Portraiture has been around since ancient Egypt and possibly even beyond. From statues of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten to coins depicting Julius Caesar, portraiture has been around for thousands of years.
Traditionally it was only those in power or who had great wealth that could commission portraits. The royals all have their portraits, along with the U.S Presidents.
Before the invention of canvas painting, which seems to have been introduced around the 13th century, most portraits came in the form of great monuments and statues that were erected to honour kings and leaders throughout history. The Sumerians had their cylinder seals with their depictions of Enki and the other “Annunaki”. The Mayans created, among other great works, the depiction of Pacal the Great on a well known sarcophagus lid in the Temple of the Inscriptions Pyramid structure in Mexico.
Regardless of what form the portrait came in; statue, or canvas, even paper, portraiture was a form of immortalising royal or political figures before the invention of photography.
While art portraiture continued on alongside photographic portraiture, it’s importance, in terms of immortalizing the figure, waned. Yet despite photography mainly succeeding the hand painted / drawn aspect of portraiture, traditionally painted and drawn portraits are still carried on today, probably more through a sense of keeping tradition.
Did you know that from George Washington onwards, U.S Presidents have traditionally had their official portraits painted? There’s a colorful history behind the portraits too. President Washington’s portrait, it is said, was rescued by First Lady Dolley Madison when the White House was set on fire by the British in 1812.
Theodore Roosevelt hated his portrait so much that he had it painted a second time; this time by one John Singer Sargent. He felt the original looked too tame and he wanted something a bit more masculine.
Bill Clinton’s portrait was the first of it’s kind to be painted by an Africa American artist; Simmie Knox. Barack Obama was the very first U.S President to have his photo taken digitally. He’s also the first to have 3D portraits taken of himself.
Yet while photography, and now video, have, for the most part, replaced the hand produced “immortalisation” technique of portraiture, hand drawn portraits have stood the test of time. What’s more. You don’t have to be the next president or born into royalty to afford a great portrait.
For those of you in the Tarot world, I have begun to once again take commissions for portraits. While it’s probably one of the more time consuming services that an artist might offer, it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. (We’re currently offering portraits around 60 dollars) . I understand that to some that seems like a low price (when compared to other artists) but I’m also aware of the current economical climate.
One of the most important aspects in portraiture, both for the artist and for the “sitter”, is whether the finished pieces actually look like the figures. Take the Queen of England for example. There are some really great portraits of her, but there are also some which are a bit….well, not the most flattering. That’s why I feel it’s important to see a few examples of portraits I’ve already worked on.
First up is my partner Christine.
Based on photos of Christine before I met her in “real life”, here are a few portraits there were created from her photos. There were quite a few changes made to blend in with a fantasy theme, but I like to think the likeness is still there. The arm movements were changed since in the portrait I have placed her on a throne hewn from stone amidst a garden. With the angle her head is tilted at, I felt it was important to add a hand below her chin slightly to make the final image look more natural.
The next image of Christine was created with a slight Japanese theme. The background was inspired by the famous banzai flag, not for any political motive, but it was a design that I liked visually.
Christine’s grandmother and mother come from Japan originally, and Christine herself has a lot of interest in asian culture so the theme seemed fitting.
Here’s a few more faces you might recognise below!
If interested in a great portrait of your own, please see our Tarot Portraits services