There’s that old worn-out trope that “the eyes are the windows of the soul”—but a good portrait truly can be. Each one of us has a story: our roots, our joys, sorrows, failings, achievements, and ways of going about the world. To try to grasp and capture these stories on canvas has to me always been one of the great challenges and privileges of painting, and that’s what I try to do when working on portraits commissioned by my patrons.
Don’t get me wrong, a talented (and lucky) photographer can make a great one, too! I feel though that, as a painter, I have more opportunities to make a portrait say what I want it to say, and reveal the person with more immediacy and complexity. From a more pragmatic standpoint, painted portraits age well, they’re one of a kind and they do make for thoughtful, well-appreciated gifts in a way that a framed photograph just can’t.
Isn’t it all just the height of petit-bourgeois vanity though? I don’t know. Not all vanity is bad. There’s no way to show your dad your admiration for his fishing prowess quite like an oil-on-canvas of him and that massive salmon on the wall of his “country estate”. (And if you click here now, as a limited-time offer, I'll do the salmon for free and only charge you for a single, not a dual portrait.)
How I work
I try to hold my work to a pretty high standard, and it's difficult to meet it if all I have is just a photograph provided by a patron. That's why it's important that I meet you (and/or the subject of the portrait) in person or at least over video chat. Tell me your life story, who you are, what drives you. Of course, if the portrait is supposed to be a surprise for a loved one, we can figure something out too.
If are worried about not having a good photo, you shouldn't be. I do use reference photos, but I prefer to make my own. An alternative option—and one that I highly recommend—is to actually come in and sit for me for your portrait! It's something that very few people apart from models in art schools get to experience. It gives me the chance to get to know you better and that will be reflected in the final work. That’s also a great time for us to talk about what you want from the portrait.
You don’t have to come prepared—I’m more than happy to guide you and pitch you ideas—and presumably you came to me in the first place because something in my portfolio was to your liking. Naturally, if you have something very specific in mind, we can talk about that!
Then, I will provide you with sketches and small-scale studies before we proceed to the final piece.
How much will it cost?
The cost is basically proportional to the amount of labour involved. A larger piece will cost more than a smaller one, dual portrait more than a single one, a work with lots of fine details in a meticulous style more than a more impressionistic style. That’s not to say that larger is necessarily better than smaller and fine detail is better than the looser, expressive style!
Whatever your budget, we can usually do something interesting with it. I mostly work in oil, but graphite, pastels or charcoal/chalk on toned paper can be cheaper and also very effective! If you’re even considering it, don’t be afraid to reach out to me. I won’t pressure you into anything, push you or try to upsell you, but I’ll be very happy to tell you more about my process, the various options, and how much they would cost. I can also give you advice on framing: it can turn out to be a big part of the cost, and there things that we can do to manage that (e.g pick a popular canvas size and then you can buy any decent-looking frame off the shelf in your favourite home decor store).
Also, while I do like getting commissions, if you want something specific and I feel that I’m not the best person to give you that, I’ll always be upfront and refer you to someone who will. Life’s too short for bad wine and disappointing art!