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Illustrated Portraits

An illustrated portrait is a portrait that has illustrated elements in the painting.  It faithfully represents the person, while introducing historical or geographic elements that add spice and adventure.  The illustrated portrait is an exciting way to make a portrait more meaningful.

Ace Alan

I love painting people’s portraits.  When my illustration schedule allows, I try to paint at least one portrait a week.  This habit developed while in art school.

Head Study '08

However, I also love illustrating.  The challenge of telling a story and of recreating an era or a culture, which is far removed from our own, excites me.  I suppose this desire grew out of my family’s fascination with living history museums and national parks.  It seemed like every vacation my parents would pack my siblings and I into a cramped car and drive a day or so to find some historical spot.  One summer we traveled the Lincoln trail, visiting where he lived in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois.

Pocahontas Illustration

Historical Book Illustration

 The two pursuits are very different.  Painting portraits is very academic.  The finished painting must at least look like it’s subject.  Preferably, the painting will also carry something of the feeling or emotion of the person modeling.

Head Study '07

In contrast, illustrations are patched together.  The illustrator uses a book on European landscapes to understand what the Norwegian coast looks like, and googles the latest archaeological find on Scandinavian jewelry.  He may have a model pose as the subject, but he often will tweak the face and proportions to make the subject look more authentic.  The illustration has a message to deliver, and the artist sacrifices all for that message.

Treasured in Her Heart

The illustrated portrait is an amalgam of the two different crafts.  On one hand, the artist must carefully represent the person being painted.  On the other hand, both the artist and the client have the freedom to choose a different historical or cultural setting for the painting.  The person can even choose to set their portrait in a classic novel or fairy tale.

Self-Portrait as Mock Renaissance Artist

If you are interested in creating an illustrate portrait, email me at


  1. Matthew. WOW you're a great artist. I found out about you just today and have enjoyed your posts. I appreciate your Christian view towards art. I found your site through AceWonder site video interview. I haven't seen that movie yet (I'm waiting for the DVD release) but look forward to seeing your work.

    1. Thank you, John-Mark! Yes, the Ace Wonder was a great project—a privilege to work on. I think they might be almost finished with final edits, so I'm hoping to see the finished product sometime this year....