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, the realities of our times is that our world is busy and complex with pressing time constraints, so working from photographic reference practically a necessity in today's 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. 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 taken by me siince 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 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 $3000 for a head only or cameo portrait, to upwards of $30,000 -- 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 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 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 can be presented to the client indicating the composition and objective. When the proposed composition is agreed upon, work on the portrait can begin. Then, upon delivery and approval of the finished portrait, the remainder is paid.

OTHER COSTS: Artistic and photography materials are the responsibility of the artist. Typically, items including framing, taxes, shipping, and insurance are the client's responsibility.

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

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