So you are considering commissioning me for a portrait? Thank you and welcome!
Here are a list of typical questions or items to think about when undertaking a project.
1. It's helpful to know who the subject(s) of the portrait is. Is the subject(s) aware that a portrait is being done? Who is the recipient of the portrait? These are all nice-to-know questions that help fill in what the project is about. Any kind of information that helps me create a mental picture of the person(s) can potentially affect how I approach the work.
2. How many subjects are there? It's quite typical to have one subject only but two or more people is always a possibility. Note that the number of people in the portrait can drive the cost and time of the project up.
3. What size of portrait are you envisioning? I am usually focused on rendering a likeness of a subject's head with perhaps a bit of shoulders as well. With that in mind, it is typical to work in sizes from 8x10in to 14x17in for a single subject. We can of course choose larger sizes when working with more than one subject. I would not typically work in a large size if there is only one subject unless you are looking specifically to make a certain impact with the finished work in a large space.
4. What style/medium are you looking for in a portrait? I work in a number of ways which I will divide into two areas: drawn portraits and painted portraits. Painted is easy: I only work in acrylic paint on stretched canvas or hardboard. For a drawn portrait, there are a number of choices ranging from pencil, charcoal, colored pencil, watercolor pencil and pastels. Each of these media give a different quality to the finished work. Please note that the choice of style/medium will affect how long the project will take me. A monochrome/b&w is typically quick to complete; a pencil drawing of a single subject can be done within a week. An acrylic painting can take a month or two. All other options fall in between. If you are unsure about the medium then let's look at samples together and maybe we can arrive at a choice that works best for your project.
5. How will I actually create the portrait? This is an important question that requires some discussion.
Two hundred years ago, the subject(s) of a portrait would have to pose (sit or stand still) for however long the portrait takes to complete. This is a little less commonly done in modern times although still a possibility. Often it is simply not practical or possible for the subject(s) to sit for a portrait with me for any number of reasons. The ideal alternative option is to have the subject(s) available for me to take a photo.
The last and perhaps most common option is for you the customer to provide me with a photo. Note that the quality of this photo is very important and I may reluctantly turn down a commission if a photo is not suitable. The biggest reason to reject a photo is if the lighting in the picture is not flattering. (Unfortunately flash photography, which is very common, often makes for very unflattering photos for portraiture.)
6. How can I obtain the photo(s) from you, the customer? If the photo you are considering is a printed photo I will need to have it in my hands for the duration of the project and return it upon completion. If the photo was taken digitally, it would be best to get the original digital file from your camera to me. It is a little less ideal to use a photo that has been uploaded to an internet photo repository like Google Picasa, Facebook, Flickr, etc as sometimes these can degrade the photo quality. Printed photos can be mailed to me or we can meet in person if possible. Digital files can be emailed or we can meet in person and copy the files via flash drive/external hard drive/laptop.
7. Framing. I do not have a hard policy in place yet regarding framing as it is a highly subjective area - we all have our tastes about what a pleasing frame is. I tend to go for stark/modern/simple but you may differ. When I first considered selling art to the public I thought it was best to leave framing entirely in the hands of the customer but I also understand the appeal of receiving a complete package from the artist, ready to be hung on a wall. Here are a couple of considerations. Any acrylic painting I create is made as if ready to be hung without a frame. You can still put it in a frame if this is your preference. Any portrait I do in pastel needs to be handled/framed with care to ensure that pastel remains fixed to the surface. For any portrait other than an acrylic painting, it is best to use UV glass to protect the work from sunlight.
8. How soon do you need the portrait? You need it tomorrow right? ;-) The time it takes to complete a portrait depends on the size, the time it takes for me to receive a reference photo, the number of subjects and the medium you wish me to work in. I will also have to keep an eye on my current workload and see what is feasible. Let's discuss what you are looking for in a final product and figure out what works best from there.
9. How is payment handled? It seems that every day things change in the ways of doing business especially on the internet. Please contact me about how payment will be handled as this area is always subject to change and I want us both to be assured that it is handled in the most complete and secure way possible.
10. Is it necessary for us to meet face to face? I am always interested in meeting my customers and it helps give me a human perspective about the work I am creating. It is sometimes possible and even necessary to complete the entire project without face to face interaction especially in cases where we are separated by great distance. It is always helpful and perhaps desirable to make an effort to communicate by phone or Skype so that there is some sense of human contact.
11. Revisions. I am hoping that we will have worked out our expectations well enough that revisions will be minimal. At an appropriate time, I will probably give you a sense of my progress and hopefully the work is in line with what you expect. Please note that if there are many requests for revision I may increase the price of the final portrait.
12. Finally, as a matter of record I scan all artwork that I create for my customers. It's possible that I may request your permission to use the finished work in my portfolio and I would be grateful if you granted me that permission. This would mean that the finished art may appear on this website or on printed matter such as business cards and other promotional means. I will be respectful of privacy and all subjects that appear in this manner remain completely anonymous.
Whew! That was a lot of information! I'm overwhelmed. It's OK, we can work through it all slowly and make this a pleasing project for us both to work on. If you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact me so we can work things out!
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