Commission a Portrait: A Simple Guide to Capturing Your Memories
When you commission a portrait you're receiving an incredibly unique, timeless heirloom that captures, celebrates, and commemorates the special people in your life.
COMMISSIONED PORTRAITS MAKE YOU HAPPIER
Why Commission a Portrait?
Fine Art Portraits Are Timeless Heirlooms
A portrait is an investment in your legacy. Which certainly sounds a bit grand, but consider that we still celebrate oil paintings created centuries ago. A piece of fine art will last decades, and potentially outlive you.
Capture, Celebrate, Commemorate
Portraits encapsulate a moment, person, or occasion, immortalizing it in the form of fine art. Moreover, portraits make a meaningful gift, either as a touching way to commemorate family and celebrate loved ones, or as an incredible way to memorialize their memory. Whether celebrating a significant milestone or commemorating someone you love, commissioning a portrait is a perfect way to make sure that memory is preserved.
One of a Kind and Unique to You
Portrait commissions can be tailored to fit any particular size or style, but more importantly, a commissioned portrait allows you to work directly with an artist who can create something special and unique for you. With your original vision and an artist who can reproduce the likeness and essence of their subjects, you can make a masterpiece. Find the right portrait artist and you’ll have something that’s truly one of a kind.
But how do you even begin to commission a portrait?
While it can seem pretty daunting, it's quite simple. In this post, we'll walk through the entire process of commissioning a portrait, from finding a local artist to knowing which questions to ask them.
Read on for some tips on how to make this experience stress-free and enjoyable.
an overview of the entire process, And tips to help you along the way
What You Need To Know When You Commission A Portrait Painting
It pays to do some prep work before you commission a portrait so you can find the right artist and help them create the best fine art for you.
You’ll want to consider obvious things like the subjects, the style, and the medium used. And you’ll want to bear in mind less obvious things like: where this will be displayed, what color scheme should stand out, should it be framed, will the artist do a live sitting, and what’s the desired completion date.
When it comes time to work with the portrait artist, make sure that you have everything prepared ahead of time. This includes providing reference photos of the subject (if necessary), examples of portrait composition, size and dimensions, and discussing any other details such as framing or background elements. An artist should provide guidance on these topics, but it’s best to prepare beforehand.
Choose a Portrait Subject
Firstly, envision the subject matter that will be included in your painting or drawing. This is the “who”, and also the “what” and “where”. When you imagine the image you want captured, what are the important details or elements? Is this subject available for a live sitting? Do you have good photographs and reference images?
Imagine the Type of Portrait You Want
Secondly, it’s important to determine the type of portraiture that will fit either your personal aesthetic, or if it’s a gift, the recipient's personal tastes. For example, do you want a traditional oil painting, or something more contemporary like a drawing, watercolor or digital illustration? Do you want a traditional family portrait? Or perhaps something more abstract? Maybe you want three smaller individual paintings of each of your children.
Which mediums best express the likeness of your subject matter—oil paint, charcoal, watercolors, etc.—and which size would best suit the space where it will hang?
Considering what you want the end result to look like - the pose, the overall tone, the color scheme used - will better help you understand what you want and select an artist adept at fashioning this.
Mediums Traditionally Used in Fine Art Portraiture
Strikingly eye-catching artwork can be captured through relatively quick, less expensive monochrome sketches and drawings.
- Drawn on various paper substrates
- These media include pencil, conté, charcoal, and pen.
- Multi-colored drawings can be created with soft pastel, watercolor or inks, and mixed media.
- Note: it’s often recommended to frame these behind glass.
Oil or acrylic paint on canvas (linen) or wood panel
Oil int is traditionally the preferred media for professional portraits.
- Oil offers excellent color transitions, versatility, and ages well.
- Drying times are longer and costs are higher.
Acrylic paint yield similar results.
- Dries much faster than oils and allow artists to work in layers very quickly.
- It can be difficult to achieve subtle and accurate color changes.
- Oil and acrylic paints can be applied to primed stretched canvas or linen panels, wood panels, or high-density papers.
- Oil or acrylic portraits on canvas may be displayed with or without a frame or glass.
Determine the Size
Determine the size of the artwork you’re envisioning and examine the space it will hang.
Will the work need to be framed? Keep in mind that larger works typically cost more.
