Sunday, February 3, 2013

Encounter: Portrait Painter Michelle Dunaway

This past weekend, I had an opportunity to drive down to the Scottsdale Artists School for a one-day portrait painting demonstration with Michelle Dunaway.  Dunaway is one of the "Putney Painters," a group of artists founded by painters Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik.  Several of the Putney Painters, including Schmid, Guzik, Stephanie Birdsall, Kristen Thies and Sherrie McGraw, were on hand during the week for workshops and demos.  They also had an exhibit at Legacy Gallery called "Putney Painters and Friends."  Although I didn't have a chance to participate in the other demos, I did have a chance to see the exhibit and the remarkable work therein.

It's a rare opportunity for me to watch a master portrait/figure painter at work, so I was excited to see this demo.   I scrawled over five page of notes during the four hours of painting time (which does not include model breaks and a catered lunch) and a few photos of the portrait-in-progress.   Dunaway was wonderfully articulate and spoke most of the time she worked.  I should also praise the model, a daughter of Stephanie Birdsall; she was able to maintain the pose and to return to it perfectly after breaks.

Dunaway works from the focal point out.  In this case, she worked exclusively on the triangle formed by the eyes and nose, before moving on to the hair and other features at the periphery of vision.  "It's so easy to get excited about everything about the model - the way the hair curls, the glitter of the eye, the  flow of the clothing.  But you have to pick one thing to focus on, one intention.  Strive to get that one thing right first.  Once you've achieved it, then move on to another focus, a second intention."

It'd be fun to live near Putney.  The groups gets together every couple of weeks to paint together in my old stomping grounds of Vermont.

By the way, I still have space left in my upcoming Artist's Network University "Plein Air Basics" course (runs February 19-March 15.)  Click here for more information!

Nearly done.  Dunaway added some rhythmical elements (hair curl
under right cheek) for composition after I took this photo.

1 comment:

Mary Pyche said...

Thank you, Michael, for this timely post. I'm currently doing a portrait and haven't worked on one for years. This is encouraging information. Thanks for sharing about this workshop.