Kevin Frost

Why Portraits

Work in Progress!

A brief note on portraits, or: why bother? Why paint them?

(This is not about photographic portraits: given the mobile computing camera app revolution, there are more pictures of you and your’n than at any previous time in history, ever, and on average they’re also better, as long as your’n aren’t into the duckface thing.)

Disclaimer: I have drawn a few portraits in my time, and even did a few serious-ish photographic portraits, and I also have a Very Tiny Oeuvre of mixed-media portraits, but at this moment in time I am doing the Abstract Figurative thing and not portraits. But I’m thinking.

So the first thing is: if you’re trying to paint your moment in time, what could be more of-the-moment than the face (body, whatever, I don’t judge) of someone else who is alive at that very moment?

And maybe it’s an important person: to you, to the world.

This argues in favor.

The other thing, and I hate to say this because it goes against my general MO as an artist, against the whole “dammit I do what I do” ethos: to guarantee a good home for the work.

Now let’s start with the generous assumption that your work is at least good and that it deserves to be seen by people. Because we’re generous, yes we are.

Make a good picture of someone, and the people who care about that person will want to look at it. You greatly reduce the chances of your picture ending up in the closet; the trash; the Goodwill; or, if you’re that big a deal, the Freeport.

And as useful constraints go, isn’t “make it look enough like Joe that his wife likes it, without just copying a famous photograph of Joe” a pretty good one?

The AI is not going to put painters out of business. Lower-end illustrators, yes; “artists” who work for big video-game companies, yes; but not painters. For exactly the same reason photography didn’t. The ride with AI might be more fun though:

Work of Progress?

In fact the craziness of the human mind will have an ever-growing premium. Just like lots of lazy asshat “artists” grab a famous photo and make a painting of it, so too will people AI themselves up a celebrity and do that. Like this:

Work against Progress!

So there’s my argument in favor of portraits, from a painter’s point of view. Recap:

  1. Witness your time!
  2. Make things people care about.
  3. Use the creative constraint.
  4. AI is disruptive but not for us.

Does that mean I’ll be making portraits?

Not in the immediate future, but as they say: Watch This Space! 🛸

PS, I somehow ended up with a misconfigured AI thingy, and I think I like it better than the functioning one. Here’s its take on the refined gentlemen above:

What is Progress?