Striving for Excellence

International Artist|June - July 2020

Striving for Excellence
The 2020 Class of Portrait Society Signature Status
Krystle Stricklin

Every year, the Portrait Society of America gives recognition to a small group of distinguished artists with the honorary status of PSS – Portrait Society Signature. This distinction is awarded to artists who consistently demonstrate exceptional skill and a sophistication of aesthetics. “Signature Status recognizes those practicing and accomplished artists who are dedicated to the educational mission and high aesthetic standards of the Portrait Society of America,” says chairman Edward Jonas. Since 2014, over 60 artists have been honored with this special designation, including this year’s recipients of exceptional artists, who are Robin Cole, Joseph Daily, Qiyu Dong, Katherine Galbraith, Johanna Harmon, Kishor Purekar, Timothy Rees, Nathaniel Skousen, Jennifer Welty and Amy Werntz. Each of these artists has a unique story to tell about how the art of portraiture has shaped their lives.

It’s no secret that artists look to other artists for inspiration, from both the past and present. Katherine Galbraith, a native of Memphis, Tennessee, who received her first portrait commission at age 12, acknowledges, “So many artists from the past inspire me. Nicolai Fechin, Valentin Serov, Anders Zorn, Dennis Miller Bunker, Isaac Levitan, Jan Vermeer, Cecilia Beaux, Berthe Morisot and the list goes on. My bookshelf is full of books about these artists, and lots more.” Citing a more modern hero, Galbraith adds, “It’s not enough to paint a likeness; that’s understood. We are to interpret the subject, as Everett Raymond Kinstler said. It’s that combination of interpretation and a beautiful painting that elevate the finest portraits.”

Listing his inspirations, Nathaniel Skousen offers a thoughtful, categorical approach. He describes, “The specific qualities I look for are the five principles I borrow from museum masters: dark versus light (Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Velazquez), composition (Caravaggio, Hammershoi, Andrew Wyeth), figures under natural light (Zorn, Sorolla, and the Russian and Finnish masters), brilliant or minimal brushstrokes (Sargent, Sorolla, Bouguereau), and most importantly—skin tones (Sargent, Bouguereau, Van Dyck, Rembrandt).” Explaining further, Skousen says, “Portraits need accurate skin tones to breathe life into the piece. Research and color analysis of master paintings and how they painted skin tones enhances the quality of our artworks.”


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June - July 2020