Portrait Commissions: Procedure & Fees


PORTRAITS become heirlooms. That is why my work is crafted to superior standards of archival permanence and quality with an emphasis on aesthetic excellence. At its foundation, portraiture is a collaboration between subject and artist. Although It is preferable for a painter to work directly from life and, the realities of modern life and our busy world make working from photographs practically a necessity.

SITTINGS: Normally, only one photography session, or “sitting”, is needed which can last from about 1 to 3 hours, the latter possibly accommodating a colour sketch in oil. The best location for portrait sittings is in surroundings that are comfortable for the sitter, such as in the home or, as is often the case for institutional portraits, at a place of work or study. Please note: photographs used for the portrait reference must be shot by me, as it is nearly impossible for a portrait artist to use photos taken by others (unless, of course, it is a posthumous portrait).

TIMING: The period from first sittings to delivery of a completed portrait in oil can range from a couple of months to more than a year. But, whatever the case, the timing is discussed as part of the normal commissioning process. Please bear in mind that, as a rule, it is best to provide as long as possible for fine portraiture to allow for curing of the oil paint and, preferably, a permanent varnishing prior to delivery.

PRICING: The range for portraits is from around $3000 for a head only or cameo portrait, to upwards of $30,000 for a major institutional or full-length portrait. Variables such as whether the sitter’s hands are showing, or the inclusion of narrative elements in the painting, can contribute to higher costs. Other factors may also affect the price depending on a client’s specific needs and the individual situation. The range of fees as stated is based on the subject being life size or slightly smaller. Posthumous portraits may also incur extra costs. Portrait drawings are available and are priced lower than paintings.

DIMENSIONS: The scale of the subject -- either life-sized or slightly smaller -- in part can determine the dimensions of the painting. For example, a typical head-only portrait is around 18 x 14 in. (46 x 36 cm.) and a three-quarter length portrait might be about 54 x 36 in. (137 x 66 cm.).

PAYMENT Schedule and Approval: Although other arrangements are negotiable, an average situation is that before work commences, a written agreement is signed and a deposit paid by the client, usually up to 50% of the full price. This is refundable if the contract is cancelled prior to the first sitting. As soon as possible after that first session, a thumbnail sketch can be presented to the client indicating the composition and objective. When the proposed arrangement is agreed upon by the client, work on the portrait can begin. Then, upon delivery and approval of the finished portrait, the full remainder is paid.

OTHER COSTS: All materials, both artistic and photographic, are the responsibility of the artist. The client is responsible for any travel and accommodation expenses of the artist when necessary. Also, client costs include framing, taxes, shipping, and insurance.

All aspects as outlined above are, indeed, subject to discussion. The goal is to create the best possible family, corporate, or institutional portrait within a given budget that will not only be a keepsake, but a legacy. After all, both artist and client can expect a work of art that will be cherished and valued for generations.

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