Book Review: Portrait Revolution

Portrait Revolution:  Inspiration From Around The World For Creating Art In Multiple Mediums And Styles, edited by Julia L. Kay

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books/Watson-Guptill Publications.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Although I do not consider myself a particularly talented artist, from time to time I enjoy reading books about art [1].  This book almost makes me want to go to portrait party, or at least not immediately burn any such invitation I would receive.  What is most appealing about this book is the context of the art that is included, namely 450 portraits from Julia Kay’s virtual portrait party.  A group of self-portrait artists signed up online to make portraits of others and were given freedom to draw in whatever medium or style that they wanted to.  The results are impressive and immensely creative, showing a diverse set of inspirations and approaches that gives the reader at least some hope that modern art can create works of worth and lasting value that reveal some sort of truth about both the artist and the model.  Indeed, some of the people in this book commented that they learned something about themselves by looking at what others saw in them, and that is a valuable insight to gain.

As might be expected from the subject matter of this book, a great deal of this book is unconventional.  It is unconventional to have portrait parties where people draw each other, and certainly unconventional to combine a wide diversity of portraiture in book form.  About the most conventional part of the book is that it comes out to just over 200 pages, which is a pretty standard length for most of the books that find their way to me.  With that said, the book is divided into four chapters focusing on art:  portraits by media (ranging from pencil to pen or ink or markers or water color or digital or needle arts and a lot more), portraits by style (including realism, abstract, drawing blind, monochrome, various types of limited color palattes, shapes and patterns, and dramatic light), portraits by theme (including babies, pets, musicians, artists at play and work, indoors and outdoors, and even some that reference art history), and some featured artists who were all obscure to me whose work is focused on.  Throughout these chapters there are featured subjects which allows for a variety of styles to be seen describing the same person for an intriguing perspective.  The fifth and final chapter, a short one, looks at the art of making portraits from the artists themselves, who have their own insights to share.

So, under what circumstances will you like this book?  Do you like making portraits of yourself or others?  Do you enjoy trying out different mediums or styles in your own art work or do you appreciate the way that the same model or subject can be drawn and painted in a variety of different ways?  Do you have any sort of ideals of watching people create art that expresses their own muse as well as some sort of insight or clever observation about what the artist sees?  If any or all of these questions can be answered in the affirmative, this is likely a book that will bring a great deal of pleasure and even perhaps the inspiration for future artistic material.  To be sure, there are people who will find this book a lot more practical than I do, but even as a person with modest artistic talent, it was still enjoyable to see how different artists dealt with the task of creating a portrait of a fellow artist and how diverse the means of fulfilling that task were.  And if I can enjoy this sort of book a great deal, those who are more talented and more interested in portraiture will find even more to enjoy.

[1] See, for example:


About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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