Due Dates

Assigned February 1 - Class 7
DUE February 22 - Class 13
Prints DUE March 2 - Class 15


Create 4 to 6 images*, depending upon your methodology, that describes or embodies any person except you. The portraits must give us some kind of insight about the person. The works can be about the same person, different people, a made-up person, a representational person (or people), be about a person without showing a person, or any creative interpretation that you can defend.

Print four of your best works

*Note on number of images: There is some leeway in this requirement, depending on you process. All students are expected to either have 6 works done or defend and document their process to explain why they created fewer works. Clear it with me first and then put it in writing in a file saved with your assignment.


To understand the notion of historical and contemporary portraiture
To develop a personal imaging aesthetic and voice and apply that to portraiture
To learn how to creatively interpret ideas
To learn how to depict a person beyond mere documentation

Further details and examples


You are to use the technical approach that is most in line with your individual research. These might include:

Digital collage
Digital mixed media
Digital photo
Digital Painting
Digital Drawing


Consider the brief digest below of different (mostly) American approaches to making portraits. Decide what works best for your art or what seems interesting for you to try. Portraiture is VAST and the following examples will direct you. If you are at a loss, I will assign an approach to you.

Early American: The portrait as a formal document
Colonial to Nineteenth century: Paintings are done by sign and house painters. The earliest artists were self-taught. Artists were commissioned by the wealthy and these people were often pictured with their possessions. Portraits also served the same purpose as a photograph document might today.

Charles Willson Peale

Edward Savage

Thomas Sully
See especially Lady with a Harp: Eliza Ridgely

Joseph Whiting Stock (Folk Paintings)

A bit later, portraits started to capture personality. It was also in vogue to paint famous people.

Gilbert Stuart

John Singleton Copley

Portraits REALLY change when photography hits mainstream

Late 1800's brought on more impressionistic portraits that captured moments in time.

Mary Cassatt
More Mary Cassatt
Find more on your own. These are more than moments in time, but depict aspects of being a woman that were heretofore undocumented.

John Singer Sargent
More John Singer Sargent
More John Singer Sargent

Also in late 1800's realism was popular and portraits not only showed personality, but psychological insight.
Thomas Eakins

20th century: Enter abstraction and with it came cubism and high modern approaches.
Pablo Picasso

Joan Miro

More Joan Miro
see 1925 on

Like the other 20th century examples above, from here on, portraiture no longer solely fulfills a documentary function, but explores complex social and cultural issues.

Other 20th century:

Fictional or representational identity:

Duchamp as Rrose Selavy by Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray

Cindy Sherman

Culture and identity
Barkley Leonnard Hendricks

Catherine Opie
If you spend any time studying these links, this is a good one. Follow the links posted in the NPR story for more images and interviews. Opie's portraits capture a slice of contemporary America, one that until recently was edited from the mainstream narrative.

Popular culture and celebrities as mass consumption
Andy Warhol

Anne Lebovitz Shows us the human or intimate side of celebrities
More Anne Lebovitz

Diane Arbus (cultural fringes or the bizarre)

Mary Ellen Mark(also social issues)
More on Mary Ellen Mark

Family and intimacy:
Emmet Gowin

Sally Mann

Group Exhibition (many different kinds)
Center for Fine Art Photography

On Making Pictures of People.
This is a curated exhibition, but it includes a statement by the curator about what makes a compelling picture of a person.
Lens Culture

Digital artists:
Maggie Taylor

Loretta Lux (a digital photographer)

Heather Freeman (see older works)

Helen Golden (see figuratives portfolio)

Davida Kidd
More Davida Kidd

Victor Koen
Also see Google image results

Time based portraits:
Chris Landreth

"Ryan" is an animation of the life of Ryan Larkin, a Canadian animator who, 30 years ago, produced some of the most influential animated films of his time. This film is about his addiction.

Ryan, the animation

Ladreth's newest animation: Spine
This is about a relationship between a husband and wife in which the man is lacking a "spine." The film investigates how and when the man lost his spine and the possibility of growing it back.

Try to google it, most references to the movie have been removed. If you can find it, note how Landreth makes portraits of the various characters in the animation and how they LOOK like what and who they represent.

Andy Warhol
Screentests (1964-1966): Depicting Nothing!
Warhol asked Factory visitors who had potential "star" quality to sit in front of a tripod mounted camera and to be as still as possible. He told them not to blink while the camera was running. Basically, he asked them to do nothing. Were they actually doing something? What would a portrait of "doing nothing" look like?

Info is here: Screen Test Info

One short film that came out of the screen tests:
The Thirteen Most Beautiful Boys

Try to google this film or any other of the screen tests. They too are hard to find and I think they have been removed. Please try though

Submission Requirements

DIgital Images
Create a folder with your name on it in the Assignment 3 folder in the class folder. Put your images in this folder ON THE DUE DATE. No image should be greater than 5 MB and should be in the jpg format.

Bring your completed prints (4) to class on the due date for a short critique.


You will be graded on your ability to complete all parts of the assignment ON TIME.

You will be graded on concept, formal qualities (composition, color, etc.), and technical mastery.

This assignment will be averaged based on the specifications given in CANVAS.

Please note

Ask any questions in class or contact me by email or stop by office hours to clarify any questions you have about the assignment.