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  • Writer's pictureIrene Bailey

What is a Portrait Lifescape?

Updated: Nov 19, 2019

A Lifescape portrait goes beyond a likeness and into the personality of the subject. I started painting Lifescape portraits without even knowing it while preparing my master's thesis show at East Carolina University. My show focused on some of my professors as subjects. My method was to go into the offices of those I chose and look for items that related to me their accomplishments and personalities.

Paul Hartley, my favorite mentor because of his modesty and selfless devotion to his students, was the subject of my first Lifescape portrait. In his office I found several quirky items, such as an image of Humphrey Bogart, that reflected sides of him other than being a painting professor. I emphasized his self-portrait (the sculpture beside him) by adding more color to draw the I away from him as he always preferred. His personality reflected in his casual demeanor and kind expression. He was always working suggested in the motion of his head and his hand raising his glasses.

Leland Wallen, also a painting instructor at ECU, was another subject of a Lifescape portrait included in my thesis show. He was a noted colorist, thus the inclusion of the color wheel in the portrait. The cast of a hand was another of his teaching tools. Leland was asked to write the forward for the book he is holding, The Painting and Teaching of Philip Pearlstein. Pearlstein was an American painter best known for Modernist Realism nudes. The can of Diet Dr. Pepper and the sandwich in a plastic bag were part of his daily routine. I was fascinated by the play of mirrors repeating his image. The coat rack always held his classic overcoat, ready for his walk to the car.

People are complex beings. Each item in a Lifescape portrait represents an aspect of the subject's life and personality as perceived by the artist. I enjoy introducing and depicting the professional aspects as well as the less apparent personality characteristics of my subjects.

In a later blog I will demonstrate how I have translated this Lifescape portrait passion of mine into recent more-polished portraits commissioned by universities, medical schools, and other clients.

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