Portrait vs. Figurative

Mother May I?          11" x 14"           Carol MacConnell

I consider myself a figurative painter. This is something I am always explaining when there is an open studio in my building. The average person who walks into my studio assumes I am a portrait painter. I always respond that I am a figurative painter. I paint the essence of the person not a dead-on likeness of a person. If that is what they are looking for I always recommend a friend of mine who is fabulous portrait painter. Most people cannot comprehend buying a painting of a person to which  they are not related. I usually make a joke of wishing I owned Whistler’s Mother! I usually tell them that when you walk into any museum, you will see tons on paintings by artists who paint their muse, their relative, a hired model etc. I can almost see their minds opening up to the concept. Not that I turn them into buyers that night but maybe I am laying the ground work for a future purchase. What is your definition of figurative? What do you see as the difference of figurative vs. portrait?