The Portrait Process
I like to paint people in their own environments, their homes or offices, giving the subject a setting that best tells their story, though I am happy to use a more simple, abstract, background where this is preferred, when this increases the dramatic impact of the figure and lets the sitter's own presence speak for itself.
A portrait is a celebration, of love, of life, or of achievement. Nobody is too unimportant or ordinary to be celebrated, for we are all valued by those who care for us. To own a portrait is not to be vain, but to acknowledge that the subject matters to those who care for them, whether in a family context or in business.
Working in the subject's own environment often involves travel - I have worked all across North America, Europe and Asia - and airfare is included in my fee (accomodation, shipping and framing are not). I always allow time before an initial sitting to meet the client and get to know them a little and develop a sense of how they see themselves and what we are trying to achieve in the portrait. If I am travelling to fulfil a commission I always allow for at least two full days at the location, even if the portrait is to be completed from photographs - longer when it is to be executed from life.
Any portrait is a dialogue between artist and sitter, a true collaboration, so each of us lays out our ideas and develops a concept together. At this point we discuss costume, setting, possible background and props to include, pose and lighting. A photographic shoot then gives us a chance to play with options, try different approaches and narrow our focus to to the concept that is immerging as strongest.
If I am painting from life - which is always enjoyable, when a sitter's schedule, preferrence and age allows - I will then begin to block in the agreed concept or make a head study in oil if the portrait is to be completed back in my studio.
If, as is often the case with today's hectic schedules, or where travel is involved and a long stay is not practical, I am going to be working entirely from my photographs, I will take these back to the studio and make a small compositional study or sketch for the clients approval. I sometimes offer a choice of two concepts in sketch form, if more than one possibility suggests itself. Any major changes to the composition can be made at this point. Once the sketch is agreed, both client and artist know where the picture is going and there should be no surprises at the end!
Now the painting can begin in earnest.
When the portrait feels complete an image is sent to the client for input and approval. At this point any final small adjustments can be made and the painting can be finished and shipped.
No portrait is complete until both client and artist are completely happy. I guarantee my work. Nobody receives a portrait they are not thrilled with.
And that is a promise