Kerry Dunn, Three Graces, oil on wood, 30 x 30 (76 x 76 cm)
With 30 faculty artists teaching a variety of programs, this year’s event being held in Orlando, Florida, April 16 to 19, 2020, is expected to sell out. Even though we are celebrating our 22nd year hosting this inspiring event, we are committed to presenting fresh and new programs and faculty. I recently interviewed six new and returning faculty artists— Kerry Dunn, Seth Haverkamp, JeffHein, Alicia Ponzio, Adrianne Stein and Elizabeth Zanzinger—and asked them to share their artistic background and experiences. Registration for the conference is easy and can be done online at www.portraitsociety.org.
When and how did you realize you wanted to be a professional artist?
KERRY DUNN: I’ve wanted to be a professional artist since I was a kid. My father was a carpenter, and he could doodle. It was one of his doodles that sparked my interest in drawing early on, and I just never stopped or lost that fire. My parents, being the hippies they were, always encouraged me to follow my heart, and my heart said, “I want to draw!” With no one to discourage me (in fact I was getting the opposite message of “go for it!”), I did. All of that has led me to where I am today.
SETH HAVERKAMP: I realized at around the age of 6 that I wanted to be a professional artist. Drawing was what I was interested in most, the only thing I wanted to do and the only thing I had a natural predisposition to expand upon. As I aged and stumbled through high school, this remained the case. I ended up going to art school for college.
JEFF HEIN: I decided that I wanted to be an artist in the second grade. It was break time, recess or something. I was drawing at my desk and many of my classmates were gathered around watching. One girl asked me if I was going to be an artist when I grow up, and I remember vividly giving the question sincere consideration and then deciding at that moment that I would be an artist. I had and still have many other interests, but I always drift back to art.
I’ve wanted to be an artist as long as I can remember. As a young adult I took a detour into a brief career as an officer in the United States Navy Nurse Corps. As unusual as it may sound, I had the intention of pursuing an art career all along, and I did eventually. While in the Navy, I studied painting and drawing by taking evening classes. Eventually I discovered sculpture and fell in love with the medium and the lost wax method of bronze casting. I worked as a nurse to support myself through my training at the Florence Academy of Art, where I studied Sculpture.
ADRIENNE STEIN: By the time I was a young teenager, I knew that I wanted to pursue my art as my vocation and livelihood. I was already studying in an atelier and was fiercely devoted to it more than any other aspect of my life.
ELIZABETH ZANZINGER: My family is creative and love to work with their hands, so making art came very naturally to me. My mother and grandfather both pursued a study in art, and my grandfather taught perspective at California College of Art. I was surrounded by creativity and encouraged to draw at a very young age. When I was maybe 6 years old, I made a small portrait of myself working at an easel for a school project. I keep it pinned up in my studio to this day, to remind myself of the persistence of art in my life, especially on days when the work isn’t so fun. It wasn’t until the death of my beloved grandfather that I settled on taking art seriously and then pursued a course of study to help me gain the skills and experience I needed. The transition from student to professional can be a difficult one, and it was for me. But with the unceasing encouragement of a select few, and some gritty force of will, I was able to land on my feet as a painter and now work fulltime in my studio in Oakland, California.
What guidance would you give to a young person wanting to become a professional artist?
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