11 of the Most Innovative Portrait Artists Working Today



Portraiture has come a long way from those stuffy paintings you studied in art history class. These 11 artists and collectives are finding new ways to present one of art’s oldest subjects.

1. Cube Works Studio

If you think it's hard to solve a single Rubik's cube, try making a portrait with thousands of them. Cube Works Studio in Toronto, led by Josh Chalom, does just that. The team dabbles in other media (crayons, dice, and LEGOs) and genres, as well. In 2012, Cube Works set a Guinness World Record for the Largest Rubik’s Cube Mosaic Ever Created, a 85,794-cube cityscape of the Macau, China skyline.

2. Evan Penny


Sculptor Evan Penny makes busts that go boom! The hyper-realistic portrait busts are at least five times the size of their human subjects. Penny starts with clay before adding silicone, fiberglass, and real fabric and hair. Sometimes he even creates future self-portraits.  

3. Nikki Rosato


Nothing says "You are here" like a portrait made of road maps. Nikki Rosato intricately pieces together her subjects with cutouts of roads and rivers from places that best reflect them. It's a metaphor that's rooted in practicality—Rosato began working with maps because they're easy to acquire.

4. Pierre Fouché


Speaking of intricate, a single portrait by Pierre Fouché can take years to make and just seconds to unravel. The artist works entirely in handmade bobbin lace made of millions of braided and twisted threads. The end result is stunning and delicate and don't even think about comparing it to fishnet stockings. 

5. Eric Daigh


Pushpins aren't just for hanging art. Eric Daigh uses thousands of them to create larger-and-more-colorful-than-life portraits of everyday people. His website explains: "Whether a symptom of corporate and social homogenization, or the four base pairs of DNA, we are products of just a small handful of variables. In five colors of plastic, you can be reproduced."

6. Andrew Myers


Screw art is an attitude and a style. Andrew Myers combines thousands of screws, oil paint, and phone book pages to create moody 3D portraits with dramatic shadows. He drills the screws into plywood and then painstakingly paints them one head at a time.

7. Miguel Endara


The ink drawings of Miguel Endara are impressive at a distance. Take a closer look, and you'll appreciate them even more. Each work is made by stippling, a technique that uses millions of tiny dots to create tone and texture. Endara says he creates about 4.25 dots per second. Good thing he doesn't charge for portraits by the hour!

8. Erika Iris


Self-taught artist Erika Iris makes portraits with everyday items—or materials that used to be everyday items. Her most well known works, including the pieces in this Bruno Mars video, are made of VHS and cassette tapes. These items can't be recycled just anywhere, so turning them into art is both aesthetically pleasing and environmentally friendly.

9. Bernard Pras


The work of French artist Bernard Pras is truly greater than the sum of its parts. He creates imaginative 3D portraits and fine art recreations out of garbage, from food wrappers to broken eyeshadow palettes. In July, Pras honored the late artist Ferdinand Cheval with a large anamorphic installation. From most angles, it looked like a pile of junk on the floor. But in one perfect viewing spot, it was a masterpiece.

10. Gemstone Creations


The artists and jewel cutters at England's Gemstone Creations use precious stones to create unforgettable—and often unaffordable—custom portraits. (If you're on a budget, Swarovski crystals are also an option.) Subjects have included President Obama, Queen Elizabeth, and Jay-Z.

11. Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada


Or maybe you're looking for a portrait that's more down-to-earth. Large-scale public artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada spent years planning the 11-acre portrait "WISH" for the 2013 Belfast Festival. Volunteers helped create the work using soil, sand, rock, GPS technology, and 30,000 wooden stakes.