Friday, July 1, 2011

IAPS Convention Review by Rita Kirkman

Rita represented the Texas Pastel Society at the IAPS Convention in Albuquerque.  Here are a few excerpts from her fascinating review.  To read it in its entirety , go to  This is a MUST read!
Travel Day

Well, another IAPS (International Association of Pastel Societies) Convention has come and gone. It's already been three weeks though it feels like just yesterday. I was privileged to be asked by Mary Lopez, president of the Texas Pastel Society, to be her rep for TxPS and to let her know how it all went. So here I am at another airport on my way to Williamsburg, VA (another story) getting the beginnings of this recollection on paper, and feeling the deja vu of my trip to Albuquerque.

Sandia Mountains
It was my second IAPS convention, but four years since my first one in '07. I had registered the very moment I received the email last fall, and was determined to make up for missing '09 by scheduling a full week, including pre- and post-convention workshops!  I flew in on Tuesday, May 31. the weather was fine and I was as excited as a child to have a window seat.  I love flying!

The Exhibits
Wednesday evening was the opening reception for the 18th Juried Exhibition and the First Master Circle Exhibition, both shown conveniently in conjunction with the 9th biennial convention.
(On the shuttle to the reception, Jeannette and I were each surprised and pleased to be recognized by one of the artists in the show, Tatijana Jacenkew, who had seen our works online. It was almost like being famous!)

The Hispanic Arts Gallery at the New Mexico State Fairgrounds, host to the IAPS exhibits this year, is spacious and beautiful, with various rooms that open into each other. The juried exhibit was in the large front area, separated from the MC exhibit by the Juror's Wall.
 I was thrilled, of course, to see my work hanging on that juror's wall, right between Desond O'Hagan's and Liz Haywood-Sulivan's.

The IAPS exhibit was inspiring. Judge Liz Haywood-Sullivan declared it the finest collection of pastel works IAPS has ever shown. They had almost twice the submissions of previous exhibits.

The Pre-Convention Workshop
Wednesday and Thursday were the pre-convention workshops. If I could have split myself in two, I'd have taken both Richard McKinley's and Desmond O'Hagan's, but since I had to choose, I took Richard's. It was inspiring and fun as usual. His focus for this workshop was underpaintings.

He first showed us how using watercolor or oil to underpaint is really no different than washing pastel pigment into the paper with water or with mineral spirits. It's just pigment and medium after all. He then demonstrated the three underpaintings that we would learn during the workshop.

The Paint-Around

Thursday evening was the Paint-Around.
If you've never seen a Paint-Around, you're missing out on some excellent entertainment! 5 artists each begin a painting, then every 15 minutes they all rotate to the next easel. ..Yep, you can picture it! 90 minutes later they're all back at their original paintings, fixing - er, that is, finishing up the last deatils. All of the artists sign each painting. The 5 paintings are then auctioned off to benefit the IAPS/UCT scholarship fund.
(Richard McKinley was chosen by Maggie Price to be the auctioneer at Saturday's banquet. Richard - ever the jokester - relayed his call from Maggie. "She said 'We wanted a comedian and immediately I thought of you!'" He was amusing, and it was fun and he got good prices for all of them.)
The Candy Shoppe!
Friday morning, everyone's favorite part of the convention opened -- yes, the "Candy Shoppe"! I vowed before I went that there was really nothing I needed to buy, but I did succumb to a pack of Art Spectrum Pastelmat and a few of Jack Richeson's boards in various colors. But NO pastels! I was firm! ...At least until late Sunday, when I saw the 100 half-stick set of Schmincke at a special discount.    ( ...Well, I have just about every brand made except for Schmincke and Roche, and my budget won't stretch to Roche yet...)

Anyway, for me the better part of the candy shop was the demos - and one in particular - Leslie B. DeMille had an easel in the My Art Tutor booth. Friday afternoon I caught him getting ready to start a portrait sketch with conte sticks on velour paper:
Amazing! This took him about 20 minutes.

The Margaret Dyer Seminar

My most memorable seminar of the weekend was Margaret Dyer's on Friday morning. She talked about her method of conducting figure (not portrait) commissions, and then showed us, with a live model, how she photographs her client. She brought her own lamp with a 250w tungsten bulb and set it up with a chair in the corner between the door to the hall, and another door to outside. Wonderful combinations of light! When she was done, she showed us her pics on a projector, then - best yet - gave all of us 15 minutes to photograph the model for a $5 tip!

Kim Lordier Hands-On Demo

After lunch I had a hands-on demo with Kim Lordier. The 'hands-on' demos were added to IAPS in '09. These demos focus on a specific concept involved in the painting process. Participants are not expected to create a finished work but instead concentrate on learning or improving one part of the process, all working from the same reference. The best part is all supplies are provided! (12 Terry Ludwig pastels, and more!)

Kim's demo was on atmospheric perspective. I really looked forward to this demo after hearing Richard McKinley's frequent praises of Kim's skill. Kim had this pre-prepared demo displayed as a visual guide along with the photo reference (at right):  From the back of the room this looked like a detailed painting; only up close could one see how loose and unfinished it was! This really impressed upon me how the strength and power of a painting relies on accurate values and temperatures; it's not in the details!

She then showed us each step of the way and had us work along with her, building our values and temperatures to create convincing atmospheric perspective.

The President's Dinner

Friday evening was the President's Dinner. (Thank you, Mary, for referring me - the food was delicious, especially desert!) Friend and fellow artist Sonja Kever was also there representing the Austin Pastel Society. We sat with some ladies form the New England area and had some good conversation.
The main point made by IAPS President Maggie Price was that we will have the Hotel Albuquerque for the 2013 convention locked in at the current prices She made many other good points in favor of not moving the convention to another city, and convinced all of us that it had nothing to do with it being in her own back yard (lol!) (Peggy Breutigam paraphrases it very well HERE) One impressive point I remember is that the convention attendance this year nearly doubled from '09 and filled the entire hotel, overflowing to a nearby Best Western.

An important topic presented by IAPS V.P. Liz Haywood-Sullivan was on the ASTM-4236 and the development of a lightfastness standard for pastels.

Banquet Keynote Speaker and Presentation

I almost didn't go to the Saturday banquet, but decided to purchase a ticket when I found out they keep a few 'plates' in reserve for latecomers. I'm glad I did! Kate Hersey of Unison pastels gave the Keynote presentation and an inspiring slide show about the history and manufacturing process of these luscious pastels. Hand-made by less than a dozen employees, the 'factory' is a charming old stone coach house in Northumberland, England. In spite of the death of John Hersey, and various economic pressures, these pastels are still made to the same exacting standards as when they first came on the market in the early 1980's.

The End (Or The Beginning...)

There was so much to take in at IAPS '11 that by the end I felt overwhelmed, and vowed that next time I'll just pick one instructor and take all that they offer and leave the rest of the weekend for, well, resting.
...But probably I won't be able to resist scheduling just one more demo, ...then just one more seminar, ...and Oh, I won't want to miss that one!
...It's a lot like trying to resist those irresistible pastels themselves!

Until next time -- happy pastelling!

"I flew so high, the earth was round"