COMMISSIONING A PORTRAIT
This page is designed to give you all the information you may need to know when commissioning a painting.
First I’ll need something to work from. Please have a quick read of the guide below to get an idea of what I need. When you have your images, you can send them by email and we will have a discussion on aspects such as colour, background, mood, lighting, composition and content. Ideas develop with consideration and sometimes, we may have several conversations as thoughts develop. It can take several conversations or emails to sort the finer details!
Working from life
With portraiture, working from life is best. When painting directly from the sitter, I can see all the nuances of light and colour which a photograph does not necessarily show. I usually meet with the sitter to discuss what ideas they have with regard to pose, content and mood and set times for sessions lasting two to three hours. The amount of sessions needed depends on content and size.
My working process is to use the sessions to work directly on the painting however if time is short for the sitter, I will take photographs and make quick sketches and colour paintings to work within my studio.
Working from photographs
I am happy to work from photographs however the quality of the photograph I use has a huge effect on the quality of the final portrait I can produce. You may have a photograph already in mind and I can advise you on suitability or below is a list of suggestions for the type of image I will need.
– Photographs taken on a digital camera from a few different angles and some close-up.
– If your photos are larger, sharper and clear, your painting will be better.
– A phone picture is not large or sharp enough to provide the tonal detail I need to work from so if you do not have any suitable photos taken on a proper camera, I will probably ask you to take some new ones.
– You do not need to be a professional photographer, however, the photo I will be working from is a substitute for the sitter themselves which is why it’s so important I have good close-up detail in order for me to get an accurate likeness.
– The light source is best from front left or right which gives a good shadow to describe the face.
– Taking photos out of doors is ideal, but avoid extremely bright sunlight which will produce strong shadows and also tends to make people squint.
– For a child, aim to keep their hands away from their mouth, and, for a pet, remember to remove the collar if you’d prefer it not to be included.
– Unless you are having a full body portrait then don’t be afraid to really zoom in. I don’t need to see further down than the waist and the closer up on the face, the better. Just remember not to cut off the top of their head!
– It can be difficult to get children to pose for a photo. If you are not able to persuade them to stay still, try taking shots of them when they are relaxed and not expecting it.
Lighting your sitter when photographing
– Three-quarter lighting which is preferable. The sitter poses at a 45% angle to the artist and the light is placed about forty-five degrees in front of the model. A popular way to light which strengthens form and cast beautiful shadows, particularly of the nose.
– Contre-jour (backlighting). This effect usually hides details, causes a stronger contrast between light and dark, creates silhouettes and emphasizes lines and shapes. The head is seen against a field of light, which spills over the edges of the form.
– Top lighting – emphasises forehead, nose and cheeks. Less popular as it also emphasises any horizontal skin creases, bags under the eyes and other facial “imperfections”. It can be quite an unflattering light.
– Light from below – Can be ghoulish but very dramatic.
– Side lighting. Light at the side of the front facing model creates dark mystery on one side and a profile contrast down the centre of the face.
– Long and short lighting. Broad lighting is softer and short more dramatic.
– Frontal lighting – can flatten the face as shadows tend to disappear. It’s worth thinking about what type of portrait you are looking for – this maybe applies more to people than to pets. For example, for a child portrait, a front-facing, smiling portrait can be lovely (and will reflect the personality of a happy child) but you can also get a nice artistic portrait from other sorts of poses. For example, a child might be looking away or might be looking at us, but over a shoulder – there are lots of different examples in the drawing gallery which may give you some ideas to consider. Sometimes a more contemplative, less smiling look can work. It really depends on what you like and which style of portrait is your cup of tea!
Capturing the personality of the sitter
As I work, I try to capture the character and temperament of the sitter and so it is very helpful to helpful to see a extra small variety of pictures of the person/pet which will give me more of an idea of their appearance and personality. These can be of a lesser quality than my main resource.
I will automatically tweak the appearance of the sitter to enhance the painting. This may include adding reflected colours into the skin, removing food from children’s mouths, leaving out odd stray hairs, leaving out reddened areas of skin, eradicating blemishes such as spots, etc. I cannot make major changes such as making up clothes, taking a head from one photo and putting onto a different body or changing an expression.
I do not usually assemble two subjects taken from two different photos on the same page, as this will not produce a portrait of quality due to the difference in tonal values, lighting and colour. I would need to have a new photo of the two subjects together. If you are considering having two separate ‘companion portraits’ painted I would advise you to send me photos taken at the same time and in the same setting to keep shadows and tonal values consistent
Working with you the Client
When the painting nears completion, you will be sent a copy of the image through email which will give you the opportunity to check the likeness and request any adjustments or alterations you may require. This ensures the final piece is exactly how you want it to be. Changes could include changing someone’s eye colour slightly, removing shadows, adding a detail to clothing or lightening highlights in the hair. I prefer to send an image of the work later on in the painting process due to the fact that I build the image by layering shapes and working loosely then refining details afterwards. The early stages of the work look very unfinished and do not give an idea of the quality of the final piece.
How long does it take to commission an artwork?
The time varies depending on the size, medium (oil takes more time to dry), the details of the piece, and my own schedule. Typically you should count on 2– 12 weeks for completion, however, it may be longer depending on how many commissions I have at any one time.
Upon your decision to commence with the commission, I will send you an invoice with a request for a deposit of 20%. Payment can be made through bank draft.
Sizes in inches – price in £
A small portrait of only the face and head.
8″×10″ through to 12” x 16”
£300 to £600
|Head & Shoulders
A medium sized painting of the head and shoulders but not the hands.
12” x 16” through to 18”× 20”
£600 to £900
|1/2 Length Portrait
A large portrait from the waist up (may include the hands)
12” x 16” through 24″× 30″
£900 to £1,500
An extra large painting of the entire figure.
24″ × 36″ and up
£1, 800 upwards
Please contact me (via email) to get the process started!
I look forward to hearing from you.