Commissioning A Portrait
Portraiture is a mirror of all mankind, and since its early beginnings, has been a major art form. Usually it is the representation of an identifiable individual, showing a person as himself, at his most characteristic.
Portraits have varied between complete objectivity and the relative subjectivity brought about by the portraitist’s own outlook on life. But even the most objective work is affected by the times in which the artist lives, by his relation to his sitter, by his sitter’s requirement, and by the technique he employs. Permanence has always been of basic importance in portraiture, as patrons have wanted something that would last when they commissioned a portrait.
When commissioning a portrait, most clients require only that the finished image reflect their appearance. The artist’s aim is more complex, striving to obtain not only a likeness, but a resemblance which reflects the true personality of the subject, of which he or she may not be aware.
The idea of memorializing someone with a likeness is a lasting way to capture memories of family or other loved ones. As a gift, a portrait is a significant symbol of affection, gratitude, or love when shared with the recipient. A painted portrait is an important undertaking for both the client and the artist. Beyond art, a beautiful portrait is also a piece of history that will last and be enjoyed for many generations to come. The process of commissioning a portrait can be thoroughly enjoyable, as the client orchestrates a piece that is customized to suit the setting and capture the uniqueness of someone you love or of yourself.
If possible, I prefer to take my own photographs. If it is not possible, I will work from available photographs, provided they are of a quality deemed sufficient for me to work from. Often, I use more than one photograph as a reference, and because much of my work is accomplished from photographs, it allows for posthumous or surprise presentations. This has become one of my specialties. Further, my objective is to capture the likeness and spirit of the subject without the inconvenience or necessity of live sittings.
At the outset, the client and I will discuss and determine the subject, setting, dress, style, and the approximate size of the finished piece. I will also gather information as to where the portrait will hang. This helps to determine its size. Once these details have been agreed on, and with the receipt of a 40% non-refundable deposit and the signed working agreement, the painting process will begin.
The length of time it takes to complete the portrait to delivery will vary, based on the complexity and size of the portrait, as well as my current commitments. The balance of the commission price, 60%, is payable upon delivery of the portrait and approval by the client. Upon completion, the client has one week to return the portrait for minor changes.
For all but the smallest portraits, I prepare a basic sketch for the client’s consideration and constructive criticism. This enables the client to appreciate the layout and the details of the planned painting to that point. At this early stage minor changes are easy.
Portrait pricing varies according to composition, number of subjects, and the amount of detail in each portrait. Since the size of the portrait varies, depending upon who and what will be included in the finished painting, portrait size and detail can also influence the cost of the painting. Therefore, to satisfy the requirements of each client, prices are submitted on an individualized basis. One price for all is impossible and misleading. However, the following generalized figures will give the client a starting point from which to work. The following prices are for a single subject, less than life sized, on a simple background. The prices discussed below do not include framing, packing, handling, shipping, and insurance, or travel expenses if I have to travel outside the D.C. metropolitan area. I can make recommendations as to an appropriate framer for you to work with, or I can supply an appropriate frame at cost value.
A portrait is very much a partnership between the sitter and the artist. I welcome the client’s input and thoughts on the painting. I am especially known for my signature style in the mediums of oil, watercolor, and graphite.
• Oil portrait, basic head and shoulders oil portrait, with simple background, starts at $2,500.00
• Oil portrait, a basic three-fourths size with simple head and hands, with a simple background, starts at $5,000.00
Additional pricing factors:
• Add 50% of the original price for the second figure
• Add 30% for each additional figure after that
• Backgrounds other than simple vignette, depending on complexity and size of the painting
• Lace and or fancy clothing
• Pets and animals
• Expedited requests