Renaissance painters largely did Royal/High Society portraits along with the obligatory religious work. It was important for the portraiture to look like the subject. However, there could be subtext either positive or negative in the clothes the subject was wearing, the accoutrements around them. These send their own narrative out into the world.
The painter locked in the subject’s position, then worked from there. Now, with camera/photos, people expect, if the subject is leaning their head to the left, then paint it exactly that way.
I have often written about the relationship between artist & model and audience expectation. Another aspect which has changed is positioning.
I want my portraits to look like the subject and I include every little bit of minutia that I see, from a blemish to an about to fall off button. when not working from a live subject, I do not rigidly adhere though, to position offered up in the photo .
Once I did a commission, working from a photo. When I was done, it was the spitting image.
“Oh, my head had been tilted back slightly more in the photo.”
It had not been a flattering angle, chosen because it decreased a chin but increased nostrils as focal point. A strange argument to me, as angle aside, it looked just like her. Most people would never see both the photo and the portrait.
Not by way of excuse but as part of my usual modus operandi, I do sometimes slightly alter an angle. It is as if I am capturing the moment before or right after that in the photo. Depending upon the naturalness of the pose, at other times I do not alter a thing.
She took possession of the portrait. Upon hanging it in her home, she snapped at photo of it on the wall. At one of the fuller cocktail parties she faux-casually brought up her portrait. Wanting some justification for her initial cool reaction she had been eager to show a party goer or two the photo I had worked from and the finished portrait both of which rested within her phone.
“Oh, that is great, it looks just like you, especially in the eyes!”
After a few more comments like this, she felt better. She put away the photos of twins, born a minute apart.
Watercolor & multi media paper 9×12