Drawing People Whole: Portraiture vs. Figure Drawing

Figure drawing is drawing people as people are; portraiture is drawing this person as this person is.  Figure drawing specializes in what is generic, portraiture in what is specific.  Portraiture’s excess is caricature, where individualism moves beyond reality by stressing the “unusual.”  We think of Titian’s last drawn self portrait, or Rembrandt’s last painted self portrait, or Bach’s, Bist du bei mir ( “If you are with me, I will go gladly to my death”) included in the collection he compiled for his wife, Notebook for Anna Magdalena.  For me, a portrait is always a gift, and I am not doing it right unless I am doing it as a gift for the person I am drawing, whether or not the person I am drawing is to end up with the picture. 

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