Commissioning A Portrait

Having a Portrait Painted

A painted portrait is usually created to honor an individual at a specific and special time in that person’s life. The likeness within that portrait is meant to be enjoyed in the present time as well as for posterity. Passing down a portrait to someone you love holds special meaning and value.

When contemplating having a portrait painted, try to see as many works as possible that have been painted by the artist. You will also want to review the artist’s resume and the artist’s web site, which will help give you a good idea of the artist’s expertise in his or her field and of the artist’s unique style and technique.

An interview with the artist will be set-up. During the interview,
you will be given an opportunity to decide upon what medium you want the portrait painted with and what size you would like it to be. Also, you will discuss with the artist how many sittings will be necessary, a scheduled time to photograph the subject for reference material and how often the subject will be required to sit for sessions to be painted from life. After these important details are fully discussed and a size has been chosen, the artist will be able to give you a price for the portrait you are planning.

Upon being commissioned to paint a portrait, most artists prefer to have several sittings by the subject, seated wherever chosen, with controlled light and shadow patterns. It is vital to have the subject directly in front of you while you portray the spirit, character and life of that person. When that is not possible, as with small children and animals, it will be necessary to spend a couple hours capturing gestures, expressions, light and shadow and the unique qualities of the the individual with a camera. This becomes reference material owned by the artist and will be used for the process of painting the portrait.

While either sketching or photographing the subject, a story or theme will be developed for the painting. During this valuable time, decisions will be made with regard to the feelings or impressions desired within the portrait, what medium should be used, what size the painting should be, what color scheme would best suit the portrait and how much of the subject should be painted and if a background will be used. When these personal choices are made, by both the artist and either the subject or the person commissioning the painting, then the price will be determined and agreed upon.

There are three basic stages of a portrait painting:

First, there is the beginning stage where the surface material for the portrait is selected and purchased along with appropriate paint or pastels, brushes, mediums, etc. The drawing of the composition and subject is carefully executed so that the client will have an opportunity to see the likeness that is created upon the surface. Once this is accomplished the artist will want the client to view it for their approval.

The second stage is the application of color in layers (either pastel or oil) which will change the drawing into the painterly process of building up layers of values and colors and enhancing the background, arms, hands, garments, etc. while maintaining a likeness of the subject. This stage, in my opinion, requires the most time, skill and technique.

The third stage is the final viewing and approval by the client in the artist’s studio. The portrait will be professionally photographed by the artist and the photographs will become a part of the artist’s portfolio.
The portrait will then be brought to a professional framer for its frame to be built and framed “Museum Standard”. The client will make the final choice in framing and matting and will arrange payment with the framer.

If the client wishes, the artist may give permission to have copies of the portrait produced for their own personal use such as gifts for family and friends, note cards and/or Christmas cards. This will be at the client’s request and the client will bear the reproduction expenses. The artist retains sole copyright of the work.

(I always ask if I can show a commissioned painting in at least one important juried exhibition either statewide or nationally. This will give me the opportunity to acquire more recognition for the artwork. Many of my portraits paintings have won national awards and have been shown in prestigious exhibitions. It is my desire to paint the most provocative and realistic portraits possible. It’s my way of sharing my unique ability to express the elusive human spirit!)