Portrait Commissions - My Journey.
People love portraits - portraits of themselves with their significant other - portraits of their children - portraits of their family members - portraits of their pets and even house portraits. To be asked to draw/paint a special portrait is always an honour.
Years ago, I offered portraits by commission (including house portraits). They were always from photographs that were usually supplied by the client. In most occasions, the portrait was to be a surprise gift for the portrayed person/persons. When a portrait was being commissioned as a gift, I would ask if it was possible for me to sight the people - at work or other place they may frequent. It is always easier to capture a person's personality if you can actually watch the person for awhile. (and, no, not be a peeping tom). Failing that, I would ask as many questions as possible to get a feeling of 'knowing' the people.
One surprise, portrait drawing featured nine people. The only person I was able to see was the person commissioning the drawing. The biggest challenge was making a family composite from a heap of individual photos of varying sizes. Then, the main questions centred around how big each person was in comparison to each other person - such fun. Thankfully, the portrait was successful and the client was amazed at how I had captured each person's personality - phew!
On a couple of occasions, the portraits were of children. One was commissioned by the father of the children and the other by the grandmother of the children. With each portrait I was invited to interact with the children which gave me the opportunity to observe their unique personalities, take notes and make thumbnail sketches as well as taking my own photos while the children played and posed. I really enjoyed these commissions and the clients loved the resulting portraits.
Two portraits were done by me as surprise gifts for very good friends who had helped us in some way. While the commissioned portraits were charcoal, pencil or watercolour and pen, these portraits were an oil painting and a pastel painting. One of these friends commissioned me to do a house portrait of their much loved house when they decided to sell and shift to another town.
Around that same time I received commissions for a couple of other house portraits. One of these portraits was of house that was going to be shifted to a block on the outskirts of town. The portrait was to be of the relocated house with redesigned front stairs, a semi-circular addition to the verandah and a specially designed garden - the portrait to be completed BEFORE the relocation. Now, that was a challenge and thankfully, successful.
A special, charcoal portrait hangs on my office wall above my computer screen. It is of my much loved grandmother, Mumma, who always encouraged my arts practice. Mumma left this world in 1999, aged 87, and I miss her so much. In my teenage years, Mumma took me along to the Bundaberg Art Society monthly art sessions whenever she attended over a period of 2 years. They regularly had life drawing sessions which I thoroughly enjoyed.
From the time I started high school, I always surprised myself at my ability to draw real people from life and not just the cute, big eyed 'moppets' that were all the rage with teenage girls (me included). Portraits featured regularly in my school art portfolios as well as among my out-of-school drawings. They also featured on and in my school lecture pads - completed during school hours, much to the annoyance of my teachers. Sometimes, they were drawings of the teacher.
I went to school at a time when you were extremely lucky to have a trained art teacher. Most art teachers specialised in maths, science or English with art being a secondary subject for them. These days, high schools usually have the services of specialist art teachers to guide the art students to produce art of a very high standard.
When I married, I drew my children, my husband, our dog and myself. Self portraits featured regularly from my teenage years. I was always the most willing sitter. For a short while, I attended the Flying Arts School sessions in Bundaberg (mid 1970s). During these session I would draw the other participants which gave me a bit more practice outside of my family. All the portraits undertaken during these early years were from life.
While I continued to draw portraits for fun, I never considered taking commissions until I was in my 40s. By then I felt more confident with my abilities and also with dealing with people on a commercial basis. Once I started taking commissions, I felt completely in my element. I really enjoyed the work. Then, when I was 53 my husband died suddenly and I lost my desire to do portraits. I continued with other artwork but somehow couldn't handle portraits. Even after finding a new partner and eventually re-marrying, I still didn't want to do portrait commissions. In 2013, I did a portrait of my tutor and his son, for a unit of my fine art degree but it wasn't until I accepted a commission for a dog portrait in 2016 that my love of portraiture was fully re- ignited.
I decided to do some practice drawings of family members and then accepted a commission for a charcoal portrait of a friend's husband (as a surprise gift for her husband). Another friend commissioned a house portrait. Having developed a love for digital work during my degree, I even made a practice, digital self portrait. While I still need to get some practice on painted portraits, my confidence has returned and I am ready to once again offer portrait commissions. I am happy to take commissions for people portraits, pet portraits and house portraits. Now, I just need to broadcast this far and wide - and somehow fit portraits into my busy schedule.
Until next time,
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I have had a lifetime passion for drawing and painting. Realistic with an impressionistic touch is an apt description for my work.
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