Renowned portrait artist calls Midstate home - WSMV News 4

Renowned portrait artist calls Midstate home

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Igor Babailov in the studio at his Brentwood home. Igor Babailov in the studio at his Brentwood home.
BRENTWOOD, TN (WSMV) -

A man considered of the greatest living portrait artists calls Middle Tennessee home.

When presidents, popes and prime ministers want an official portrait, they call Igor Babailov. The renowned Russian-born artist now lives in Brentwood.

The face fascinates the man who has painted thousands.

From his Brentwood home, Babailov is never really alone.

“Someone said to me, ‘Don’t you ever get scared?’” Babailov said. “About what? ‘So many eyes looking at you.’”

While he sometimes paints from his home studio, Babailov often paints on the road.

“The Vatican, the Vatican. I go to the Vatican,” he said.

Since Pope John Paul II, Babailov has been the official portrait painter of the pope. Fifteen months in, his portrait of Pope Benedict XVI is still a work in progress.

The 50-year-old artist is in high demand around the world. Many are willing to sit for him, but others no longer can. Babailov’s portrait of George Washington is on display at Washington’s Mount Vernon museum.

The job comes with some pressure.

“I don’t really think about who’s in front of me,” Babailov said. “Because if I did, my hand may start shaking.”

Babailov said he knows his work is bigger than brushes, oils and technique.

“Not just the face, it’s the person, the personality,” he said. “Of course, a lot of what’s inside of us shows on the outside.”

His home in Tennessee is much different from his Russian roots.

“It gets warm,” Babailov said, laughing. “The sunsets are gorgeous, like in Europe, Mediterranean. I think it’s just a jewel place.”

Babailov has tapped into America’s love of celebrity. He has painted Regis Philbin, Bob Costas and James Gandolfini, to name a few.

Copyright 2015 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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