Saturday, January 22, 2011
Avi and Andy, Commissioned Portrait
"Avi and Andy"
Oil Painting on Canvas 24 X 36
Painted from life and photo references.
This is the most recent portrait commission I have finished. I delivered it yesterday and the client was very pleased. It's great when that happens and I'm enjoying the moment. I want to be appreciative to this client because as John Singer Sargent said "A portrait is a painting with something wrong with the mouth". This seems to be all too common a reaction to a painting which has been commissioned and finding a client who loves the work as much as you do is a blessing.
I'd like to take you through the basics of the process on this project so you'll get an idea of how I work with clients. It will cover more of the steps on how I work with people than with the actual painting but will be brief and helpful, I hope.
First I met my client and we discussed things like what the painting was going to be of and who would be included in the piece. We also discussed pricing and I gave them a rough estimate after I did some thumb nail sketches and showed them what I was thinking. This was done in their living room and when we concluded meeting everyone seemed to be on the same page. I think this was the most important step in the process because it set the level of expectations and gave them a chance to tell me what they thought was the most important things to them and what they were hoping for. What was requested was a painting of Andy (the grandfather) and Avi (the grandson) in a basic head and shoulder length painting. This seemed to lend itself to an unusual proportioned portrait, one that sat more landscape like than portrait. They also wanted to express the close relationship between the two subjects and having them side by side seemed to graphically display this. We arranged a time to meet the subjects to begin the process and a one third deposit was made on the painting.
Several days later I met the subjects in my studio. I had them take several poses together to look at the composition and did an initial sketch of each to become more familiar with each of their faces. I find this first sitting critical because it gives me a chance to begin to know my subject as an individual. The discussion might go in any direction but mainly stay about their life, goals and some of their unique experiences and views on life.
Avi and Andy the first meeting and beginning to look at the layout of the painting.
Very quick sketches were made of each of the subjects. This was to start the process of me getting familiar with each of their faces. I gave them the sketches after the session was over as they were not going to be part of the final painting and it gave each of them a sense of how I was seeing them at the time. I think this is good PR and builds some trust with the client early on with little or no risk to the artist.
The Second Sitting:
One critical thing that was discussed was clothing on the subjects. In a head and shoulder painting often only a minimal of clothing is indicated. In this case though I wanted to bring the clothing down a bit further to fill the canvas so it became an important element. I decided to have one wear a solid color and the other a pattern for contrast.
At this point the painting became clearer in my mind and though I had an initial rough in on the canvas I began to change and refine the placement of elements on the canvas. By the end of this session I was much happier with the layout and color scheme which was beginning to develop. I kept working on the piece till I got to the point where all the major blocks of color were in place and the piece began to take on a likeness of the subjects.
I had each of the subjects come down to my studio individually and spent time developing the likeness further, correcting information and trying to get a better tonality to the flesh colors.
This also gave me a chance to really personally connect with each of them and get a better sense of who I was painting.
I showed the client the painting before the final stages to see if we were still on track and the response was very positive. It helped build the level of anticipation of the finished piece and when the final piece was viewed there was little chance of any big surprises on anyone's part.
I let the painting dry a few days and painted the edges of the gallery wrapped canvas, added a paper dust sheet and wire so the piece could be temporarily hung until the client had time to frame it. We discussed leaving the painting unframed, but it is a rather traditional looking portrait, so my feeling is that it could use a frame, the right frame of course. That will be the next adventure in the completion of this painting.
I hope this is helpful to anyone who takes on an assignment like this. Portraits are always a challenge and having a process to follow will be a great help to you I hope. Till then, happy painting! Stay in touch and let me know how you do!