Portrait Commissions: Procedure & Fees


PORTRAITS become heirlooms, they are depictions history, really, as much as they do individuals. 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 and, although It is preferable to work directly from live sittings, the reality of today is that our world is busy and complex with pressing time constraints, so working from photographic reference is practically a necessity for modern portraiture.

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 or a drawing in charcoal. 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: the photographs used for the portrait reference must be taken by me since it is nearly impossible for a portrait artist to use photos taken by others (unless, of course, it is a posthumous portrait or if I work directly with a professional photographer on the project).

TIMING: The period from first sittings to delivery of a completed portrait in oil can range from a few months to more than a year. But, in all events, 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 a period as is possible. A fine portrait in oil needs time for curing of the paint and, preferably, for a permanent varnishing to be applied prior to delivery.

PRICING: The range for portraits is from around $2000 for a head only or cameo portrait, to upwards of $20,000 to $50,000 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 may contribute to higher costs. Other factors can also affect the price depending on a client’s specific needs and the individual situation. Posthumous portraits may also incur extra costs. Portrait drawings are available and are priced considerably lower than paintings.

DIMENSIONS: The scale of the subject in the painting — 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 50 x 40 in. (127 x 102 cm.).

PAYMENT Schedule and Approval: Although other arrangements are negotiable, a common schedule is that, before work commences, an agreement is signed and a deposit paid by the client, usually from 30% 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 or sketches can be presented to the client indicating the composition options. When a composition is agreed upon, work on the portrait can begin. The remainder is then paid upon final approval and/or delivery of the finished portrait.

OTHER COSTS: Artistic and photography materials are the responsibility of the artist. Typically, framing, taxes, shipping, and insurance are the client's responsibility. Travel and accommodations may also be involved as extra expenses in this category.

In the end, all of the above are still subject to discussion and/or adjustment. The goal is to create the best possible institutional, corporate, or family work of art that is within a given budget and is acceptable to both client and artist. The final result of this process — for both artist and client — is a work of art that is a true legacy to be cherished and valued for generations.

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