In this modern day of selfies long gone are the days of fine portraits in the home. In a day when anyone can be their own photographer why buy portraits some may ask, why not just buy digital picture frames or order prints online from overseas? Aren’t portraits a luxury item few can afford, why invest your money? I think there are obvious advantages to having a portrait in your home whether it is of yourself or a family member: they are visually impressive, and nothing shows self love like a magnificent nude of yourself over the fireplace lol. Here’s my top three reasons why we should bring portraiture back and why everyone at least once should have his/her portrait made in their lifetime.
1) Portraits capture not only an image but the essence behind the image.
Artwork is inherently sentimental whether it be a modern abstract Jackson Pollock, an Impressionist Cezanne, or a Norman Rockwell realistic family illustration, one is left with a certain feeling, a visceral sense of the image. When an artist paints or draws a picture of a subject they are not simply translating or copying shapes and shadows, they are interpreting and reinterpreting the nature of the thing itself. They are enhancing attributes through visual methods in an attempt to describe an idea, an energy or a personhood about the subject. One of my teachers at Pratt would make us draw the negative space around a subject class after class, just so we would have a sense of how a human impacts and interacts with the space around them. Can a human being influence the very air particles in a room? Draw the air enough times and you will find the answer is yes!
Have you ever looked at a portrait and felt that it was looking back, that there was actually a consciousness within it? I think most of us have been to the museum and felt that eyes were following us around the room. Many of us have also looked at paintings and felt a sense of the artist, that they left something of themselves behind in the work. One can look at a Van Gogh or a Gustav Klimt and even though one hasn’t laid eyes on given image before, know through general knowledge of the artist who painted it as every artist leaves a visual fingerprint in their signature works. When I paint or draw a subject I prefer to do it from life in a sitting, where I can spend time with the subject and take photographs and sketches from different angles, so it is as personal as possible. If I can’t do that then I usually ask for multiple photographs or for a little information about the subjects so I can give them a sense of self within the artwork. In this way portraiture is a time capsule where artist and subject intersect in a unique DNA of both personalities conveyed in a style which couldn’t come about any other way.
2) Portraits differ from the modern disposable nature of images.
The most common form of images nowadays is digital. Our memories are preserved not on walls or in albums but in cellphones, tablets, laptops and email accounts. Oftentimes when we lose a device, get a virus, accidentally hit delete etc. these precious pictures of our friends and family are gone forever. How often do we really print and frame these images? When a camera phone image is blown up at a print shop it will have flaws not previously seen on the small viewing screen such as dust, smudges, pixelation etc. A talented portrait artist can utilize a flawed image for its immediate snapshot like nature and perfect it. Many artists such as myself can also work from multiple imperfect or incomplete images to form one composite portrait where everyone in a group looks great, everyone’s eyes are open, the angles are most flattering etc. In my work I have changed the backgrounds and settings to the wishes of the subject and even the outfits portraying the subject as their favorite superhero for example. I have also incorporated mixed media and even three dimensional elements which aren’t possible with even professionally taken photographic prints. A portrait also indicates you care for the subject enough to have them commemorated for the ages and someone took the time to do so. In our modern age where attention is in short supply, people communicate much less face to face, having a portrait in your home will set you apart in that you cared enough about a loved one or yourself to have someone spend the time and energy to render that beautiful face.
3) Portraits tie into history and create a personal legacy.
Art is the ultimate throwback. Since the cave paintings humans have attempted to describe themselves and the world in handmade imagery. Through wars, famines, fires and the ravages of time artwork has been saved, thereby human history has preserved through art. Portraits have been valued as historical treasures so they have been stolen, pirated and millions of dollars exchanged hands over them. Even governments have been guilty of this. Hitler stole art as booty from the counties he plundered in WW2 and hid it in underground salt mines. It was later discovered by the Allies, preserved from the now destroyed residences where they were previously housed. Lawsuits over stolen portraits have risen to the levels of the U.S. Supreme Court over ownership of nearly priceless works such as in the case of Austria vs. Altman (The case of the Klimt portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer which later sold in 2006 for $125 million). Art, unlike many commodities, exponentially increases value over time as the artist gains recognition and in some cases notoriety. For that reason art is an investment and a collectible as well as holding sentimental value. In most monarchies as soon as a monarch assumed power they would commission portraits of themselves to cement their place in history. The more portraits that were made and disseminated, the more wealthy and powerful the monarch (think Henry VIII and how many paintings you have seen of him in various ages in different outfits while most of his wives only have one famous image). The more paintings that were made the more information history has of the ruler. If one wanted to wipe a ruler from history, one had only to deface his or her portraits to strike them from memory. Even today in our modern American presidency each president has a portrait made and saved for the halls of the White House and posterity.
(Portrait of Adele Bloch-Baur by Gustav Klimt)
Studies show that staring at the faces of loved ones enhances feelings of happiness, well being and life satisfaction so why not decorate your living space with their hand painted individualized portraits? Viewing pictures of family also kicks in immediate nostalgia which can also be beneficial according to the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/05/benefits-of-nostalgia_n_4031759.html. ). Hopefully by now I have convinced you of the importance of portraits and piqued your interest to buy one so please help yourself to my portraits page http://damarisartistry.com/customized-portraits-and-commissioned-art/ , shoot me an image and a little bit about what you are wanting done and lets make this happen! My pricing on custom portraits is on a sliding scale depending on the medium. Basically my pricing up to colored pencil and watercolor is the same price as a quality enlarged print of a photograph because I love to do it, my turn around time is quick (a week plus shipping time) and my art education (the super expensive part of the process) is already water under the bridge. I hope to hear from you, and if not, support a local artist near you to keep this world beautiful and valuable! Questions and comments appreciated below :-D.