So What is a Portrait Anyway?

We all have had a portrait taken of us at one point or another. For sure we have all had that masterful work of art that is the school portrait (see below). Some of us (and by us I mean others, not me) have gotten the infamous "Glamour Shot" or other sort of staged portrait at some point throughout our lives. Then there is the wedding day portraits, family portraits, birthday portraits and so on and so forth.

Me, a long time ago. I know, sweet tux right?

I have spent a lot of time considering what it is exactly that makes a portrait and why. Some of you might be saying "Well Andy, that's easy; a portrait is a picture of a person...you know...a portrait". Well, is that indeed the case or is there more to it. According to Dictionary.com a portrait is the following:

noun

1.a likeness of a person, especially of the face, as a painting, drawing, or photograph: a gallery of family portraits.

2.a verbal picture or description, usually of a person: a biography that provides a fascinating portrait of an 18th-century rogue.

Notice is says a likeness of a person, but it also says a verbal picture or description. To me that is the key part, that a portrait tells a story about a person. That story can be short or long, but the story is there. So in my mind I am always asking myself what does the portrait show or say about the person? Do you think that the aforementioned school portrait or Glamor Shot fully represent the subject of the portrait, and the even bigger question is does a portrait need to do all of that?

As a portrait artist I tend to believe that at the heart of the portrait lies three distinct views:

1: The view of the subject as the subject sees themselves.

2: The view of the subject as others see the subject.

3: The view of the subject as the artist sees the subject.

I will be discussing each of these very distinct views in my upcoming blog posts, but for now give some thought as to my ideas here and see if you can find examples in your own life of these various views and feel free to open a discussion.

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