A great portrait transcends time and fashion. It should capture not only the likeness but also the spirit of the subject. It must be a fine painting, worthy of its subject and meritorious in its own right as a work of art. In my paintings, capturing the individual and creating enduring art are synonymous goals.
People change; paintings stay the same. The primary challenge in portraiture is to capture the likeness of my subjects. When the subject no longer looks like the painting, which happens quickly with children, I want the painting itself to remind the viewer of the time, place and circumstance in which it was created. So, I take the extra time and effort to go to a client’s own home or other meaningful setting to do preliminary drawings and photographs upon which the painting will be based. Without detracting from the importance of the subject, I pay attention to spaces, settings and objects which add to the essence of the person. It is important for me to get to know who I paint and for them to feel comfortable with me.
1. Initial meeting with the client to show examples of completed portraits and to explain how I work with the client and the subject.
2. Become acquainted with the subject through informal meetings and conversations to observe body movements, personality, distinguishing characteristics.
3. Meet, in the client’s home or wherever the portrait setting will be, to discuss ideas for format, pose, size, ambiance of the painting, clothing, etc.
4. Drawing and photo session with the subject for 2 to 4 hours. The subject poses, at this time, for detailed drawings for later reference.
5. In my studio, I make 2 to 4 compositional drawings based on the photos. These drawings are shown or sent to the client, who then chooses one drawing upon which to base the painting. I encourage the client to make suggestions for changes in the composition.
6. I make a small color sketch as a basis for the painting. This oil sketch in intended as color reference for the portrait, not as a likeness of the subject. If a client chooses to purchase the color sketch, I will develop it further.
7. The portrait is painted on hand stretched linen over wood supports. The client is encouraged to view the painting at any stage of progress if they live in the vicinity; otherwise, I send color photos of the portrait at several stages.
8. I encourage live sittings in my studio—one to three or four, according to subject’s time and schedule. If travel to St. Louis for these sittings is not convenient or possible for the client, the painting can be completed using the photographs as reference. Photos of the painting in progress can be sent to the client for input.
9. Time frame for completion of the portrait—two to four months
10. Payment schedule as follows: 25%when a contract is signed; 25% when compositional drawing is decided upon; 50% when the painting is completed to the satisfaction of the client and the artist.
Because I keep the client involved with the choices and progress of the painting and encourage live sittings, there are usually only small changes to be done before the portrait is accepted. I let a client know if I feel that a painting is in danger of being overworked.