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  • lucyemcelroy

How to commission a portrait

Commissioning a portrait is a fun and exciting thing to do and surprisingly easy these days because there are so many fantastic artists to be found on the internet. While a google search will give you some suggestions, Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest will provide you with loads more options, try hashtag #portraitcommission or #portraitartist as a starting point.

The important thing is to choose an artist whose style you love, you might prefer a very detailed portrait or a looser more expressive/sketchy one. It's never a good idea to ask an artist to try to change their style, a few are able to do it but for most it's very difficult, after all artistic style is a very personal thing and has often taken years to develop. If you like the work an artist has already made, chances are you will like what they make for you. You can see more examples of my portraits here.

Once you have found an artist you like you need to find out whether they take commissions and what they charge. Some artists have clear pricing options on their website, others don't advertise this part of their practice but might take a few commissions alongside their other projects, so it's always worth getting in touch to find out.

Prices for portraits vary greatly. Artists will price their work to reflect the time it takes them to make and the demand for it. So popular, established, experienced artists charge more than emerging artists. It's important to remember that portraiture is a technical skill which takes years to perfect, (the best portrait artists are doing far more than just meticulously copying a photograph) so you are also paying for years of practice and training. You should expect to pay per person being drawn or painted, so a double portrait will cost the same as two individual portraits. Larger pieces or images that include more of the figure will cost more because they will take longer to make. Some artists will offer drawn portraits as well as paintings and these are often considerably cheaper because a drawing is much quicker to make.

You can see my prices here . I offer options to suit a wide range of budgets, a small pencil portrait costs a fifth of the price of a full figure oil painting.

Another factor that will determine an artist's prices is their working process. Some artists work exclusively from live sittings while others work just from photos. Those who prefer live sittings do so because they feel they are able to get a truer likeness of their subject but this often pushes the price up and can be limiting in term of location. I am able to, and have, made many successful portraits of people I have never met, purely from photos. However, I definitely get a better result if have had the opportunity to meet my subjects. This is the reason, whenever possible, I arrange a photoshoot with my subjects where I can take loads of photos. I then find, whichever photo we choose for the final portrait, that my visual memory of the real person influences the piece, almost at a subconscious level and helps me to make the person come alive on the paper or canvas.

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