Creating narrative that is inspired through an interview

Key skills you will learn

  • What is BP
  • The difference between Subject and Content
  • Working with real people in collaboration
  • How to conduct an interview that will provide content for your work
  • Using symbolism for storytelling

Biographical Portraiture (BP) is a two-part class. In this first class, we cover the basics of BP by practicing with someone you know first. In the second class, Making Art In Service To Community, we cover a more in-depth understanding of BP and working with the public.

BP is the use of personal or collective biography to create an artwork. It can be literal or symbolic. Interviewing the subject is a tool used to gather content to depict a story, theme, commentary, or perspective. Research can be an alternative tool for gathering information other than an interview. While BP is often used to portray a single person, it can also illustrate themes and topics that reflect social issues.

BP is for artists working in any medium, looking for a new and inspiring way to create portraiture that incorporates storytelling. This class will provide useful tools that will push the traditional portrait and offer an exciting way of working that can be used for a single picture or for engaging the public on a broader scope. Best suited for artists who have a medium they’re already familiar with. The workshop that follows BP is Making Art in Service to Community, a workshop that dives deeper into the practices of working with others to create commentary.


  1. Watch videos in order
  2. Allow the video to load in advance for seamless viewing. Push play >, then pause till the grey bar fills up at the bottom of the video
  3. Expand the video to full page by clicking on symbol of an X on the far right of the sound bar at the bottom of the video.
  4. PDF printouts are located under the class lesson video
  5. Join the class discussion in the comment box at bottom of page
  6. If you have ANY questions or trouble with this class email Ruth,
  • Sign up for Ruth’s Newsletter here
  • Email Ruth at


  • Introduce yourself in the comment box at the bottom of the page
  • Take notes on oversized paper or a journal


  • Print Subject vs. Content PDF and use during video or afterward to continue practicing the difference between content and the subject matter.



  • No Instructions



This class is FREE. Here is a place you can pay if you have the means. It is set up for increments of $10. There is no pressure to pay, only a place to do so if you’re able.




  1. Beta testing the class discussion box. Will summarize my observations in an email, Ruth. Hint hint: I’m a fan.

  2. Hi Ruth, The intro video is very clear and I now see what it is that you are offering. As a sculptor, I am waiting to hear how this might apply to me.

  3. Hello Ruth,

    I enjoyed your class. I like that you kept the lessons pretty tight, and your lesson planning makes sense.
    I hope this gains traction it’s a very timely concept.


  4. Hi Ruth , I really enjoyed the intro and lesson 1. I think that we are supposed to introduce ourselves here. I am primarily a painter but I have worked with collage and made books too. I live in southern Florida now with my dressage horses and rescue dogs. I have a small group of adults who I teach , and it is noteworthy because they are passionate dressage professionals, veterinarians and amateur equestrians not artists. We make up a unique arts community within the greater Equestrian was world of Wellington where there is Polo, Show jumping, dressage and para equestrian competition of the highest ( International) level. I think I might be able to utilize what I learn from you with my students.

  5. Ann, so great to learn more about you, thank you so much for your introduction. I look forward to our group meeting via Zoom tomorrow evening. 6PM California time.

  6. Well, as usual, I am late to the party.
    I have been wanting to create an illustrated booklet about “basic principles” that explain how people work psychologically. ( I am a psychotherapist professionally, an artist by my hearts connection to beauty as I see it). My idea is to use symbols for each of 3 basic, universal principle and I think exploring the idea of creating symbolism, first in relationship to one person’s life experience would help get me started. I hope to join the meeting this evening though I won’t be available until 6:30, as I am working (remotely).

  7. Hello! I live in Los Angeles (North Hollywood) with my mom (74) and my daughter (10), whom I homeschool. I have been a painter most of my youth, but now most of my art is illustrations for an online journalistic magazine. Most of these illustrations are related to historical figures and I think this class would help me tell these stories even better. Additionally I am working on a solo show revolving around women in the arts and have been afraid to begin. My ability to tell stories in paintings needs some guidance and I know I found the right place here.

  8. Hi Ruth, I really enjoyed the lesson, I’m a painter that has been living in Miami for the past 3 years and before that I was in living in Asia for 17 years. I’m a mother of two girls, 21 and 15. I’m an abstract painter but I’m interested in social arts. I’m looking forward to learn a lot from you.

  9. Hi, Ruth. I’m inspired by the videos. I just started painting more in the last year and have been thinking about how to make my paintings more meaningful…. Thank you so much for making this available. Love…

  10. Hi Ruth, I am a historian living in Grass Valley (CA). My focus is on the African American pioneers who lived in this area during the mid-19th and early 20th centuries. As best I can determine there are no living descendants here today. Consequently their stories have been forgotten. My working title for this project is Legacies: Lost & Found. I am in the process of writing up their stories, but I think the project would be greatly enhanced by biographical portraits, which could be based on existing historic photos. Since I am not an artist myself, I would love to explore ways to work with artists to bring those stories to life. I look forward to exploring possibilities with you and other members of the class. By the way, for the Floridians whose comments are included here, many of our early African American residents were brought enslaved to California during the Gold Rush from Key West and what is now Miami.

  11. This is wonderful Linda. And yes, this is why you don’t need to be an artist. Also, the second class is more about the logistics and the responsibility piece of working with others and using their information for public work. I’m guessing you know Tracy P. ? I am working with her on HOME. I really look forward to meeting you on Wednesday.

  12. Hello everyone. My art focuses on uncovering truth in current and historic event primarily through painting. I live in Vancouver Wa. This is great information Ruth! Can’t wait to learn more at the meeting.

  13. hi Ruth. just watched the first one. I love doing portraits, and now I’m beginning to know what’s missing in them! I’m resolving to be more fearless in what I am trying to say in them!

  14. I love that Robin, fearless in what you are trying to say in them. I would love to see your work or the work that comes from today forward.

  15. Hi Ruth,

    Wonderfully put together, great printouts and clearly presented! I am working in both paintings and sculpture but as I am taking this class I am working on sculpture portraits. Thank you for this very timely class!

  16. Ahhh love you Juliette, and love your work. I can’t wait to dish on this topic more as you continue working in the bust and head with clay.

Share your thoughts HERE

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s