Commmission a Portrait

Why commission a portrait?

There are many reasons why someone might commission a portrait, either of themselves or of a loved one. Of course, presidents, governors, judges, etc., commission official portraits for public spaces all the time. This tradition is linked to centuries of portraits of important persons in history. But a painted or drawn portrait can be a precious possession and family heirloom no matter who you are. Portraits that are passed down through the generations spark interest in our families’ histories and give us a sense that we know someone who may have died before we were even born.

What does a portrait consist of?

It depends. There are powerful portraits that are only head and shoulders and others which include the entire figure in an elaborate environment. It’s completely up to you. If you’re not sure, don’t worry. We can discuss all of this at our first meeting. I’ll show you examples of portraits from the past as well as my own work, and if you’re not exactly sure what you want, we can figure it out together.

What is the process?

You’ll come to my studio here in Baltimore so I can meet you and we can discuss your expectations and address your questions. I’ll take photos in various positions to help you see the different options you have as far as point of view. If you have time, I might do a quick drawing at the first meeting to get acquainted with your expressions and to give you an idea of what I’m seeing in my mind. If the portrait is going to be complicated, I would then work up a compositional sketch to be presented for your approval.

At the next meeting, if we’re on the same page, I’ll begin to do a precise drawing. This will most likely take one or two sittings. It’s advantageous to have a good drawing because I can utilize it later as reference for the painting.

The remainder of our sittings will be devoted primarily to painting the face and neck area because I prefer to do those from life. Much of the rest of the portrait can be done at least partially from the drawing and photos. I always paint the background details without my sitter. After all, you don’t want to sit there while I’m painting a vase of flowers!

If I send you a photo, can you do a portrait from that?

No. It’s very difficult to do a painting from someone else’s photograph because a portrait painting is about much more than just a superficial likeness of someone. Artists always consider lighting, something most people don’t even think about when they present a photo and ask for a painting. I’m interested in creating a beautiful painting for you so I don’t want to compromise the process from the get go. Even artists who work primarily from photographs usually insist on taking their own photos.

Do I have to sit for my portrait or can some of the face be done without me?

Yes, you have to sit for your portrait if you want a wonderful result. And yes, if absolutely necessary, some of the face can be done without you.

Why do you prefer live sittings?

It’s simple. A portrait done from life can look alive. My artist’s statement says: “I love painting many different things, but the portrait has always been one of my favorite subjects. There’s nothing like watching a person’s personality unfold on his or her face as you draw or paint them. It is the small movements, such as the curl of the corner of the mouth or the eyes, that lend expression to the sitter, and observing those subtle changes makes the interaction between the artist and the model dynamic. If a snapshot captures a moment in time, the artist working from life has the opportunity to observe and document the inner person as it manifests itself over time.”

What if I simply don't have time? Can you work from photos?

The short answer is yes. But not completely. We would still need to meet at least 4 times, for a photo session, drawing session, and touch ups on the painting at the end.

If I do pose for my portrait, how long will it take?

If you’re up for posing for the whole thing, you should plan on coming here eight times. It could go faster but it probably won’t take longer. That’s for a full body portrait though. A head and shoulders portrait will take much less time. Perhaps 3 or 4 meetings, depending upon the length of each session.

Wow, that's a big investment of time! What will the experience be like?

Yes, it is a time investment so you have to have at least some expendable time. But if you think of it as a three hour block each week when you can leave everything behind and enter a different world, you might see it as an interesting and unique experience. In terms of time commitment, it can be similar to a class or lecture series that meets over an extended period.

We can listen to whatever you choose as you pose and I work. That means music, audiobooks, podcasts, etc. And I always make delicious herbal tea when people come to my studio.

Will posing be difficult?

I don’t think so. You will definitely have to sit still without talking for much of the time, but there will also be time for me to get to know you. Some conversation is beneficial to the outcome of the portrait. And you won’t be sitting for three solid hours! You’ll get lots of breaks and we’ll probably find the experience to be enhjoyable.

What about portraits of children?

I can tell you my experience doing a drawing commission of a brother and a sister, each about 7 years old at the time. First I drew the little girl and about 2 years later the parents contacted me to draw her little brother. They arrived at 9:30 a.m. and at 5:00 p.m. they walked away with a completed drawing! Now I won’t say it wasn’t a little different than working with an adult. Each time, one of the parents and the other sibling were present. They brought snacks and entertainment, both for the child posing and for the sibling. We took lots of breaks, listened to kids’ books on CD, and played with my hula hoop quite a bit. (Yes, I’m a very good hula-hooper.)  For me, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I think it was for the kids as well.

Having said all of this, I must tell you that these children were motivated. As in, they really wanted to do this. If a young child isn’t interested, working from life may not work that well. In that case, photographs would be the only option.

What will my portrait cost?

That depends upon the size and complexity of the painting. A head and shoulders without hands will cost about $2500 while a life size portrait in an environment will be more in the $10,000 range. Of course, other sizes and degrees of complexity will fall somewhere between those figures. It’s best to have a consultation to get an exact idea of what the price will be. One thing to remember is that if a painting is out of your price range, a highly finished charcoal or graphite drawing is a far more affordable option.


How can I arrange a first meeting?

Easy. Just call or email me ( or just click here...) and we can set something up. The first meeting is free of charge so there are no worries if you aren’t sure and then decide not to commission a portrait.