Monthly Archives: March 2019

Portrait Party… A Sketchy Event

Ready, set, draw! Portrait parties are a fun way to hone your figure drawing skills in a relaxed atmosphere surrounded by some really interesting people.

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

Painting with Children


I once read an article that stated (to paraphrase), “every preschool child can dance, sing and paint. It’s only later in life that our inner critic takes over.”

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said, “I can’t sing,” I’d be a wealthy woman. Of course, it didn’t help when, years ago, I was placed in the front row at the sorority sing and told, “Move your mouth. Don’t sing.”  Ouch!

My granddaughter, Elise is four (four and a half, thank you!) and she believes she can do it all. She may never come in first on The Voice, but she sings all the time. It’s never occurred to her that there is a rating scale. She believes she’s terrific. She’s also a terrific dancer—just ask her. Never mind that half her dance troop fell down on stage at their last recital. She’s quick to point out that she remained standing. The fallen rose to their feet amid tremendous applause, and every child wore a radiant smile. After all, they got the biggest hand of the afternoon.

Elise is also an accomplished artist—of this she is certain. She once drew a picture of herself as a baby inside her mother’s stomach and asserted, “I’m really good at drawing me inside mommy’s tummy.”  When we are painting together, she frequently announces, “This will be a masterpiece.” Once, when she drew a few pictures at my house, I asked her, “Do you want to take them home or hang them here.” She gave me a steely stare and replied, “Hang them at the gallery.” She was referring to the Cloverdale Art Gallery where I am a resident artist. She visits there with her parents from time to time. I need to know when they’re planning a visit so I can tape those pictures to the wall.

IMG_2247 Continue reading