What is a portrait?

Len Graham and Joe Holmes portrait by Gilly Cullen

I have been thinking about what constitutes a “portrait” and thought I would share my own thoughts with you…

A “portrait” is defined as “a painting, drawing or photograph of a person that usually only includes the person’s head and shoulders… a pictorial representation of a person…” But to me a portrait is so much more than this.

It is an inspired, creative collaboration between the artist and the sitter; a unique art-form that evokes a sense of the subject, a window into their soul.

In my pencil portraits I desire to capture the essence of the sitter; to enhance some intangible, ephemeral quality that may not be always be noticed. For me, detail is everything. I hone in on particular elements, whether it be that wisp of hair, or that unmistakable freckle, and I painstakingly map out their intricacies. I invite the viewer to look deeply and intimately at the little details that exist around us, and to take a moment to appreciate their beauty.

A portrait, therefore, is an incredibly personal thing, and may mean different things to different people. For me, a portrait is a precious treasure; a special keepsake that will forever capture a particular moment in time; a soulful and heart-filled study of one’s being. It speaks for the subject, tells the world who they are, no words, just subtle shades, tones and determined pencil lines.

Let me know your throughts!


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