Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Painting Portrait Commissions

Painting portraits is the most rewarding work I've ever done -- but, it's also the most intimidating to me and seems to cause me the most anxiety.  This is still true, even after 20 years of painting portraits and about 15 years of painting commissioned portraits for paying clients.

But, I continue to paint portraits for people, because as I said, it is so rewarding for me to see or hear the reactions from the satisfied clients, who are either my friends, or who have become my friends through this process.  I paint many different subjects -- flowers, still lifes, landscapes, cityscapes -- and I show and sell them in galleries and other venues.  But, no one has ever cried over one of my floral paintings, or hugged ME after buying one of my cityscapes.  

I do many portraits of my clients' children and grandchildren.  And, sometimes, like my favorite portrait painter, Cecilia Beaux, who was my featured woman artist for April -- I use my own family and friends as models.

To me, making a portrait is more than just painting a face . . . 

While drawing and painting the portrait, I get to know the person -- even if I've never met her or him.

I work from photos.  If I don't know the person, I work with the client to find the right photo of theirs.

If I do know the person, I take my own photos -- lots of them . . . 

I also really enjoy doing Action Portraits of young athletes:

Occasionally, I am honored to be asked to paint a portrait of someone's deceased loved one -

or a loved one who is still very much alive:

Beginning a portrait is easy . . . but a good drawing is essential.

I work from the general to the specific . . . 

Painting a portrait with more than one subject is challenging . . . 

But, I start them all the same way -- with a drawing, and then some light washes.

Then, I start to develop each subject separately . . . 

Each subsequent step takes more time, thought, and energy. . . 

After sending the photo of the "finished" portrait to my client, I was asked if I could change the color of the hair of the girl on the left.  (There are certain things you just can't do with a watercolor portrait, at this point.  But, luckily, I thought I could adjust it.)

Nailed it!  She was happy!

Getting a good likeness of your subject is THE most important  requirement for a commissioned portrait!  And, when I do, EVERYONE is happy!


  1. Pat - these paintings are spectacular! I love them. They have so much life in them.