Last week I attended my third portrait party. The first time it was facilitated by artist Susan Cornelis in the home of one of her students. She has since taken the idea to the Sebastopol Center for the Arts where it’s been fully embraced—first in January and again this March. Judging by both the attendance and the enthusiasm, I’m sure there will be more to come.
Here’s how a portrait party works. Circles of folding chairs are set up throughout the room. Every circle seats five or six people. Each person takes turns posing for the others in his or her group, starting with one-minute poses and gradually increasing the time to ten minutes. One person in each group is the designed timer. A minute flies by for both the sketchers and the posers. Ten minutes still seems like a very short time when you’re sketching, but it can seem like an eternity when you are the one being sketched. Every time a buzzer goes off, one hears shouts of, “Oh, no!” and “It can’t be (fill in the blank) minutes!” Posers sometimes emit a sign of relief. My group actually limited itself to eight-minute poses, rather than ten. I now have a healthy respect for models who hold hour long poses in life drawing classes. I should add, in case I didn’t make myself clear, everyone at a portrait party is fully clothed. In fact, wearing distinctive attire is encouraged.
Some artists at the event were beginners, some were professional artists, but most fell somewhere in between. While people are encouraged share what they draw, it’s not mandatory. One person in my group enjoyed taking photos of her fellow artists’ drawings but was always careful to ask for permission before doing so.
There are no tables or easels at a portrait party, so a drawing board placed over one’s lap is helpful—unless you are working really small. At my last portrait party, I limited myself to pencil sketches. This time I was more ambitious. Most of my drawings were done with a black brush pen. However, toward the end, I experimented a bit with watercolors.
A description of the art materials I used at the event might be helpful for anyone considering attending a portrait party, joining an urban sketching group, or who—like me—enjoys doing art when they travel. To create my travel kit, I purchased an assortment of Windsor & Newton watercolors in tubes, an empty watercolor tin and an assortment of half pans that fit inside. Filling the empty half pans with my own paint allows me to customize my color selections. However, travel kits can be purchased fully loaded. After adding an Aquash water brush, a travel brush, and a small spay-bottle, I’m set to paint. I also always have a small assortment of waterproof ink drawing pens on hard. (See photo below.) Continue reading