The International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS) convenes every other year in
Albuquerque, NM. I've been wanting to go for years, but kept putting it off, thinking I wasn't ready yet, or my work wasn't good enough, or I had to get into the show in order to go. I'm so glad I finally went, and I'm writing about it to remind myself in the future of what to do and not to do.
Plan ahead! The convention is announced and accepts registrations before the exhibit is juried in. Regardless of whether you enter your work in the exhibit attached to the convention, you should register for the convention. You should ALSO enter work into the exhibit as well, because...you never know!
The Exhibit- This year was my first time actually getting an artwork into the show, but I entered it three previous times-last time with the same painting (rejected), and the times before with other paintings. Jurors are just people and there will always be top paintings that don't get into shows, and crappy paintings that do (not saying that anyone's work was crappy here, but you know what I mean).
It's a huge honor to get your work accepted into the show, which also means you are in the catalogue. During the show, celebrity artists do walk-throughs live on social media where they talk about the works in the show. Pastel God Tony Allain waxed philosophically about my painting during one of these, and I heard about it from several people!
Also, preorder the show catalogue so that you have it while you are there. You want to see the whole show and have a record of it. Getting into this show is worth 1 point towards your Master Circle, and Eminent Pastelist designation. For workshop artists like me, thats an import selling credential. Once you get MC or EP status, you become the most popular girl at the dance. I've got a ways to go yet, but at least I have 1 point!
I didn't expect to get in, but I always enter my very best works for shows. I really hadn't given a thought to the cost to ship the work because I hadn't made it that far in the past. Well the piece that got in was 24x36 framed out to 28x42 which is two inches over the legal limit. First thing I had to do was reframe the painting in a much smaller, thinner moulding.
I also had to have a box made to ship the painting in (airfloat box) which is reusable and puncture proof. These boxes are not cheap. Mine was over $100. Then I researched carriers to see what I could afford vs who would treat my painting most gently and insure it at it's full value. My painting is $2500 and FedEx would not insure it for that value, so I went with UPS. Next day air was almost $800, 3 days was $600 and ground was $400 (remember you have to pay for shipping both ways). When all was said and done, it cost me more to send my painting to Albuquerque than to send me. If I had it all to do over again, I'd drive it myself. I'm still waiting to get my painting back and praying it is in one piece.
The Hotel-Hotel Albuquerque is a very nice hotel, right next door to an even nicer hotel called Hotel Chaco. Most hotels in downtown Albuquerque are outrageously expensive. Find someone else who is going and split the cost of the room. Better yet, get a VRBO or Airbnb for a fraction of the cost. IAPS has a facebook group where registered attendees can post notices for roommates. Most pastel societies also have facebook groups where you can
easily find another person who's going.
The Food-Like many large hotels, Hotel Albuquerque caters lunches for a price and offers free continental breakfasts to conventioners. If you are of an adventurous palette, I highly recommend you forgo the bland sandwiches for a taste of real local flavor in one of the Old Town eateries like Church St. Cafe (free sopapillas!!!) or Sawmill which is a huge complex of small independent restaurants catering to a college crowd.
Whatever you do, don't order the "vegetarian choice" for the banquet on Saturday night. I did, and it was white rice with tomato sauce and a few pieces of zucchini. Next time I would order a meat choice just to get the side dishes which were farm more appetizing at $58/plate.
If I sound frugal, you bet I am! I work had for this money and I'm careful how I spend. I'm also a good cook and would often prefer to make something myself and brown-bag it than to spend the money on something less healthful.
Here's a few more frugal facts:
Main activities are Weds.-Sat. so you could save some hotel $ by arriving Weds. morning and leaving Sat. night.
Bring a sweater and an umbrella! May sound like odd advice for the desert but I got rained on twice and froze my suntan off in the hotel classrooms.
Leave extra space in your bag for things you will buy at the "candy store"-I packed a week's worth of clothes and all my art supplies into one back pack, but coming back, I had to carry on a bag full of pastels and papers. The Candy store is a giant wing of booths of all your favorite pastels, papers, and implements at bargain prices. NO ONE CAN RESIST the deals!
have two pairs of shoes, one dress up and one you are comfortable walking/hiking in.
Choose your workshops carefully and don't overload yourself. Having down time is half the fun! You get to meet other people, sight-see, and process all the content from the classes.
If you are an "up and coming" like me and intend on getting MC and EP status some day, then have a plan before you go. Make a list of people you want to meet, and what you wish to accomplish. Have some splashy printed matter you can hand out that people will remember you by.
Take at least one day off to sight-see. I took several opportunities to plein air paint in the historic Old Town and on the hotel grounds. I also rented a bike for a day and went to the desert to search for petroglyphs. It was a highlight of the trip. Don't go to NM and spend the whole time inside the hotel!
Team up with others from your pastel society and plan to dress in costumes for a theme on Fiesta Night. This is where each society has it's own table, and most of them are themed according to what your area is famous for. We teamed up with Pastel Society of Central Florida and Left Coast Pastel Society and made a tropical themed table with a giant blow-up alligator, pink flamingoes and palm fronds.
Study the itinerary carefully. I missed a president's forum because I had scheduled a class during the same time slot. Classes are nonrefundable!
Now the main reason we go to such things is to learn and network. I took two workshops and paid for two demos. This was a comfortable amount for me. I had something to do each day but I didn't feel overloaded.
I chose artists who would challenge me like Carol Peebles, who is famous for her portraits and was, by far, the best teacher of all the ones I worked with. I teach portraiture myself, and was very impressed by how much I don't know! She challenged me to be my best self and push myself even harder. I really love being challenged-it makes me grow.
I won't go into detail about all I learned but here are a few take-a-ways gleaned from multiple demos and classes....
Something I have always taught in my workshops was reinforced by Desmond O'Hagan in his... the three main concepts in pastel painting are 1. Value 2. Temperature 3. Intensity
Carol Peebles does the most careful sighting and measuring before painting a portrait, but once sketched, she says "ALWAYS PAINT SHAPES NOT THINGS" this is a sentiment I've heard from Betty Edwards in the 70's on up to every workshop instructor I've ever worked with.
Sally Strand is a big proponent in high and low chroma, and often uses an olive Rembrandt pastel to tone down the background by scumbling. I had never thought of green! Blue sure, but green?! Worked like a charm!