I recently had the privilege of being in attendance as my portrait was presented at a very swanky event in Detroit. The Karmanos Cancer Institute honored their outgoing Chair with an oil portrait at their annual gala. It was well received, judging from the applause.
The experience reminded me why I do this noble work. Charles Becker will be remembered by his portrait, more than by any photo or film clip. Sometimes I forget a great portrait is all about the subject. Those 600 people were applauding him, not me. The artists who forget this, are rarely successful at portraiture.
That’s why its so important to research and get to know your subject. Working with Mr. Becker’s family, we made some small changes to the final work which made the portrait come to life.
But that’s not the whole story. I actually created two portraits; this is something I do on occasion in order to have actual samples on hand. This other portrait depicted a charming, playful, quirky Chuck Becker, qualities I enjoyed very much, when I met him. But the family didn’t like it nearly as well as the other. Why? This simply was not how his family wanted him depicted. I hadn’t asked enough questions. Fortunately, I did two portraits and they had a choice. Ultimately, we came up with a final portrait that made everyone happy.