Last week I hopped on a plane and flew to Daytona Beach, Florida. A short taxi ride from the airport deposited me at the Daytona Beach Resort, which was home to the Colored Pencil Society of America's 22nd Annual International Exhibition convention. Thursday afternoon: My first stop was the CPSA hospitality suite. There you sign in, pick up your name tag and a bag of art swag packed with goodies. The room has displays by the hosting chapter, as well as a preview of all the raffle prizes that will be given out Thursday night. Often, artists are sitting at tables giving impromptu demos, and this was true when I arrived: Arlene Steinberg was showing how to use the Icarus board to create vibrant colors. This was timely, since on Friday night her piece in the show (which was drawn on an Icarus board) would win a high award: Thursday evening: Thursday is a fun night at the convention. For starters, each show entry (regardless of whether it made it into the show) is projected and the title and artist's name are read. If you didn't make it into the show this year, it's great to see your piece on the big screen. It's also fun to play along and pick out your favorites, and which you think won awards. While this is going on, door prizes are also given out (you get a ticket as you enter the room), and there usually are enough that everyone gets something. There are also larger prizes given from a separate raffle. If this isn't enough excitement, there's also the Silent Auction! I was bidding furiously on Holly Siniscal's piece, and was outbid in the end by $5. Friday evening: The awards banquet starts with a cash bar social hour, where everyone mingles and chats. I found myself talking with one of this year's workshop presenters, Amy Lindenberger, who was really interesting and fun to talk with. The dinner has a bit of formality with our president recognizing sponsors, announcing board changes, then awarding Signature status and Merit awards to members who have been accepted in to the national show multiple times. A bit about Signature Status:
- Acceptance into the CPSA Annual International show 3 times earns you Signature status, and you can add the letters "CPSA" after your name
- 5 acceptances earns the 5 Year Merit Award
- 10, 15, and 20 acceptances earn the 10, 15, and 20 Year Merit Awards
- Since this year's show was the 22nd Annual, there are currently no merit awards higher than 20 Year
- CPSA also has a separate annual show for mixed media, and it has its own signature status and initials, "CPX"
It's very hard to get accepted in the Annual International show once, so seeing people who have done it 15 times is amazing! You can see the entire list here: http://www.cpsa.org/membership/signature-members. After all the signature and merit awards are done, we move on to the awards presentation, which culminates in Best of Show. Here's how the awards process works:
- If you are accepted into the show, you will ship your piece prior to the show. The juror will view all of the works and choose the awards. If you are an award winner, you will receive a phone call telling you so, but with a few instructions:
- You have to keep it a secret!
- You aren't told which award you've won; you need to wait until it is announced a the banquet to find out
So, when the moment comes at the banquet for the awards, they simply say "all the award winners know who they are; come up and have a seat in these chairs". I happened to be sitting at a particularly lucky table, because three people got up (John Smolko, Jeff George, and me). At this point everyone nervously takes his or her seats, looks around to see who else is there (the competition!) and focus on the presenter. The awards are presented in reverse order, working their way up towards the big winner. A bit about the award tiers, which are a little confusing:
- There are 15 total awards, going from lowest to highest:
- 5 awards for Excellence ($400 each)
- 3 awards for Outstanding Recognition ($600 each)
- 3 awards for Outstanding Achievement ($800 each)
- 1 Prismacolor Award for Exceptional Merit ($1000)
- 1 Dixon Ticonderoga Award for Exceptional Merit ($1000)
- 1 CPSA District Chapters Award for Exceptional Achievement ($2000)
- 1 CPSA Best of Show and CIPPY Award ($5000)
As they begin calling the names, it's a bit like a Survivor episode, with people getting up and leaving the ever dwindling group. Your heart starts racing as the group gets smaller. There were only 6 people left when my name was called, and I received one of the three awards for Outstanding Achievement. Here's the list of winners: http://www.cpsa.org/coloredpencilartists/22/awards2014.html . After the banquet is done, usually there's a bit of an after party at the hotel bar. This particular night there was something special happening at 11:23 pm, though: an Atlas V rocket from launching from Cape Canaveral, and the launch was visible from the beach. Several of us headed out with only the light of our cellphones guiding us, and we saw the rocket rise like an orange flare, lighting up clouds as it passed through them: Saturday morning: Saturday is the trade show, which is great for shopping. Vendors set up a camp, answer questions about their product, and sell their goods usually with a discount. My treat was a tin of Caran d'Ache graphite pencils, and some cool paper called "Stipple paper", which has a bumpy texture that will be fun to experiment with. Saturday afternoon: CPSA provided a bus to shuttle us to the Ormond Memorial Art Museum. The museum is a great, modern space with multiple rooms displaying the show. It quickly becomes packed during the artist's reception, and soon it is a sea of people. The show is hung nicely; some rooms have a fair amount of natural light, while others have picture lights. I find my piece, "Adrift", in a corner adjacent to the best of show piece, "Stone Faced". "Stone Faced" is a really brilliant work, and looks fantastic in person. Multiple times over the course of the reception I see people looking at the piece with their eyes, then looking at it on their camera phone and seeing the portrait emerge from the pattern of colored stones. The artist who drew it, Scott Krohn, received his 5 year Merit Award this year, but this was his first show award: This is a good place to add my thoughts about the award winners:
- If you look at the past 5 years, the CIPPY awards went to: Scott Krohn "Stone Kissed", Holly Siniscal "Starkissed", Liz Guzynski "September Hydrangeas” , CJ Worlein "The Sisters” , Shinji Harada “Grapes in Basket”, and Jeff George "Life and Death"
- I mentally assign two ratings when looking at each piece: one for Technical Excellence (mastery of color pencil medium) and one for Conceptual Excellence (concept, composition, color usage). I will say that, in general, Technical Excellence seems to get works an award, but Conceptual Excellence is what elevates pieces. Think about Jeff George's "Life and Death" (high technical and conceptual excellence) and Scott Krohn's "Stone Kissed", for example. Having seen all of the pieces of the show, photorealism alone is not sufficient.
- As many have pointed out, there is a different juror each year. Arlene Steinberg has twice now had pieces not accepted into the show one year, to be accepted the following year and even win an award. Different jurors have different perceptions, so I recommend trying not to get too hung up on why a piece did or didn't win an award.
While I was wandering around the reception, I bumped into someone who knew my work, but I hadn't met in person before. She commented that she assumed I was a woman, and I mentioned that happens to me often because "Shawn" is a unisex name (I actually dated a "Shawn" once - we joked that we would have identical names if we got married). Interestingly, she said it was because my work was about feeling, and sensitivity. I really appreciated her comments; often people tell me my piece looks like a photo, and although it's a technical compliment, I feel like I've failed a bit when that's the only takeaway. Lastly, here's a short video clip of the artist's reception, to give a bit of flavor. My Facebook page has many pictures from the reception, including many of the artists in front of their award winning pieces, so be sure to check it out for some additional pics.