By Gloria Cole


Thought it's important to get a good likeness, portrait painters say that's not enough.  "I'm really interested in bringing out the spirit of the individual; what makes that individual what he or she is," said Sandy Garnett of Stamford, CT.  "It should be some essential truth about the subject."

Like many of his colleagues, he works from photographs as a technical reference, especially for a post mortem portrait, but prefers spending time with the family and the individual.

He recalled, for instance, driving to Burlington, Vermont and sitting over tea with a grandmother he was about to paint, perched up on a hill overlooking Lake Champlain.

"She shared bits of herself with me and I began to experience what was most important to her.  She was wise and beautiful and she allowed me to feel the magic that was her.  I painted her in her garden among the tiger lillies, which seemed to sum up what she meant to her family."

As a result, the finished portrait was a great success, he said.  "Her granddaughter cried when she saw it and said, 'That's my grandmother; now she'll always be with me."

Generally, noted Mr. Garnett, those who commission portraits are happy, loving families who understand what is special and unique about each individual.

He added, "If a family is not happy with a portrait I will work on it to get what they want.  I they're not happy there was no point in the commission in the first place."

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