Mitchell Hughes


I paint portraits because I am fascinated with capturing people and their identities. I use my painting practice as a bonding experience with people I already know. As my models sit for me, I ask them questions so that I can get to know them better. I challenge myself to capture and depict both the physical likeness and the soul or essence of the sitter. This type of portraiture mixes both internal and external characteristics. Painting is a human and spiritual practice, which relays a certain energy. My intention is to paint in a way that expels empathetic energy and to feel deeply and keenly in my practice.

My paintings are to be questioned: “who is this person? what are the events unfolding in their lives?” Johannes Vermeer’s The Girl with the Pearl Earring (1665) has deeply influenced my portrait compositions and is a perfect example of a painting which manifests questions about the subject. Mirroring Vermeer, most of my portraits are set against simplistic backgrounds which are not part of the story telling experience. I paint this way because I think the entire story is in the person, and my approach to portraiture is dedicated to the face alone. My featured works include two self-portraits which tell extremely different stories, and an image of a dog in a sheet. Although the subjects change, I keep my compositions consistent. Before I paint, I spend hours considering composition, color theme, and content, but in the moment of applying paint to canvas, I focus on putting my whole self into the painting. By centering the identity of my sitters and considering my own identity in my work, my body of work begs the question; what is more real: the artist or their creation?

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