IAPS Convention 2015 | The Greatest Pastel Party on the Planet

The 11th biennial convention of the International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS), held this past summer in Albuquerque, N.M., kicked off on Tuesday, June 2, with four all-day workshops led by pastel superstars Sally Strand, Albert Handell, Diane Rapissi and Terri Ford, and the inspiration just continued to flow for the next four days.

This was the fifth IAPS convention I’ve had the pleasure to attend, and I continue to marvel at how much creative power is packed into this event. Here are just a few of the many highlights from another wonderful week of pastel instruction, inspiration and celebration:

The opening of the IAPS Pastel World exhibition combined two shows—the 26th Juried Exhibition and the 3rd Master Circle Exhibition—as well as paintings by IAPS demonstrating instructors. This showcase of pastel diversity included everything: ethereal seascapes and quiet snow scenes, abstracted floral bouquets and complex room interiors, a portrait of maternal bliss and another of plucky chickens. Happily, the show was hanging in the convention hotel, allowing for multiple repeat visits. I think I went back for five viewings.

The every-popular Paint-a-Round is always a blast. Here’s how it works: The five selected artists have 10 minutes to start a painting, using their own reference and provided materials. When the bell rings, each artist moves on to the next easel to continue that painting for 10 minutes. This continues until every artist has worked on all five paintings. In the last 10 minutes, the artist finally returns to his or her original piece to finish it off. This year’s featured artists were Tony Allain, Terri Ford, Stan Sperlak, Alain Picard, and Marla Bagetta. The diverse mix of painting styles and approaches among the artists—not to mention abundant personality—made for a thrilling and often hilarious hour of art entertainment.

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Five pastel celebrities show off their talents in the IAPS paint-a-round.

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The IAPS audience cheers on this year’s five fantastic paint-a-round participants: Terri Ford, STan Sperlak, Tony Allain, Alain Picard, and Marla Baggetta

 

The Trade Show, aka “Candy Store,” brought together 26 vendors to share their materials and services. Whether the shopping discovery was a new set of pastels, an untried surface, an unfamiliar palette box or a new book by a favorite artist, the temptations were many and mighty.

 

The Saturday Night Banquet provides an opportunity to recognize artists who’ve earned enough points (through acceptances and awards in IAPS exhibitions) to be honored as “Eminent Pastelists” or to gain entry into the Master Circle. This year, three artists—Diana De Santis, Anne Heywood and Vianna Szabo—were elevated to Eminent Pastelist status, and 40 artists were inducted into the Masters Circle. Banquet attendees were also treated to a presentation by Esther Bell, the curator-in-charge of European Paintings at the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, a specialist in 17th- and 18th-century paintings, and a pastel enthusiast. Bell spoke about the importance of the gallery of George Petit in the rebirth of pastel in Impressionist France.

 

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A pre-banquet cocktail hour is a wonderful chance to meet and chat with pastel friends, like Richard McKinley, shown here with Pastel Journal publisher Jamie Markle, pastel artist (and film actress) Kim Novak and myself.

 

Of course, at the core of the IAPS convention, are the workshops, classes and demonstrations. A total of 29 artists offered instruction over the course of six days on a range of subjects and topics. Some examples are: “A Rainy Day in Paris” with Alan Flattmann; “Painting Skin Tones” with Alain Picard; “The Landscape From Outside In” with Aaron Schuerr; “Making Waves in Pastel” with Jeanne Rosier Smith; “Try Your Hand at Abstract Painting” with Debora Stewart, and so many more.

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Artist Aaron Schuerr demonstrates his landscape painting techniques.

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Marla Baggetta stops to make a point during her demonstration.

 

The city of Albuquerque itself is always one of the highlights of the IAPS Convention; the big skies, mountains, hot air balloons, and desert flora all add to the experience. Congratulations and a heap of gratitude to IAPS president Liz Haywood-Sullivan and convention director Susan Webster, and all the many others on the IAPS team and volunteers who devoted their time and energy into making this latest convention a great success!

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