Custom Portraiture: process and time frame

The creative process is my spiritual practice.  It is my source of healing, courage, faith, communing with something larger than myself, and with custom commissions, it has been a humbling bonus to have it be my way to give back.  I love creating these special moments between you and your loved ones, for you and your loved ones.  Below you will find my process for a custom project and what to expect when you work with me.

1. Discovery: The Photo
Some people know exactly which photo they want to use.  Some people know they want a piece by me, but are totally overwhelmed by the prospect of choosing.  In all cases, I ask for at least 3 - 5 photos to choose from.  I do this for a variety of reasons.  The first reason is that although the client might have strong personal connections to a photograph, the photograph may not necessarily be an ideal candidate to translate into a drawing or painting.  Generally when I work from several photos, at least one of them will work compositionally. 

But the real reason is that, hokey as it sounds, the picture often chooses me, not the other way around.  There have been several times in which I would start out with a fabulous photo that I was totally pumped about, then it just won't work no matter how much I bang my head about it, then I'll on the fly I'd choose the next thing and it explodes with awesome.  The creative Gods are tricksy folk, and they like to mess with you (me).

Sometimes, I want to know more about the subject, or the person it's going to.  Sometimes I want to know nothing--the photo says it all and I'm rarin' to go.  Sometimes projects lean more into the design aspect of things, or will serve a specific purpose (I just did a portrait of a horse that was purposed for a pair of skis) which requires greater specificity and communication.  Each client and her needs are unique.  Each piece is unique.

2. The Specs and the Quote
After we choose a photo, the size of the piece and the desired medium (drawing, painting or print), I will give you a quote.  I ask you to confirm the use of the photograph (if it was taken by a professional photographer), draw up a service agreement, send you an invoice and upon receipt of your deposit, I head to work!

3. The Work
I  get a high quality print of your photo to work from and tack it up next to the paper or canvas.  But occasionally I will use a tablet or screen to view the photo.  If it's canvas, I carefully select thick, raw, high quality linen or cotton-linen blend, build the stretchers and stretch the canvas myself.  I then prime and sand the canvas, which can take several days to a week if I'm using oil ground as primer. When it comes to the real work, the drawing or color, I'm old school: no tracing or digitizing (unless the project specifically demands some design elements) everything is done by eye and hand (and brain and heart and spirit and prayer and giving up and giving over and being brave and losing it a little and then gaining it back).   

4. Review and Shipment
When the work is finished or near finished, I send you a photograph (un-retouched) of the work.  In rare cases, you might want a change here or there, but generally folks give the OK to ship.  In the rare case that you need major changes made, we can review and adjust the initial service agreement.  Upon receipt of the balance due on the piece, I carefully package the art, and ship it insured to the address you provide.  A warning: I sometimes have to cobble together the right elements to ship it safely, so it can look a bit like a Frankenstein box, but rest assured the work itself is safe and that's what matters.


Time frame for various projects
Below is a general, and very rough guideline of time frame for various projects:  Please note this time frame is from the point of transaction to when a photograph of the piece is sent to you (does not include shipping time, or however much time it takes for us to pick a photograph).

  • Black and White Drawing 1-3 weeks.
  • Color Painting in Acrylic (Small Format): 2 - 4 weeks
  • Color Painting in Acrylic (Large Format) 4 - 8 weeks
  • Color Painting in Oil (Small Format): 3 - 8 weeks
  • Color Painting in Oil (Large Format): 8 - 10 weeks
  • Print or Lino Cut (Small Format): 2 - 4 weeks
  • Print or Lino Cut (Large Format): 4 - 6 weeks


Questions? Contact me directly.