The Big Night!

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William Draper Grand Prize  A Father's Dreams and a Son's Love

William Draper Grand Prize
A Father’s Dreams and a Son’s Love

The last night of The Art of The Portrait is a biggy. Everyone dons their best evening attire and we all attended the Banquet & Awards Presentation in the Grand Ballroom. Besides being a great place to people watch, this is the time when the Portfolio, Portrait Competition, Excellence in Fine Art Education Awards are given out. At the end of the of the gala, there is the William Draper Grand Prize and the People’s Choice Award.  This year was a little different ,because both prizes went to Bryce Billings for A Father’s Dream and a Son’s Love, a double-portrait of himself and his little boy.  The crowd went crazy for this father and his boy.  It was a special moment.

Photo: complements of Under Paintings William Draper and his adorable son accepting the awards.

Photo: complements of Under Paintings
Bryce Billings and his adorable son accepting the awards.

Of course, I had not made the connection between Bryce and my Facebook friend Bryce.  It wasn’t until I was introduced to him that I actually made the connection, but was too embarrassed to say anything.  I get myself into so much trouble with names.  My husband always teases me that I have a full-proof way of remembering people’s names: I just guess and I am always wrong.  But that’s not actually true.  I don’t guess anymore because I fear I will be wrong.  Anyway, Bryce seems like a sweet, nice dad who adores his son–and just happens to be a very talented artist.  The world really is, mostly, a nice place.

Here’s a list of some of the award winners:

First Place Painting Award –Last Train Home, by Tony Pro

Second Place Award – Cold, by Jeff Hein

Third Place Award – Self-Portrait, by Kelly Carmody

Fourth Place Award – Untitled, by Aron Belka

Fifth Place Award – Reluctance, T.J. Cunningham

First Place Sculpture Award – In Recent Days–A Self Portrait, by Alicia Ponzio

Honor Awards – Seth Haverkamp, Knitter’s Gift, by Adam Clague, Seth Haverkamp, and Olga Krimon

Exceptional Merit Awards – Ricky Mujica, Wesley Wofford, James Tennison, Aapo Pukk, Clement Kwan, Sandra Kuck, Barbara Kiwak, Kristy Gordon, Gavin Glakas, Aimee Erickson, and Paul Batch


Last Train Home, by Tony Pro

Self-Portrait, by Kelly Carmody

Self-Portrait, by Kelly Carmody

cold by Jeff Hein

cold by Jeff Hein

Untitled, by Aron Belka

Untitled, by Aron Belka

Reluctance, by T.J. Cunningham

Reluctance, by T.J. Cunningham

A Self Portrait, by Alicia Ponzio

A Self Portrait, by Alicia Ponzio

Eileens-Lament, by Anne Kraft Walker First Place - Member's Only Competition, Still Life Division

Eileens-Lament, by Anne Kraft Walker First Place – Member’s Only Competition, Still Life Division


Evening Ritual, by Ricky Mujica

Evening Ritual, by Ricky Mujica

Star Child, by Kristy Gordon

Star Child, by Kristy Gordon

Finally, rounding off the evening was a wonderful keynote address by the gifted artist, author, and speaker, James Gurney.  Gurney, who approaches art with as much scientific curiosity as aesthetic sensibility, centered his talk on “Looking at Faces,” where he discussed the human fascination with faces and the biology behind recognition.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable presentation, and the perfect ending to the ceremonies..


I love going to the Art of the Portrait every year.  My only complaint would be about the Banquet & Awards Presentation.  There is no dancing or music of any kind.  When the presentations are over, everyone just goes and hangs out at the hotel bar.  It’s sort of disappointing not to be able to mingle with everyone.  I think it would be a much better way to end the evening if they could add a band or a DJ so everyone could dance.  Just a thought…






Shelli Alford is an artist and author, who enjoys learning from master oil painters from around the world and reviewing their classes, workshops and demonstrations.

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  1. glenda

    October 3, 2014 at 11:27 am

    Hi, Shelli.

    Love your blog and am blown away by the paintings on this entry. Can’t imagine how energizing it must be to hang out with people who are producing such beautiful art. I would have a difficult time selecting my favorite. Long to get with Aunt (your grandma) and discuss them all. She would definitely be your biggest fan. Much luv, Aunt G.

  2. Ted Leonard

    July 27, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    Thank you for exposing greatness in the art world. This was a wonderful post. I’m very blown away by the talent you’ve shared.
    Ted Leonard

    • Shelli Alford

      August 19, 2016 at 3:45 am

      Thanks Ted! I was super sad I missed this years PSoA conference. I heard it was great. I’m hoping to get a guest writer to tell us about it.

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