I am a portrait artist working in pencil and oil. I work in a range of styles from loose pencil sketches to more tightly rendered oil paintings. I've always had a fascination with the human face, with a particular focus on ambiguous expressions. Portraits with no accompanying background story especially capture my attention - you find yourself filling in the blanks and making your own assumptions about the subject, which can in turn teach you something about yourself. My intention is to give the viewer this same licence to stare into the face of a stranger and interpret each one in their own way. I almost always work from photographs of strangers which keeps the ambiguity real throughout my process.


My portraits feature little to no background information which might allow the viewer to place the subject in a particular environment, instead they are detached from the material world. Some of my oil paintings are embellished with gold leaf, taking inspiration from religious art to fabricate a moment of familiarity which is followed by a sense of curiosity. Others feature unfinished faces partly obscured by abstract, naive shapes, like out of focus, nameless objects


My most recent series is based on Georgian lover's eye portraits and adds another dimension to the act of looking, in which the viewer is invited to stare, but only a single eye gazing directly back is visible. The viewer becomes the subject - the tables are turned and now it's a staring contest.


© Emma Boileau Photography