Raw Umber, thinned with a bit of Gamblin's Solvent-free Gel Medium.

Step 2: Separate light and shadow; commit to the background.

Step 3: Block in general skin tones, one for light and one for shadow.

Step 4: Add some detail to the features.

Step 5:  Develop the forms of the face and hair, and continue with detail.

Step 6: Refine transitions, correct drawing mistakes, run out of time:)

Julie, oil, 20 x 16

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Burton Silverman: American Artist

With my most heartfelt thanks to Michael Gormley, Julia Baughman and everyone at Portraits, Inc. for making this wonderful article a reality!

The third in my series of portraits of my mentors and artist friends who have made a positive impact in my art life - Burt Silverman is truly my view of an American icon in the art world, and a man who embodies authenticity in every aspect of what he does.


American Artist Project: How to Paint the Master

By Michael Gormley

 Portrait of Burton Silverman, oil, 28" x 28"

Like an exploding universe in a creationist narrative, our rapidly expanding and fragmenting contemporary art world has birthed an array of focused constellations comprising like-minded souls connected by a shared singleness of purpose. Painters and patrons primarily interested in realist representation and the human form comprise one such magnetic grouping. Like an actual solar system (metaphorically speaking), this mass of independent bodies seeks out and encircles radiant energy sources--the rare stars that shine brightly in the darkness.
Imagine now (in living color) the concentric rings and artistic circles buzzing around Burton Silverman-- the ever wise master artist and attentive mentor to countless hopeful painters.  Can you further imagine expressing the essence of that guiding light in a painting?  Chris Saper has; she has just completed a stunning portrait of her beloved Silverman—the third work in a series of portraits she has painted of artist colleagues and mentors that have had a significant impact on her artistic life.  Saper remarks, “How better to express my appreciation and gratitude to these artists than to paint them.”

A tall order indeed, yet if Silverman’s portrait is any indication, Saper’s subjects are in for a big treat and not a few surprises.  Right off, she gets high marks for nailing Silverman’s knowing wit and peerless gaze.  Yup, it’s Silverman all right-- looking straight at you and through you as only Silverman can.  Saper adds, “I first met Burt Silverman nearly 20 years ago and subsequently studied with him at the Scottsdale Artists School. He remains a daily inspiration, both for his work and for the man he is.  The challenge of painting Burt was managing the insecurity that he would find the work lacking.  It was a real struggle to keep the creation of the work separate from his response to it.  But that’s the inherent risk in painting my mentors – with whom I’ve shared the paintings – is to be able to take in any insights they might have without subjugating the portraits to their opinions. They are my mentors – I am not theirs. I have described Burt as brilliant, charming and delightfully irreverent.  I trust him to be direct about his response.”

One such response Silverman made about his portrait is testament to his keen sensitivity in regards to aesthetic choices, the chase after verisimilitude, and genuine plastic expression. Saper notes that Silverman (quoting the great John Sloan) questioned the painting's compositional value range.  She adds, “He asked me if the work had an underlying design scheme and if that painterly expression was dynamic enough to support my intention for the work to have life.”  I applaud the question and I’ll risk stating that Saper rises to the occasion.  The work offers a wonderful play of light and dark passages which focuses Silverman’s head and tilts it forward into the picture plane and (symbolically) the viewer’s space.  This ‘leaning in’ gesture is intimate – perhaps too intimate.  Saper guesses correctly that some viewers (like her) may find this full frontal engagement with the Sage a little invasive.  Our eyes need a place to wander—or we’ll abandon the work.  So Saper situates Silverman within a compositional scheme that keeps our eyes moving within the picture frame.  But be forewarned-- the lighted window situated in the rear is but a temporary repose as the march of paintings up the far wall are meant to bring our eyes back in lock with Silverman’s.

Hence, there is a larger narrative being worked out with the Silverman painting than employing portraiture as a genuine means to pay homage to an adored master (though at first glance it is certainly that). The Silverman portrait demonstrates that the student has gone beyond learning the master’s lessons--she has made them her own.  How does that idea get translated pictorially?  In this instance Saper offers an optical pathway that tames the master’s gaze and thereby neutralizes his critique.

The artist is now free.  Well not really; the ascending challenge now shifts to the artist assuming a self-imposed responsibility to hold culture’s course and advance the practice of excellence—be that painting or portraiture or any expressive art form. Saper concludes, “Painting Burt carried for me both challenge and freedom. Certainly freedom, because my goal was not to please him with a commission, where my ability to pay my Visa bill hangs in the balance…but precisely because it does not.  My freedom lay in envisioning, designing and executing a piece that caused me to stretch artistically, and to convey what was in my heart and mind.”

Notes on the American Artist Project:
Burt Silverman's portrait is the third piece in Saper's American Artists series.  She expects there will be 7 or 8 paintings in the series.  Most of the portraits are of colleagues who are also mentors, but will also include artists who have had a non-mentoring but positive impact on her art life.  They are all entitled, "XXX: American Artist."  To date Saper has painted portraits of Kirk Larsen and William Whitaker, and has reference photos ready to go for portraits of Ann Manry Kenyon, John Howard Sanden and Jamie Lee McMahan.  For more information about Chris Saper, contact Portraits, Inc. by phone at 800-476-1223 or by e-mail at
Michael Gormley is a painter, writer, curator and regular contributor to the Portraits, Inc. blog.  Gormley was the editor of American Artist magazine and most recently created the fine art catalog for Craftsy--an online education platform.

Portraits, Inc. was founded in 1942 in New York on Park Avenue. Over its 70-year history, Portraits, Inc. has carefully assembled a select group of the world’s foremost portrait artists offering a range of styles and prices. Recognized as the industry leader, Portraits, Inc. provides expert guidance for discerning clients interested in commissioning fine art portraits.

Open Studio, Mountain Artists Guild, Prescott, AZ

Some quick steps from yesterday's session - a warm light source underscored our model's strong Hispanic features, oil, 20 x 16

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Prescott Workshop - great fun!

I had a wonderful group of students last week for my annual summer workshop in the mountains of Arizona "For Love or Money: Portraiture and the Pursuit of Excellence" - the best part is that I can't tell you much I learned.

We had live models on Monday and Wednesday, Julie under a warm light, and Percy under a cool light - I wanted everyone to have the chance to explore ways paint extreme differences in skin tones.

Above, Anne, who came all the way from New Zealand for my class, lays in her portrait of Percy.

On Tuesday and Thursday we completed the previous day's portraits from photos - understanding how to get excellent photo references is a key part of this course.  Below, Bonny works from her monitor and Patty checks her work by viewing both photo and painting upside down.

Below, some of my students' wonderful work!

 During the last hour of each day, discussions and visual presentations focused on the business aspects of portrait painting.

And of course our week's end group photo - thank you all for being part of this class!