5 Local Portrait Artists You Should Know About

Portriat of Caroline Goddard by Newport RI artist Andrea Perez-Brissine

The author commissioned a portrait of herself by local artist Andrea Perez-Bessin.

When I was young, my artist mom frequently used me as her portrait model. It was a wonderful feeling, being the total focus of another person’s time and creative energy, and one I’ve recently begun to miss. So I decided to commission artist Andrea Perez-Bessin to draw my likeness, which I wrote about in this article, published earlier this week.

In the age of the selfie, I know it seems like a crazy (and maybe pricey) choice, but I’d argue that an artist’s portrayal delivers an honest and enriching means of self preservation, and is well worth the investment. Thinking that some readers might be inspired to commission their own portraits (or just take a voyeuristic peek at other people’s), I put together a list of six portrait artists working here in Newport. I highly recommend checking them out.

1. Andrea Perez-Bessin

Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Andrea Perez-Bessin (whose work is shown at top) moved to the United States to attend Brown University, where she earned her a bachelor’s degree in biology. A self-professed serial doodler (she recounts turning in college assignments embellished with illustrations), she eventually realized that she wanted to go back to school for art. Andrea is currently enrolled at Rhode Island College – she opted for earning a second BA over an MFA program because of her desire for a strong technical foundation – where she is studying printmaking under Stephen Fisher. Her recent work “explores memory and identity, and synthesizes cultural and religious symbolism with forms from nature and human anatomy,” she says. “I like to play with a variety of visual languages and integrate patterns that relate to the cultural narrative.”


2. Julie Smith


Julie Shelton Smith has been painting women over the age of 50 since 2008. Her project, called 100 Women Over 50, aims to counter the “invisibility of post-menopausal women in a youth obsessed culture.” Now well into her second series of 100 women, Julie distills the personality of each subject on canvas while also celebrating the imperfections that belie a life well lived.


3. Nicholas Lima


Painter and printmaker Nicholas Lima‘s work is textural and dreamlike, with an intriguing mix of realism, unexpected color, and a distinct style of mark making.


4. Ry Smith


Although he never pursued any formal art training, musician and artist Ry Smith has been drawing his whole life. Since moving to Newport from New York in 2013, he has produced uncanny, yet imaginative likenesses of his friends, fellow musicians, and community members in the form of handmade, hand-cut magnets.


5. William Heydt


RISD graduate and former Massachusetts College of Art professor Bill Heydt has lived, traveled, and produced art all over the world, but ultimately, he settled in Newport with his family. Here, he documents the faces of our fair city in a series of environmental portraits called “Newportant People.”

Read more: Why I Commissioned a Portrait of Myself in the Age of the Selfie

All images used courtesy of the artists.

Caroline Goddard is a photographer, writer, and the blogger behind Hope State Style. A proud Rhody native with a degree in Visual Arts from Brown, she loves telling tales in images, focusing her camera on regional culture and off-beat, indy weddings. One part earth child, one part wanderer, she divides her time between Newport – where she's starting a tiny backyard farm – and the rest of the world. Recent travels have taken her to Paris; Reykjavik; and Paros, Greece. But since she just ordered a dozen fruit trees for her yard, she's probably going to stick around for a bit. Follow her adventures via Instagram @hopestatestyle.

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