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Artist's Statement


I enjoy painting many different genres, but portraits are my passion. To place the colored goo that is oil paint on a flat canvas surface and make that goo become an image of a three dimensional human being, to have that image speak to other people not just about the physical likeness, but more important, about the inner life of the subject: this almost magical process is why I paint.

In portrait painting I have two goals: the portrait and the painting. Many people look at paintings primarily with a view to the painter's novelty of style and execution. I believe that's as it should be for most genres of art. But not for portraits. For me, the prime directive for a portrait painter is to communicate a very personal message from the subject.

My style is quite traditional because of this conviction that portrait painting should be more about the subject than about the painter. After experimenting with other media, techniques, and styles—I came back to a classic style. I found that people who look at my portraits can immediately sense what the portrait is really all about. From one portrait to the next there will be variations in color schemes, brushwork, composition, lighting effects, and so forth. Those variations are inspired by my reading of the subject’s character and serve to illuminate the inner life of that person. After experiencing the reality of the person, the viewer then can look at the work from the second—the painting—perspective and enjoy the art techniques and skill that created it.

I studied at the DeCordova Museum School in Lincoln, MA, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston University School of Fine Arts, and Massachusetts College of Art, all in Boston.


Is there an appropriate reason for having a portrait painted?
The most appropriate reason I can think of is that you want it. A painting speaks about the subject in a way that is deeper than a photograph and will continue to speak for generations. Notable occasions that lend themselves to the special gift of a portrait include an anniversary or birthday, graduation, a major promotion, retirement from a successful career, recognition of significant contributions, a unique romantic gift, a thank you to your parents, or the celebration of a grandchild.

Is it vain to want have my own portrait painted?
There are a lot of reasons to have your portrait painted, but vanity is not necessarily one of them. A well-made painting adds elegance to any home decoration, regardless of the subject—so why not a portrait? A portrait is not just another piece of furniture. It is a conversation piece and eventually will be an heirloom. It can also be a well deserved gift to yourself!

Do I have to sit for the portrait?
I like to paint from life because the sittings allow me to get to know the subject as a person. I can put that personal knowledge into the work. However, when there’s a compelling reason I do paint from photographs. For instance, if the painting is to be a surprise gift; if it's a posthumous tribute; if the subject is a young child, or if scheduling sittings is not possible.

Where would sittings be?
My studio is in Boston's Back Bay, near the Prudential Center and the South End.

How long does it take?
The time varies from painting to painting, but it usually takes five or six sittings. The sittings are ninety minutes each, but that can vary according to the sitter's schedule. The times are arranged for mutual convenience.

Do you ever use other media for your paintings?
My only medium for portraits is oil paint, not only because oil creates beautiful effects, but also because this medium has proven its archival quality for more than six centuries. I paint only on archival quality canvas.

How is a portrait priced?
One factor is the painting's complexity: is it just head and shoulders or full length? Will it include more than one person (for an anniversary, a family event, or an organization's significant occasion)? Is it a simple background or are there significant background details? Overall size of the painting is another factor as is the need to meet a short deadline.

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Tepper Arts    Boston, Massachusetts    617-536-0229    barry@tepper-arts.com    Studio visit by appointment.