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Commission a Painting

How the Process Works

Isabel sitting for her portrait

Please visit my Commissioned Portraits gallery for more examples.

In my commissioned portraits, I like to create a meaningful representation of my subject by suggesting a story or era of history, playing with costumes or symbols of the sitter’s interests, or creating a sense of atmosphere by replicating a particular historical painting style. I enjoy discussing ideas with clients, and I value the process of getting to know my subjects so that I can find a unique way of capturing each person’s character. We will work together throughout the process to create a meaningful work of art that will capture and immortalize the presence of the sitter.

At the initial meeting, the client and I work together to try to understand each other’s visions as well as possible. We may try out some poses, look at compositional sketches, discuss the character and interests of the sitter, and examine together the stylistic and technical qualities of my previous works and works from art history. All parties involved should remain open-minded throughout the portrait process, because none of us can know exactly what the finished work will look like until it is created. The work of art takes on a quality of life of its own that no one can fully predict.

After the initial meeting, I will draw up a contract outlining our decisions. Then,

If we decide to work from life (this is the ideal option, but requires a lot of time on the part of the sitter):

We schedule six three-hour sittings for the portrait (we may not end up needing all of them, or we may need to add more). During the first sitting, we try out different poses, lighting situations, and outfits. I create quick sketches and take photos to document the pose. During the subsequent sittings, I will complete the portrait in stages. I may ask the sitter to leave the outfit and props in the studio between sittings so that I can do as much work on my own as possible.

Portrait of Martha Cutts,

Head of School at Washington Latin Public Charter School


If we decide to work from existing photos:

The client gives me possible photos that could work for the project. The biggest factor in the success of the portrait is having multiple excellent photos to work from. Ideally the photo is high resolution with good color and lots of contrast between strong lights and shadows on the face.

If we decide to take new photos for the portrait (this is the most standard option):


We set up a meeting for a photo shoot. I usually block in three hours for this. We decide on a good location for the portrait. The sitter and I collaborate on bringing along any clothing or prop items that we might want in the portrait. We then work together to try out different poses, lighting, and facial expressions for the photos. I usually take between two hundred and five hundred photos during the photo shoot in order to try to capture just the right look.

After we have collected as many photo options as possible, I pick the ones that lend themselves best to becoming a successful painting. Then I create pencil sketches or painted studies of three or four options for the composition of the painting, and we meet to discuss the compositions.

Once we have decided on a composition, I will provide the client with a document that has an image of the final composition we have chosen, as well as any notes of changes that will be made to it. Then I start the portrait painting. Depending on my schedule, the painting process can take several months.


After delivery of the finished painting: I can give suggestions for where to get it framed. We can also discuss options for varnishing. It is important to wait at least six months before varnishing a painting. We can set up a time for me to take the painting back and varnish it at the appropriate time.


Payment is usually divided into installments, normally one third of the total price after the first planning meeting, one third when we finalize the compositional sketches, and one third when the painting is delivered.

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