2014 Art of the Portrait Conference in Washington D.C.

This past weekend I attended the Portrait Society of America’s annual Art of the Portrait conference in Washington D.C. 


I have been a member of the Portrait Society of America for many years, but only once before, many years ago, had I been able to attend a conference. Each year my friend Matthew has attempted to convince me to go, and it is not that I have not wanted to, but schedules just did not permit my attending – until this year. I had such a wonderfully inspiring and uplifting time that 

I cannot imagine missing another one. Ever. 

If you are a portrait or figurative painter you should be attending this conference, and here is why: Each year, top artists volunteer their time to be faculty members. They paint live demos so you can watch their progress from a blank canvas to completed oil sketch. They field questions as they go, they lecture on technique and tools of the trade – imparting invaluable information and advice. There are various sessions to attend where panels of artists, or solo artists, discuss an array of topics such as technique, inspiration, gallery relationships, or sharing their valuable experiences from over the years. In the vendor room there are many wonderful companies providing top quality supplies at a show discount. New Wave Palettes, Natural Pigments, Rosemary Brushes, Jack Richeson, and Gamblin to name a few. 

Here, a joint demonstration – Robert Liberace and Rose Frantzen paint from a model – their paintings in progress are projected onto large screens so that the hundreds of attendees can watch:


There is the popular Mystery Art Sale event where former winners and other notable artists from around the world donate original paintings on 6×9″ panels as a fundraiser for the Portrait Society of America. And they are an absolute steal if you are fortunate enough to come away with one. I was very lucky and had the opportunity to buy a beautiful piece by Swedish painter, Nick Alm.   



I donated “Flapper” which was purchased but, unfortunately, I don’t know by whom.


The banquet is where the winners of the competition are recognized – their beautiful works on display for the entirety of the weekend where conference attendees can vote for who will get the “People’s Choice” award. 

This year’s winner of both the Draper Grand Prize and the People’s Choice award was painter, Bryce Billings for his outstanding painting, “A Father’s Dreams and a Son’s Love”.


But perhaps the most important part of the conference is the camaraderie. Seeing old friends and making new ones. The encouragement and inspiration fostered – the relationships formed. Being an artist is so often a solitary vocation that it is extra important to make time to be around your people. It is important to share with one another – to know that you are not alone in your questions and frustrations – and to come away inspired and reenergized and ready to create. 

The Art of the Portrait conference for 2015 will be in Atlanta from April 30th to May 3rd. 

Only 365 more days until the next portrait conference begins! Will you be there? I will! 


2 thoughts on “2014 Art of the Portrait Conference in Washington D.C.

  1. David – The Nick Alm painting is on a gessoed 6×9″ Jack Richeson hardboard panel that is provided to the painters who donate their work to the “Mystery Art Sale” fundraiser at the Portrait Society of America’s Art of the Portrait conference.

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