Whether you intend for your portrait to be a gift or hung on your living room wall, you should give some thought to the photograph selection, to the medium, size, and paper color options, and to the style of execution. I will assist you in making those decisions if needed.
If possible, please create a selection of photographs of your subject or subjects in addition to the main one you have in mind for the portrait. Those additional pictures will be an important way for me to get more familiar with my subject. While digital photos emailed to me are far preferable for a number of reasons, prints may also be sent via registered mail--they will all be returned with your completed portrait.
After a picture is selected, as well as a medium, size, style and paper color, I will confirm the final price and we will agree on the specific date by which your portrait is to be completed. Once I receive a deposit for 50% of the commission fee the work begins.
I may at your request send you a picture update after the initial sketch is done, at half completion (charcoal portraits only) and again close to completion. The reason why I do not send pictures at half completion for pastel portraits is because they are worked in layers and showing you unfinished work is not going to tell you anything, and might cause you to worry instead.
As soon as the portrait is completed, I will send you a watermarked digital proof for review. You may approve it or request some touch-ups. If you are local to the San Diego area, I strongly encourage you to make an appointment to see the piece in person because an online version often has some measure of distortion or loss of color, contrast or brightness.
After you approve the final product and I receive the balance due (plus shipping and handling charges if applicable), your portrait will be shipped to you or made available for pick up.
Except for the preliminary pencil sketch and the very last stage of coloring, no good can come from your seeing the unfinished portrait! As you can tell here, a face isn't ready for viewing until it is nearly finished, and the need for touch-ups can only be determined then.
Here are some useful guidelines for making your selection among your existing photos or for taking suitable new ones.
A good photograph from which to paint a portrait is often a candid shot. Frontal poses where the subject smiles on cue and stares straight into the camera can work, but they are not always the best option: they may end up looking a little flat (especially if the picture was taken with a flash), expressions may seem contrived or lack natural energy, and over time you may get that uncomfortable feeling that "someone is watching you". It is generally best to capture the subject in a natural pose that reflects their personality; it is likely to yield the most endearing and familiar facial expressions.
Props can be a great addition to a half-body or full-body portrait. The hunter with his rifle, the home cook in the kitchen with a whisk and bowl, the toddler banging on a drum, or the gamer with a joystick are all great choices for a portrait that truly captures a tranche de vie ("slice of life") of the subject.
Lighting is also a significant factor in making a photograph suitable for a portrait. Whenever possible, take pictures outside in broad daylight for best results. Colors and features will be more true to life, and if the subject is not facing the sun directly the natural shadows cast on their face will add contrast and definition to their expression.
If you wish to have a multi-subject portrait composed from individual pictures, it is CRUCIAL that you select photographs where all subjects are lit from the same side.
Finally, resolution is critical. In order to achieve the great level of detail that makes a stunning portrait, I will usually need to digitally enlarge your picture. If the resolution is too low it will become blurry and pixelated, making my job much more difficult! A resolution of about 300 dpi is recommended.
Please refer to the charts at the end of this page for size availability depending on number of subjects. Even though some prices are posted for smaller multi-subject commissions, it is the chosen photograph that will determine whether a small-scale rendition is possible.
Depending on the original picture, multi-subject, half-body and full-body studies may not be possible on all paper sizes. For such studies and for portrait sizes smaller or larger than stated in the chart, please contact me for a case-by-case review.
I firmly believe that every family should have at least one professionally painted family heirloom portrait. The intimate nature of a group portrait is sure to evoke countless memories and trigger smiles for years to come.
However, some people like to create a wall collage with individual portraits, which works really well for a contemporary design in pencil and charcoal especially. Just remember to take each subject's pose into consideration, as some measure of variety will keep your display from looking contrived or awkward.
You can choose between a charcoal & chalk and a color pastel rendition. You can see some examples of each medium in the photo gallery. Take into consideration where the portrait will be displayed; it may help you decide whether the classic neutral yet contrasted look of charcoal or a timeless piece in vibrant and heart-warming pastel colors would be a better match for the surrounding decor.
As a rule of thumb, for charcoal work it is best to use fairly neutral medium colors like flannel gray, sky blue or ochre, which will become the mid-tones of the portrait. For color pastels, the world is your oyster--within the choices available for the desired size, and depending on your preference and the color palette of the original picture.
Consider the photograph, your decor, and whether a warm or cold, subtle or bold tone would be best suited. If you have a hard time choosing, I will gladly make some recommendations based on the original photograph and any information you may provide about the room where your portrait will be displayed.
Many companies offering portrait-from-photo services are upfront on their website about outsourcing orders to a large number of artists, while emphasizing the uniformly photo-realistic results. I once saw a caption above an oil paintings slide show that read something along the lines of "each original photograph is followed by the completed portrait. You often won't be able to tell the difference!"
I want to ask... what's the point, then? When you become set on merely reproducing an image, you lose the artistic touch that makes your piece unique and personal and it is almost guaranteed to have little more soul than a giant digitally altered print-out or a mass-produced paint-by-number piece.
I like to play with color and contrast to render facial expressions in a soft yet lively way, with some influence from mid-century classic illustrators. While I go with my own style by default, I will happily entertain suggestions, whether you are looking for something more impressionistic, naif or stylized.
Moreover, if you have an idea a bit "outside the box" (like a humorous "ancestor" portrait in sepia tones with robe and cup of tea, or your girlfriend as Wonder Woman in a comic book style) feel free to submit it!
Rush orders, when practically feasible, incur an additional fee of 30% of the commission price. Those orders are accepted on a case-by-case basis.
All portraits that cannot be picked up in person are mailed via USPS services with insurance.
Charcoal portraits are shipped in rolls, as they are less delicate than pastel work. The flat fee for shipping materials, postage and insurance is $20 (domestic) or $45 (international) for sizes 16x20 and under, and $30 (domestic) or $60 (international) for larger sizes. Note that your portrait will have to be unrolled, covered with the enclosed sheet of silk paper, and placed under a large flat object for about 24 hours in order to lie flat again.
Pastel portraits will be carefully "mock-matted" and sandwiched between sheets of foam board, and then secured inside a sturdy flat box with bunched up newspaper or packing peanuts.. Because safe shipping of pastel art requires tedious and careful preparation and lots of materials, the cost will be calculated for each individual order and supplied with your original quote. Be sure to remove only the sheet of foam board marked "top" to view your portrait so that it remains flat and protected until framing. Do not touch the surface of the painting or lay anything directly on it as it may smear.
If you would like to ensure adequate framing, you can email me for a pdf document about the proper process.
Commission rates(head study)
Please note that commission prices are for unframed work. Please request a custom quote for half body and full-body studies, and for portraits including more than 4 subjects.
Payment options: Paypal, cashier's check, money order. Cash payments accepted in person only.
8.00% local CA sales tax on the total commission fee will be added to the final invoice. Commission fee, sales tax, handling and shipping charges will all be listed separately.
Paper color charts (by size)
These are only a few of the many options available for small and medium portrait sizes. Full list available upon request.