Determine the Budget
Money isn’t necessarily the most important factor when selecting an artist for your project. Keep in mind a few generalities while researching portrait artists:
- Generally, the more experienced and sought-after the artist is, the higher their rates will be.
- Generally, artists determine price according to size - smaller pieces cost less, while larger canvases command a higher fee.
- Expect to cover additional fees like shipping costs, framing expenses, or any necessary long-distance travel.
Payment for these expenses should be agreed upon in advance.
Some artists request the entire payment up front, while others require a downpayment prior to starting or before completion of any artwork, drawings/studies, or travel, and a final payment before delivery.
The downpayment can be anywhere from one-third to one-half the total commission price.
You can find more information about my portrait commissions prices here.
Know the Timeframe and Process
Think about your desired deadline as well as the time required for the entire process. The overall time to commission a portrait ranges from a month to a year depending on schedules and the artist’s creative methods.
It’s good to have an understanding of the artist’s commission procedures before moving forward. For more on this keep reading, but this may include an initial consultation, painting from life vs photo reference, sketches revisions, framing and delivery.
Find Portrait Painters and Make Contact
For more detail on artist selection, check out the section below.
In short, you’ll need to find an individual artist, a gallery, or use a portrait painting service.
Individual artists may spend more time with you and give a better sense of the quality and aesthetic of the final piece that you’ll receive. They’re often higher priced than a portrait service with longer times to deliver.
Art portrait services often contract out a variety of artists. You’ll often pay less using a service, but you’ll want to investigate the company to know you’ll get exactly what you’re hoping for.
Once you’ve found a portrait artist whose art speaks to you, it’s time to reach out and make contact. Share your vision, ask questions about their creative process, the need for an initial sitting, and discuss pricing, timeframes, and delivery.
Know Term Agreements, Payments & Sittings
When it comes time to discuss fees and payment terms with your artist, be sure that everyone is clear on what you both expect. How are changes and revisions handled? Do you understand who owns copyrights over the artwork once completed? Cover these items in advance to ensure that everyone is happy with the final product.
Be Patient & Communicate
Constructing a work of art takes time—sometimes months!—so patience is key throughout the entire process. Be sure to communicate regularly with your artist so that there are no surprises when it comes time for delivery. The more open-minded and communicative you are with your artist throughout the journey, the better the final results!
Find the artist that perfectly suits your commission
How to Hire a Portrait Artist
How to Choose an Artist for Your Portrait Commission
Choosing the right artist is essential when commissioning artwork - the artist you choose will make the most impact on the portrait’s end result. Therefore, it’s important to take the time to research and compare various artists before making your selection.
Do Your Homework, Research Artists - Especially Local
Research artists who specialize in portraiture. Begin locally. Ask friends and family if they can recommend anyone. Ask around your community or visit a local gallery, museum, and even artsy coffee shops. Working with local artists is a way to support your community, may allow an opportunity for studio visits to see the process, and can reduce delivery fees.
Otherwise, the best way to find a portrait artist for your project is by doing some research online and through social media.
Either way, take the time to look at their portfolios - it’s important that you find an artist whose style resonates with you and whose art speaks to your particular vision.
You should inquire about their preferred media and size as well as ask questions about their processes (do they prefer to work from life or from photos), timeframe to completion, commission fees and payment details before making any decisions.
Consider reviews from previous clients, so that you can get an idea of their artwork and skill level, as well as their professionalism.
Once you’ve narrowed down your options, it’s time to get in touch.
A portrait is a tremendous way to celebrate someone special. When you commission a portrait, it allows both the artist and client to work together directly and create something totally unique and special that can be treasured for decades and even generations to come!
A commissioned portrait is an investment that requires careful consideration and planning. It may seem like a daunting task at first—but it doesn’t have to be! Just follow the simple steps above.
Get prepared and start researching local artists today so that you can find one who fits your needs with confidence. Take time in choosing an artist. Consider what look best suits your home or office, as well as particular size requirements. Select an artist with the experience and expertise to successfully complete your commission. And make sure you understand the artist’s commission fees and timelines.
Working closely with the artist throughout the commission process will ensure that you have a unique work of fine art that immortalizes a special moment, person, or occasion. With careful consideration and communication, portrait commissions can be incredibly rewarding experiences that you’ll cherish for years to come.
Give yourself permission to get started. You got this!