Not Quite Taylor Swift, a Portrait Attempt

Almost Taylor Swift, oil on paper.

The subject of this post’s oil painting is the second of two requests from my kids. This time, it was an attempt at a portrait of Taylor Swift. She’s one of their favorites, even more so since her recent album came out. Their mom went to the concert associated with this new album, and the kids definitely got caught up in all the excitement. It seems like they love her entire catalog of music and frequently sing little verses while they’re playing.

After I painted one of my favorite musicians (Mike Patton), they asked if I would do a couple of their favorites. My painting of Dua Lipa went pretty well, and I think was a good likeness of her. Unfortunately, this painting of Taylor Swift didn’t quite get where it needed to be. The subtle details that make someone look like them can sometimes be hard to pin down. I feel like in this painting, I just came so close to a likeness…close enough that I can’t quite figure out how it’s off. When I look at individual features, they all seem pretty close, but taken together they don’t look right. Perhaps the biggest issues are the eyes and possibly the nose? But I couldn’t say for sure. Regardless, I feel like overall, if I didn’t tell you this was supposed to be Taylor Swift, you might not guess that it is. Which means it definitely does not pass my standard primary test for portraits (i.e. “is it recognizable as the subject?”).

Trying to take another view though, outside of likeness/fidelity to the subject, I actually do like this painting in a general sense. Just looking at this as a portrait of an unknown woman looking over her shoulder, it’s pretty solid! So if I pretend it wasn’t supposed to be an ultra-famous musician, then this is a fine portrait of a random person. I think my color usage and blends worked out pretty well, and I did a decent job with contrast and color values. One of my favorite things about this one is actually the way I rendered the hair, though. I have become a big fan of impressionist portrait painting – especially John Singer Sargent’s work. Along those lines, I’ve become very interested in depicting areas of light and dark, and how the hair is seen in sections of color. I have a lot to learn on this, but I’ve definitely been looking at the masters like Sargent for inspiration.

So, that’s it for this one of a not-very-close Taylor Swift impersonator. Next up, I’ve got the Mike Patton painting!

Blick Art Materials


  • Portraits take a while to master. This one looks good! I’m afraid to try painting one myself.

    • Thanks Jennifer! I definitely agree – my expectation is that it might take me a couple of years to really feel confident about it.

      I just checked out your blog and appreciate your post about overcoming your art-related fears. I empathize with and understand that sort of fear, and it’s reassuring to hear that others feel similarly sometimes. Best of luck to you on your future art endevours!

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  • Nice job. I agree that the hair came out looking good, well done. John Singer Sargent also my favorite and apparently of many portraitists too!

    • Thanks Omar! I get the same sense about Sargent being a favorite of many portrait artists now. I watch a lot of painting videos on youtube to learn how all this stuff works, and he referenced quite a lot. Definitely someone worthy of emulating!

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