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People think of portraits as the dark gloomy historic art you see in old museums but portraits can be done in a number of ways for different effect. The subject (person in the painting) can be on a simple background so only they are the focus or they can be on complex background and interacting with it. The subject can be well lit, in gloom or a particular mood conveyed with colours. The subject can take up the whole painting or a part of it.

Portrait and personality
Ideally the portrait should capture the personality of the subject, you may just want their face or maybe include a uniform or unique clothing style. Instead of a formal child portrait it may be more fitting to have them sitting outside on a skateboard complete with scraped knees and plasters. Maybe Aunt June likes tinkering with cars so oily overalls and her 'frowny face' is the way to go rather than a frilly dress and awkward happy expression.

To smile or not to smile
Contrary to popular belief you dont need to smile in a portrait, Yeah, Honestly! Big grins can be fine for holiday snaps but a large portrait in a room permanantly smiling and glaring at you can become unatural feeling after a while and as humans we feel awkward with a very long unending smile. Subconsciously we get a little unnerved.
Thoughtful, contemplative poses work well and eyes looking off to the side or towards the horizon can imply any number of feelings. A person character should suggest the feel and pose.

Portrait type and format
Portraits can be anything from full body to just the face and shoulders. And the canvas it is on can be square, rectangle, short and wide or narrow and tall.