So if you are not familiar, IAPS stands for the International Association of Pastel Societies. Every 2 years this organization holds a huge convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This was a convention year and artists arrive from all over the world. 

Last week I got to be surrounded by pastel sticks, pastel enthusiasts, master painters and most of all- old friends and new friends that love the medium.  I had not attended since 2017 and I was more than happy to get my pastel “fix.”

IAPS holds 2 exhibitions each year open to all pastelists from all over the world. Each time a painting is accepted into one of these international exhibitions, the artist gets a “point.” Five points and you become part of the “Masters Circle.” And then you have to compete with those masters in a separate show where the Masters are now in competition with each other.  Fifteen points and you receive the designation of “Eminent” Pastelist. These points are hard won. The show at the convention this past week had over 3,000 entries. They hang 150. 

So the exhibition, of course, was fantastic. To see that many originals in one room and then to meet the artists behind them is an honor. I entered my very first international exhibition with IAPS in 2013 with the painting of my son in the bathtub and won the Gold Medal. I was so nervous I was jittery. That painting launched my career and I can’t believe so many people over this past week still remember and gush over that painting. Two years later I was in the Masters exhibition and won the “Prix des Pastel” Best in Show of the Masters (still can’t believe it) and in 2022 received my “Eminent” Distinction. I wasn’t able to attend the honors banquet that year, there was too much going on in my life (surgery, divorce) so I was very pleased to finally wear my medal and pin this past weekend.

So was I part of the international show this past week? Nope. Rejected. There are hundreds of Masters now and only so much wall space.  As my dad says, “That’s the way the cookie crumbles.” Am I geared up to get in at the next convention? You bet.

I got to watch Corey Pitkin demonstrate. Hear Bill Truman Hosner talk about his work. Watch David Kassan paint. Then I painted in a workshop with Lorenzo Chavez. All great artists I have admired over the years. All from whom I took away something valuable.

Old friends who I have taught in workshops across the country in my workshops found me. It was good to reconnect and hear about what they are doing now and how learning about “power” and giving up “hard” and “soft” terms to deal with pastel has helped them so much.

New friends from my home state -we have exchanged numbers and plan to get together soon.

War stories were swapped. Tips an tricks exchanged. Admiration was given freely. I can not tell you how many artists I met who, after being enthralled with their work for years, I come to find I like them as people too.

Then I was part of a book that was created from the Masters work. The book signing was outside for over 2 hours in the heat, but I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of people signing and standing in line and happy to meet me. Sitting beside wonderful artists like Jz Xu, Anne Strutz, Sally Strand, and Jimmy Wright, we had fun joking around in the 100 degree heat. Then I got the honor of painting alongside Mark Ivan Cole and Bob Ross at the vendor “candy store” at the Artisan booth. I did a demo of artist Christine Ivers and then the next day I did the pastel below of the fountain at the hotel. I did it for me. A memory in pigment. Yes, that is JZ sitting off to the side painting too. 

I also I bought an oil painting from Lorenzo Chavez. The master of plein air, I picked a painting of his that not only did I love, but that had much to teach me.  (mountains below) I will study this painting for many years to come.

So as I write this I am flying back home. New pastels in my bag, new thoughts in my head and a bit of fatigue in my feet.

I am ready to get back to work. Thanks for letting me share! 

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