This week, about a dozen artists took out their canvases and paintbrushes for a five-day Studio Incamminati portrait workshop, which local artst Donna Catotti helped organize. The workshop was taught by realist painter Lea Colie Wight, who lives in New Jersey. Wight says portrait painting is an intimate experience.
“Those portraits where I’m looking directly at [the model] and making eye contact, it’s very intense and it takes some getting used to,” she said.
Participants included artists from Haines, Juneau and the Lower 48. The participant who traveled farthest was Doreen Dufour, from Rockport, Maine.
“You have to set up a rapport with [the person you paint,] you don’t just set them there and paint them, you get to know them,” Dufour said. “And hopefully what you know of them shows in the painting.”
Local residents Stoli Lynch, Tim Ackerman, and Lani Hotch posed as models.
“There’s nothing like drawing from life,” said art student and Haines resident Tia Heywood. “When you’re drawing from a picture, it’s just not the same, ’cause people are constantly slightly moving, so there’s just more of an energy.”
Dufour says capturing that energy and personality can be more difficult when you know the model well.
“I’ve painted my sons from life, and I found it very difficult to paint them because you know so much about them,” she said. “And sometimes the look just isn’t what you’re feeling about them at that moment.”
The workshop includes quick exercises in color, shadow, and basic techniques. The participants have a longer painting session with model Ackerman on Friday.
“I think workshops like this are great for building confidence,” Heywood said. “So from here on, I think I’ll feel really comfortable working in figures.”
Dufour has been painting for about four and a half years, she says. She apprenticed with an artist in Maine, but she’s still building confidence in her skills.
“It’s interesting to know I really can paint,”she said. “When I started it was just kind of a hobby and time went on, it was like, now I really want to go someplace with this skill.”
Wight, has taught realist painting for years, says she still is always chasing the next level of improvement.
“It’s like climbing a mountain,” she said. “You get to the top of mountain and you think you’re there, but then you see the next range ahead of you. And then you start on that journey, and you have to enjoy the journey.”
The Sheldon Museum has a portrait exhibit opening Friday with some of the participants’ work, showing until July 25.