Custom Portrait Commissions
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”. (Limited-time offer! Salmon doesn't count as a subject for price calculation purposes.)
How I work
I try to hold my work to a pretty high standard, and that's why it's important that I meet you and/or the subject of the portrait over video chat (or in person, if you're in Toronto and there's no global pandemic going on). 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.
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!
I work off reference photos, but don't worry if you don't have any photos you absolutely love. After we discuss composition and what you want, I'll be more than happy to provide tips for how to take the reference shots and how to set up the lighting.
I will also 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! Here's the page with specific prices for custom portraits.
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, 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!