Sunday, April 28, 2013

Best of Show, ArtFields Portrait Contest

Round One: A full house
Yesterday I had the honor of competing with 23 other artists in the 2013 Art Fields Portraits Contest.  Having never competed in any sort of live-head-to-head art competition, I had no idea of what to expect.   I also had not had the pleasure of visiting Lake City, South Carolina.  The competition was a very intense experience and I was pleasantly surprised by the charm of  both the town and the amazing organizational abilities of the Art Fields hosts and staff.  

Not being a plein air sort, I was quite anxious over having to paint outside.  By a great stroke of luck, the event was moved indoors to the Bean Market due to possibility of rain.  The indoor venue proved to be an excellent space for the contest, allowing plenty of room for the artists, models, and audience to roam around and view the work from the walkways above the main floor.  The event began promptly at ten with two artists paired to one local farmer acting as model. Each contestant then had only one hour to produce a full portrait to be judged by a panel of four jurors.

In the first round, I was set up at a long table in the center of the floor.   The room was already full of people directly involved with the event but also began to overflow with groups from the outside festival, who watched the artist from all sides.  My hand was actually shaking so bad as I began that I had to steady it with other fingers on the canvas.  It was quite an effort to shut out all the distraction and focus, but I had a great model.   The hour went quickly and the 24 artists were cut to 12 for round two.   My personal goal was to make past this initial selection so I was excited to move on to the next round.

Round Two, 12 Artists
Round two was a little easier going with half the floor clear. I could settle in and actually enjoy painting.  My model kept this fantastic smile going for the full hour that, though impossible to capture, lightened my mood considerably.    I even had time to reflect on the bizarreness of the event; it really felt like portraiture was becoming a sport with all the people watching and taking pictures.    I even heard the makings of stroke-by-stroke commentary as some onlookers were describing the finer points of artistic processes to their spouses.  

Round Three, Six Artists
By round three, there were only six artists and three models left.    I had brought a small assortment of toned canvases that I matched to each model as the round began.   My farmer's John Deere hat inspired me to go green this time.   While I didn't get the likeness, I was pretty satisfied with the resulting painting; after all, camo is pretty tough to paint!

Round Four, Three Artists
With only thirty minutes between rounds, I was pretty exhausted by the time the last portrait session began at 2:30.   It was down to the last three of us, and I switched to a red canvas that matched the skin tones of our final model.  Although I was concentrating rather hard on the model, I could feel all the people watching.   The earlier days hushed conversations gave now gave way to the dull roar of a party at full swing and it seemed like everyone had a camera.   For a brief moment, I felt like a professional athlete... 


At four, I was presented with the blue ribbon and declared the winner.  I was admittedly delirious by this point, so I would like to take the opportunity now to thank my hosts at Art Fields for creating such a cool event as well as give one more nod to all of the fine competitors.  Thanks to all my students at UNCP who helped me train in the last two weeks, and thanks to the support of my good friends Kate, Zack, and Amelia Wagner, Marsha Wiegand who cheered me on during the contest.    Of course, I cannot give enough thanks to my sweet wife Beata who keeps me going.   

1 comment:

martha said...

WAY TO GO, JOE!!!! Next stop, THE OLYMPICS!!