Babailov, who completed his first portrait before he was 5 years old, has painted portraits on many world leaders such as George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, Vladimir Putin, Gen. David Petreaus, Rudy Guliani, George Washington, Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.
Many of those people have sat for him, he said. Others, such as Washington, were created from what research he had done on Washington’s likeness. He based his painting on a sculpture of Washington. It is a different perspective than the portrait found on the $1 bill.
“Igor is a world-renowned artist and portrait painter,” Rotarian and Cumberland University president Paul Stumb told the crowd. “Many people are fortunate enough to have portraits painted by Igor. He comes from a very artistic family. His father was an artist and painter. His father was also a poet. His mother was an award-winning teacher of biology and chemistry. He comes from a background of academics and very well-educated people.”
Babailov began his formal training in art education at age 9, Stumb said. He competed against thousands of other artists to attend a top art school in his native Russia and was selected as the winner.
“That portrait of Pope Francis is hanging in the Vatican,” Stumb said.
Over the years Babaliov has painted more than 2,000 portraits.
“A lot of artists will take a photo and paint a likeness,” Babailov said. “But fine art portraits are more than that. Quite often I try to incorporate a story behind the printing. When they look at a painting 200 years from now, you will be able to tell who that person was and all the details. To me it’s a story, more than just a visual image.”