This year’s Portrait Academy in Chattanooga began when Gordon Wetmore welcomed those attending and gave a wonderful introduction to Michael Shane Neal, highlighting his numerous achievements. Shane thanked all who attended and began by paying homage to his mentor, Portrait Society Board member, Everett Raymond Kinstler.
Neal shared a few delightful stories, which not only helped participants understand his relationship with Kinstler, but also illustrated the impact that friendship has had on his life as an artist. He began his studies with Mr. Kinstler in 1993. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him,” Shane tells his audience with the utmost sincerity. This short introduction may have provided the participants with one of the most important lessons of the day, namely the value of a mentor.
Tom Donahue, master painter located in Memphis, Tennessee, was the model for this year’s demonstration. Shane captured his likeness in a matter of minutes, and the sculptural quality to the paint gave the portrait true depth.
Neal’s ability to communicate and entertain the audience with his knowledge of legendary painters from the past made hours seem like minutes. The final portrait was skillfully rendered and exudes the artist’s style and technique. As Portrait Society member Pat Aube Gray commented, “Shane was a wonderful speaker; his humble revelations of his problems and down-to-earth accountings of his experiences were wonderful.”
The portfolio critiques were equally successful at this Portrait Academy. A large number of students maximized this opportunity by visiting several artists. According to many, this enabled them to receive a broader view of their work. High school art student, Jessica Baker stated, “The information I received was beneficial with the portrait I am currently working on now. I think I can now go back and finish the face.” Jim Aplin, Tom Donahue, Bart Lindstrom, Gordon Wetmore, Steven Moppert, Michael Shane Neal, and Michelle Anderson devoted their time for these valued critiques.
This year the Portrait Society decided to test round-table discussions, which many members have suggested would be a welcome addition to future programs. Participants were invited to take part in active discussions with the master painters in attendance. Subjects ranged from marketing to technique, and provided everyone, both seasoned and novice artists, with useful advice for becoming a professional in the art world. The discussions proved to be both enlightening and educational, and received positive feedback. Look for similar sessions to be included in future conference schedules.
by Deborah Kepes and Amanda McCaughey