Until recently, the only people who hired an artist to paint their portrait were rich, royal or famous. However, these days, CNN is reporting that a growing number of regular folks are having their portraits done, and most are getting them done for free online! That’s the word from Judith Donath, a social networking expert at Harvard. She says right now, digital portraits – also known as avatars - are essential for communicating effectively on the Internet. That’s because a portrait can say more about your hobbies or interests than any standard photograph. Plus, with an online portrait, you can recreate yourself in any way you choose.
For example, Erika Peterman is a comic book fan from Florida who writes a blog about comics. She recently paid an artist $100 to draw a caricature of her as a comic book hero – which she now uses on both her blog and her Facebook profile. Peterman says she’s not trying to hide her real looks. She simply believes the super-hero image says a lot more about her personality than a photo ever could. Some artists say this new online portrait trend offers a great way to make money during the economic downturn. An illustrator in Dallas named Joel Watson recently started drawing online portraits for clients for $50 apiece, and he says he’s getting so many requests these days that he can’t keep up with the demand.
The majority of online portraits come from promotional Websites, which create instant images for you at no charge at all. Two years ago, “The Simpsons” TV show created a site that generated cartoon versions of fans, by simply uploading a photo. More recently, the popular cable show “Mad Men” launched a site that recreates photos to make fans look like sleek advertising executives. Want to go further? You can create your own customized cartoon portrait at the website MyWebFace.com. Or type the name of your favorite movie or TV show into a website like Avatarist.com.