Below are 9 steps to guide looking for an artist to commission a portrait.
1. Look at an artist’s work. The listing should contain multiple images of the artist’s work, so that you can be sure the quality is consistent.
2. Plan well in advance. While some artists can do a pencil portrait in a couple of days, most professional artists have a number of other commissions he/she is working on. While a portrait artist can slip you between other commissions to meet a deadline, it is better if you commission the portrait at least a month in advance for pencil, pastel, watercolour, and acrylic portraits, or 3 months for oil portraits.
3. Beware oil paintings that are delivered in under 2 months. Oils normally take at least 2 months to dry and fast drying oils a month before they can be varnished. The varnish protects the oil paint from the atmosphere and is necessary for the longevity of your portrait. If the oil portrait is shipped unvarnished, you will need to take it to a reputable frame shop to be varnished which can cost £50+.
4. Beware of unstretched oil paintings. Not only do oil paintings have a tendency to crack when shipped rolled, getting one stretched can be difficult. Many framers will not do it and the ones that do will often charge £75+ for such a service.
5. Beware of the bargain portraits. As the saying goes: “You get what you pay for”. Portraits take time and materials to complete and the more skilled an artist is then the more you will be expected to pay. Occasionally, artists do list ridiculously low-priced portrait commissions either to generate new business or to fill out their portfolio, but this is the exception.
6. Beware the VERY photorealistic portrait. Thanks to computers, artists now can print a photo directly onto a canvas or watercolour paper and then add highlights. One problem with this ‘trick’ is that the inks will fade in 10-15 years and leave only the highlights bright and colourful. While a few artists will tell a client this is how the portrait is completed, many more will not.
7. Expect an approval scan. Before the artist ships the portrait to you, you should receive a scan to approve the final work. This way you can have the artist make minor corrections without having to ship it back to the artist.
8. Expect a guarantee. Portrait artists live and die by their reputations, so most will do what they can to please a client. In a few cases, this may mean redoing the portrait.