You might not realize that Andy Warhol was a master portrait artist. You can see his portraits at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C..
You can also see how he made his portraits by studying his portraits of other people. Every time you think you’re getting better at making art, you can look at the work of another artist to see what you’re doing right and wrong.
Trying to mimic the style of another artist is not good. Most people who try to do this don’t have enough talent for it to work anyway, but if you do it’s like trying to be a professional athlete by running around in your living room. You need a coach or you won’t get very far.
It’s easy to find inspiration in other people’s art. It’s easy to find inspiration in famous artists’ art. But what are you going to do when you’re ready to make your own art?
You can draw from the examples of other people, or from the work of famous artists. You can look for lessons in how others make great work, and see how you can use those lessons for your own art. But at some point you have to stop drawing from other people and make your own work. You have to start making your own art.
And it’s not always easy, because there are no models for what you’re doing. There are artists who make similar kinds of work, but they’re different from you, so how well they do it isn’t necessarily a good guide to how well you do it. And there are famous artists whose work plays a role in your life, but their work is part of someone else’s life too: a critic’s or a curator’s or an audience member’s.
The feeling that comes over me whenever I talk about this subject is that I’m talking about something as important as love, and yet I’m trying to describe it using the vocabulary of grammar school: sentences, nouns, verbs and adjectives.
“I think that Andy Warhol would be a great example of this. He used to say, “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” That’s an art critic quoting Warhol, but the quote is from a philosopher and mathematician named Pierre-Simon Laplace.
Laplace said it about science almost two hundred years before Andy Warhol used it to explain his work as an artist. And what he meant was that in both science and art, you need to put yourself in a position where you can take advantage of the discoveries of those who came before you.”
If you want to learn how to draw, look at some great art. If you want to learn how to write, read the great writers. If you want to learn how to make music, listen to the great composers.
But there is no one way of doing things. Your way will be your own. If a particular artist’s style doesn’t work for you, try another one’s. And if you find some artists whose work seems especially suited to your own vision, study that work carefully. See what makes it tick, and if possible figure out why it works so well for you.
The art world is full of rules, regulations and superstitions. While there are no hard and fast rules as to what makes a particular piece of art valuable, there are some guidelines to help you determine whether or not you should buy into the hype.
The first rule of portrait art is that it’s all in the eyes. The eyes are said to be the windows to the soul, so it’s only natural that they would play a big role in making the painting a success. The eye should be bright and clear with good color and texture. If the artist spent a lot of time on the eyes, you know he or she is serious about making this a masterpiece.
It’s also important to check for authenticity. The eyes shouldn’t be too shiny or wet-looking; this may indicate that the artist used artificial “eye candy” in order to make the painting more appealing. The eyes should also look realistic in size. If they’re too small or too large, it could mean that something was done improperly during the creation process.*
As Andy Warhol was once quoted as saying, “I always thought that the people who made money were con artists. But then I realized that the only difference between me and them was that I was more honest.”
Warhol’s quote might seem to be ironic, but I don’t think it really is. He was saying that he could manipulate people in the same way that others were manipulating him. The only difference was that while they used lies to do it, he was willing to show his hand.
Perhaps there are other differences too, but if so they are not easily seen. If you see yourself as an artist, or even just a creative person, your sense of self-importance is strong. You may be able to manipulate others, but you can also manipulate yourself into believing what you want to believe, when you want to believe it. And this can be more valuable than whatever you are trying to manipulate someone else into believing.
There are many ways to draw a portrait. There are also many ways to make a painting. But there is only one way to sell a painting, and that’s to paint the kind of picture people want to buy. So the best way to learn how to paint portraits is to study what people will pay for.