Blog / 2019 / Perfect Portrait Subject: Sylvia

January 29, 2019

Over the course of my career, I’ve painted hundreds of faces, and, between all those eyeballs and lips and noses, I’ve noticed a pattern. The best people to paint are those who love themselves.

Now that may seem obvious, like “of course only people who are self-absorbed would even want their portrait done!” But that’s not at all what I mean.

People who love themselves too much are terrible to paint. They are not interested in anyone else, not even in the artist who is painting them. So when I show them something of myself in the art I make about them, they are turned off.

People who love themselves too little are wildly difficult to capture. They expect a portrait to fill the hole in their heart—a hole that can only be filled by them.

No, when I say that the best people to paint are those who love themselves, I mean the ones who love themselves the right amount. They appreciate themselves and forgive themselves. They want to be all they can be, and they know that none of us get to that place on our own.

The people who love themselves the right amount are the gold standard of portrait subjects. They are also really fun to be around—like Sylvia!

bust style portrait of a 90 year old white woman smiling and wearing glasses with peony flowers in the background
Gwenn Seemel
Sylvia (The Complete Package)
2018
acrylic on canvas
22 x 20 inches
(You can watch the making of this piece.)

I aspire one day to be a perfect portrait subject, because I see it as a marker of mental health.

On the handful of occasions that I’ve had my portrait done, I’ve managed to separate myself from the piece enough to enjoy the artwork as a work of art. And I can wrap my head around the idea that we don’t get to control how others see us. The part I struggle with is loving myself the right amount.

But with each portrait, I get better. One day, I know I’ll be like Sylvia.

If you would like to be a perfect portrait subject for me, you should know that I am raising my portrait prices on February 1, 2019. To hire me at the current prices, commission me in the next three days!

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