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Luxury Ohio Living Magazine, Holiday 2013

Luxury Ohio Living
Holiday 2013

"In Your Likeness: The Fine Art of Portraiture"
by Mary S. Parker

People often wonder if there is a right time, or age, or life event for a portrait to be painted. According to the distinguished American painter Marshall Bouldin III, there is no right time: “People change constantly through life, each stage has its own peculiar warmth, beauty and charm…We paint loved ones at the time in life that we want to remember them.”

Many family portraits celebrate an anniversary, new home, birthday or other life event. Portraitist Jennifer Welty says, “When I begin a family portrait, I am always pondering the solution to, ‘How can I paint a piece of art that will stand the test of time, look beautiful with the client’s furnishings, and portray the family members in a true and pleasing manner?’”

“As I work with my sitters, I am searching for an expression that they make that is truly them, unguarded and unstilted,” adds Welty.  “A painted portrait is very different than a candid snapshot from a camera, in that we are all used to seeing big smiles and an ‘all is right with the world’ expression. But if you travel through a museum, you will not find many big smiles. Rather, the subjects look to be almost unaware of the artist, as though they were caught in a contemplative, unguarded moment. This is also my goal as well. Often it takes hundreds of snapshots from my camera for me to capture that moment when my subject really relaxes into who they truly are."

Commissioning a portrait is an exciting experience but there are many important considerations so you may wish to work with an agent or broker who will guide you through the process. This will help you identify your preference in artistic styles, the medium, and whether your painting will be formal or informal to capture the spirit of the subject and fit the lifestyles of your family or the individual who will hang and treasure the painting for years to come.

“Our clients range from toddlers to teens, debutants, grandmothers and families, and include bankers and lawyers, doctors, presidents and kings. Each has a distinct personality that the artist reflects on canvas,” says Columbus-based Julia Baughman of Portraits, Inc.

Years ago all portraits were done from live sittings, but with clients leading busy lives, artists today vary in the way that they work with clients. All travel to the client for the initial sitting, taking many photographs as they explore different expressions and poses to capture the unique vitality of their subject. And while some artists still require additional live sittings to complete the portrait, most today work from these photographs in the studio, traveling again to the client with the finished portrait or to make any desired final adjustments.

The most satisfying moment for both client and artist is when the last brush stroke of paint has been applied, the frame is added and the portrait is hung in its place of honor. “I feel I have achieved my goal if I am able to create a piece of art that pleases me, and if the painting brings great joy to my clients,” says Welty. Only then can it become a part of the history of the family or institution, and of the grand tradition of fine art portraiture.