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  • Marc Primo Warren


Updated: Mar 11, 2021

This is an article “How to Give Your Image a Personality” by Marc Primo Warren

Indeed, a portrait can tell so much. However, without words, some may still struggle to discover your subject’s true personality or value. For artists everywhere, the ability to form thought without any verbal giveaway takes form in what people can see. The challenge in turning a still image of a subject into thought provoking artwork is similar to arranging puzzle pieces in the right places—you’ll have to set all the elements in a manner that they present a coherent personality, without any word spoken.

Marc Primo Warren Art
Marc Primo Warren Art

Say you’ve earned an art diploma and are well-versed on how the elements work from color to composition to technique. Creating a portrait image, whether in photography or painting, that holds a certain personality which those without an art degree can easily understand is still a daunting task.

To give your art portraits the right personality, here are three helpful tips:

Use lighting to your advantage

Lighting plays a huge part in dictating which mood you want to convey in your portrait. Natural lighting is one of the most common conditions artists use in portraits, but you’d still have to select the perfect colors that would best portray your subject. Daylight offers warmth but sunset could cast a rather ominous vibe on your image.

Try to create a story out of your preferred lighting and harmonize it with how you’d want to present your subject. High contrasts give off some feeling of suspense while night modes are more inclined to project darker themes.

Draw emotions from real life

Digging deep within your whole person is an effective way to depict emotion in your images. Try to recall moods that you can use to reflect your image in the most genuine way. When painting, it helps to nurture a specific emotion that can serve as the theme for your piece—dark colors represent despair and bright hues connote happiness.

Try to create a subject that can best convey the emotion you’re feeling and foreshadow how it will look on your medium. Sometimes, it helps to ask yourself or your subject questions such as “how are you feeling today?” or “how do you feel about this?” Whatever answers you draw from that exercise can be your narrative in telling your story through visual art.

Create disruption

Just like how films do it, your image’s personality is based on basic ideas that can evoke feelings and emotions. As examples, the huge pearl earring in Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer’s work becomes the magnet that draws the viewer to the subject of an exotic girl who seems to emboss from limbo, while Giovanni Bellini’s “Naked Young Woman in Front of the Mirror” uses a compact mirror to present vanity and the pursuit of perfection. Seemingly simple yet thought-provoking disruptions like these give your subject more personality and allow your viewers to tell their stories more effectively.

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