Last fall at the Figurative Art Convention & Expo (FACE), Russian artist Nikolai Blokhin led a portrait painting demonstration on the main stage of a convention that was teeming with artists. When Blokhin’s portrait painting (above) was available for auction, attendees Charles and Mary Peterson bought the masterwork.
I had the opportunity to chat with Mary about experiencing Blokhin’s demo at FACE, collecting art, and more. Enjoy. (Note: Sign up for #FACE20 by August 1 to save on the registration.)
“Charles and I started creating portraits very late in life,” Mary told us. “Charles started drawing graphite and charcoal portraits four years ago when he was 74 and I started oil painting at age 60 (nine years ago) and later began specifically painting portraits at age 66. We loved the idea of attending a conference together with separate workshops and tracks for each of us. This was our first FACE conference.”
The couple purchased VIP tickets, which gave them the opportunity to sit in the front row during the convention, including for Blokhin’s demonstration, which Mary said was “fascinating.”
“I was totally mesmerized by the brushwork,” she said. “He used a large fan brush and a single stroke to create the hair down the sides of the model’s face. Much of the facial skin tones were also created with very large brushes. Each stroke of the brush created something that still exists as originally placed on the canvas. He moved back and forth across the stage to better understand the model and the painting. He then placed each stroke with precision and with seeming emotional attachment. There was a single blot of white, for example, that eventually became an earring. There is movement everywhere in the painting. The colors are vibrant in the light of day and more beautiful under light. For me it was performance art and I really wanted to own the painting. We were lucky to be able to purchase it that day.”
On Collecting Art
When asked if she had any advice to share with those interested in starting an art collection, Mary shared the following:
“My first word of advice is to always buy original works of art. There is so much more emotional attachment to the artist in the original. The second would be to learn as much as you can about the art and artist that you are considering buying. Meeting and talking to the artist make it so much more personal to own. Corresponding by email, watching classes, and listening to podcasts and interviews create a connection to the artist and therefore the art. The most important advice is to buy what speaks directly to your heart. If you love it and hang it in your home, it will bring you joy and happiness every time you look at it. What you love, others will love as well.”
Friends in Art
In addition to connecting with Blokhin, the Petersons made a new friend after the sale when they realized they had a wet painting in their hands, and needed to travel by plane from FACE (in Williamsburg, Virginia) back home to Houston, Texas the next day.
The painting “was very wet and very valuable to us,” Mary said. “We were blessed that Eric Rhoads rounded up Teresa Oaxaca to take the painting to her Washington, DC studio. She let it dry out for three months and built a crate to ship it to us in Texas. What a lovely person she is to help total strangers caught in a bind. “As a result of this encounter we became attracted to Teresa’s work and we bought a self-portrait from her which now hangs in my study. It reminds me daily of her kindness to strangers.”
Earlier this year, the Streamline Art Video team, including Eric Rhoads, traveled all the way to Russia to film Blokhin for an upcoming how-to workshop video. The video will be available later this summer; sign up here to be one of the first to know when it’s released.