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Commissioning A Portrait. Everything you need to know.

If you're considering commissioning a portrait then there will be several things to think about;

1) The medium

Are you looking for a portrait in oils, acrylics, pastels, chalks, pencils or charcoal?

If you are considering a portrait in oils, are you looking for a traditional finish with glazes and varnish, or do you want something less traditional? Perhaps you want to keep the canvas unframed?

2) The scale

You might want something grand and imposing or you may want something quite small.

3) Formal or Informal?

A painting hung in the wrong location can look out of place and yet in the right setting the same picture can look fabulous. Do you know where the painting will be hung? Do you have a place in mind? Is it a formal setting or an informal one? Do you want the colour scheme of the portrait to complement the colour scheme of the setting?

4) Background

Do you want the background to be plain, abstract, indoors or out of doors? Are there items of furniture that you want included, pieces of jewellery or family heirlooms? Do you want pets in the picture? Do you have a certain background location in mind?

5) Time

Is there a set finish date in mind? For a full portrait in oils; glazed, varnished and framed, one month from start to finish would be the minimum time frame needed.

6) Clothing

Sometimes a portrait will be commissioned specifically to highlight a chosen career status with formal robes in mind. Whilst other portraits celebrate a milestone birthday, anniversary, wedding or promotion. It might be that you require an informal look, or that there is a favourite outfit that you wish to wear.

7) Budget

Once the decision to commission a portrait has been taken, 25% of the agreed fee will be payable when the artist's terms and conditions are signed and accepted. The portrait process then begins in earnest. The final fee is payable on completion.

8) The Process

An artist aims to capture the essence of their sitter. Some people are delighted to let the artist follow their creative instincts. Are you happy to be portrayed through the artist's eyes or do you want to have more of a say in that final vision? If you want greater control over the finished image then the use of photography makes this possible, thus ensuring that the end result matches the vision held by you.

9) The Pose

There are so many possibilities here. Firstly consider budget and canvas size. Will the pose be full length, 3/4 length, head and shoulders, seated, standing, front on, side on? Directly engaging with the audience or unaware of the audience? Will it be a single portrait, a double portrait, siblings or a family group?



An introductory meeting or telephone conversation is needed to discuss the points above.

Then the first sitting. Preliminary sketches and photographs are taken.

Armed with the knowledge of what the sitter wants to achieve from the portrait, and with a greater insight into the sitters character, proposals for the portrait are put forward.

Further sittings can be booked and the process can be undertaken and completed until everyone is satisfied with the finished result.


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