Review: ‘Portrait Revolution’ by Julia L.Kay


It started with Julia Kay’s Portrait Party, aka JKPP.

Traditional portrait parties happen when artists get together to draw each other; this usually means that portrait parties only happen on a somewhat local scale. Artist and educator Julia Kay had bigger ideas, though, so she took the party on the virtual road.

JKPP is a members-only Flickr account on which members upload photos of themselves for others to use as models, and then choose another artist’s photo as inspiration for

Artist Janice Wahnich’s take on “Emma-Jean” from JKPP

their own artwork. The resulting portraits cover almost every spectrum in the art world, from realistic to abstract, from line drawings to dimensional sculpture, from traditional printmaking to digital painting. Since 2010, more than one thousand members from over fifty-five countries have joined, turning JKPP into not only a thriving online artists’ community, but also something like a collaborative art project.


At some point, someone thought it might be a good idea to collect these portraits into a book, and Portrait Revolution was born.

Released by Watson-Guptill in April 2017, Portrait Revolution is part contemporary portraiture survey, part creator’s sourcebook. It organizes its astonishing array of portraits by style, medium, theme, and more; its layout and presentation is easy to navigate and nice to browse.

One of the most helpful features is the “Featured Subject” spread. Several of these are sprinkled throughout the book, open invitations to compare and contrast.


The inclusion of plenty of digital work is refreshing. There are entire sections on digital portrait techniques, including digital etching and printmaking; all of the digital entries include the specific software and platform used, too. Also good: the short, actually helpful tips on digital process.

Artist Carsten Schiefelbein, whose work is featured in Digital Painting, says:

“I usually try to work with only a few brushes, and three layers; one for the initial sketch, one for the background, and one for the painting. I love to mold the contours and surfaces out of the color by lightening and darkening parts of the head, until it starts to look three-dimensional….”

There are also several Featured Artist segments, including one on UK artist Sue Hodnett. Sue works primarily in watercolor, pen, and ink; her portrait of David Friedheim below is one of my favorites.



Portrait Revolution was published in April of 2017 by Watson-Guptill and can be found anywhere good books are sold.


Photo Credits:

“Emma-Jean” by Janice Wahnich, from Julia Kay’s Portrait Party on Flikr (see more of Janice Wahnich’s work on her website)

“David Friedheim” by Sue Hodnett (see more of Sue Hodnett’s work on her website)

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