Saturday, November 13, 2010

Musings on the state of Personal Portraits

A recommendation to have a look at You Are Art ("Photos on canvas & Contemporary pop art portraits") landed in my inbox last week, and got me thinking about what happened to personal portraits.

People go to heritage buildings and castles and wow at the (often enormous) portraits of famous and not-so-famous people. Way back when, personal and family portraits were the thing to have and to adorn homes. Huge portraits for equally huge estates.

Then the camera was invented, and suddenly everything got squashed down. Real estate got pricey, and we no longer had room for a big portrait, especially when you needed that room for your big cube of a TV. Thankfully, TVs are slimmer now, though quickly reaching the size of the personal portraits of yore (fortunately, they are also now in Hi-Def and not a pixellated mash).

With the advent of the camera, real spaces came into vogue, and fantasy spaces -- places in the imagination -- suddenly had to step up and be more aesthetically pleasing. Maybe because they were harder to appreciate because they weren't real. It took artistic ability to make, say, a portrait of real castle be more of an attractive possession than a good photograph of the same location. You could have a fantasy castle, but what to include? Sometimes too many details and elements put it into the category of a garish mess that can be stressful to look at and take in.
Take for example, this scene from the hidden object game 4 Elements -- great for a hidden object game, but trickier to properly hang in someone's home.

3 - air 02

And still, there's something about a well done portrait that can surpass a photograph, even if the portrait strives for a high level of detailed realism (animal portraits are sometimes done in this way).
So where are the realistic portraits of real people? Or even artistically touched up portraits of real people? -- Especially of yourself? We marvel that historic "others" had them of themselves, so why don't we wish the same for ourselves?

Time and cost are the most probable factors. In terms of "cheap" do-it-yourself, you could use Photoshop and put yourself in any number of images, replacing the face with yours, and thereby suddenly be in fantastic costumes and settings. But if you wanted a more realistic depiction of yourself in the rest of the piece, it could be a lot more work. For example, you could probably easily overlay your face into the picture below (a screenshot from the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion mod, Hentai Mania), but do you really have astonishingly athletic abs like that?

Carta 01

So, suppose you really, really, wanted your own portrait. And you really really can't draw worth beans (or want the portrait to be "beyond critique" by having it done by a "real artist" instead of yourself). What then? The obvious answer is to get someone to draw you for you.
You Are Art, which can transform you from a photograph into something artsy, maybe into a popular artistic style, like Warhol or airbrushing. This is a fairly simple route because you already know the style you like, and the translation will typically fall comfortably into those guidelines.

For something more free-form and complicated, and open to a broader continuum of like-dislike (such as you in a fantastic yet artsy setting), digital artists like Catherine Somerlot have been doing it for years, with such gorgeous pieces as this one:

Solstice Queen by ~photopixie on deviantART

No comments:

Find Fantasy Art

Popular Posts - All Time