The Home Trust (HTI): What first compelled you to become an artist?
Renée Plevy (RP) I was compelled to become a portrait artist because of an epiphany. Being a people person all my life, I always observed peoples’ facial as well a body gestures, as it tells so much about a person. That special tilt of the head- the gleam in the eyes, that semi smile that defines a person – were what I enjoyed.
The epiphany came when I painted my first oil portrait and realized that I was so connected with the model, that my paint brush became my hand – and I was actually caressing and touching the model’s face while painting her. My first portrait sold to the model’s mom who loved it. I decided right then and there that this was something I had to do.
HTI Who has been the strongest influence on your career and why?
RP: My strongest influencers were both my Aunt Fran Lieber, as well as my first professional art teacher, Charles Werner. Aunt Fran was an artist, educator, a constant learner, as well as a leader in the art field. In those days, women were limited as to what they could pursue as a career – and she broke the mold and was my role model.
Charles Werner was the teacher who had me paint my first portrait. Up until Charles, I had thought my painting abilities were just plain magic. But in my early twenties, I was coerced to join my friends for an evening paint class in Fort Lee, NJ. Charles taught me the vocabulary of the art world, and the right way to paint. Basics that still to this day are rarely taught. From him, I learned that I knew so little, and went on to study with Internationally known portrait artists and am still learning every day. Right now, I am learning from my students, as I love to teach them what I was taught. The other day a young lawyer whom I am teaching, was thrilled when she “finally was taught how to mix colors” which she had wanted to learn since she was a child. No other teacher all these years had taught her this basic skill. Thank you, Charles Werner!!!
HTI: Is there a common thread that runs through all great products? This need not be specific to your category.
RP: The common thread that makes a portrait great is the ability to have the soul of the person come through on the canvas. All the greatest techniques can’t make up for not capturing the individual at his/her best on canvas. For example, at the NYC Art Student’s League, a monitor of one of the great portrait artists had wanted to paint my portrait. I sat for him in his 57th Street studio and saw that he had the technique of the maestro down perfect, but my portrait was not me, and it seemed that all his portraits looked like the same mold.
The artist needs to be able to have excellent techniques but even more importantly must capture the soul, personality of the person they are painting.
HTI: Do you prefer the country or the city?
RP: I enjoy both the country and the city – a great balance. The city has energy and so many new things to see and do. Love the people watching and taking in the museums and innovative art galleries.
The country fills me with color, nature and peace.
HTI: What recent project or transaction are you most proud of?
RP: The recent project that I am most proud of is the “Portrait of a Woman” luncheon and organization that I founded. Over a five-year period, I took an idea to “honor women community leaders in Palm Beach County Florida” and turned it into a Palm Beach annual luncheon which feted over 23 women in four years. Each year my organization honored 5 women from all four parts of Palm Beach County – and the grand gesture was unveiling the Oil Portrait that I painted for each Honoree.
I had no funding, no nothing, just an idea and took it to being an annual “feel good” Palm Beach charity luncheon that raised over $150,000 for our charity, Quantum House.
These portraits have been exhibited throughout the county, and in the future will be shown at the Historical Society of Palm Beach County. It has been my desire to inspire a younger generation to get involved and contribute to our society.
HTI: Do you have a favorite museum?
RP: My favorite museum is the Met in NYC because for many years when I was part of the NY art scene, I would go with other artists, or my students, and see something different in the paintings that I admired the most. Each time I would be expanding my artist’s eye to see whatever I was concentrating on at that time. It could be values, flesh colors, warms and cool colors, brush strokes, composition, etc., etc. It is amazing all these fascinating things were a part of one painting.
The museum houses all my old friends.
Award-winning Palm Beach/New York portrait artist, Renée Plevy, has captured the attention of art lovers, students and aficionados for more than 40 years. Renée’s paintings have been featured in more than 65 shows and galleries, including a one-woman museum show at the Paterson Museum. She has received national attention and garnered numerous awards including “Artist of the Year” from The Bloomfield Art League and First Prize from the Boca Raton Museum Artist’s Guild.
Starting in 2011, she has founded “Portrait of a Woman”, which annually raises monies for Quantum House by honoring prominent Palm Beach Woman at a special luncheon. Six oil portraits are unveiled at the luncheon, all of which become part of a legacy portrait series for Palm Beach County.
Renee now does extensive teaching of her craft at the Boca Raton Museum Art School, and special workshops at the Mandel Public Library in West Palm Beach, and The School of Visual Arts in Jupiter.
Frequently called upon for special projects, Renee has found herself painting a portrait of Vanilla Ice for his Vanilla Ice Project television show, as well as being a part of it. Doing television and radio are always a fun part of being a bit of a celebrity in the Palm Beach community.
When a member of the art community in New York City, her art studio in 41 Union Square was always jumping with activity, between teaching portraiture at the School of Visual Arts, and being a part of the Artist Equity Committee to find a visual arts center for the tri-state area for the 16 national art organizations based in NYC.
Having studied under internationally renowned portrait artists, John Howard Sanden, David Leffel, Robert Beverly Hale, and Clyde Smith, she has developed her own style using classical museum quality techniques.
As a colorist, interpreting personalities through upbeat colors, Renee has incorporated magnificent South Florida tropical colors into her portraits, resulting in joyous life like paintings.
RENEE PLEVY, PORTRAIT ARTIST