My approach to a commissioned portrait

A portrait commission needs to be considered as a joint project of the artist and the sitter, with the objective of meeting the expectations of the client (possibly the sitter, but often a relative, company or institute).

I vary my approach considerably and I am prepared to be flexible to meet the requirements of the client. For example, an institute may specify very precise requirements regarding size, format, dress, etc. in order for compatibility with other portraits. Nevertheless, even within tight specifications, my aim is not solely to achieve a satisfactory likeness, but to produce a good painting in terms of composition, colour harmonies and tonal balance.

Painting from life or photographs

Gradually, over many years, I have moved away from painting almost exclusively from life, an approach which demands a significant amount of the subject`s time. Currently, I would usually paint from photographic reference which I would take. For this approach, a meeting of 2 to 4 hours (dependent on the complexity of the portrait) is usually sufficient to take and agree the necessary reference image/s. Initially, various locations/settings/backgrounds in the subject`s house/office/institution would be tested for suitability and lighting. Once the best setting has been agreed, several compositional arrangements/poses, with the possible inclusion of items of personal significance, would be tested and the best composition agreed. Finally, details such as expressions and say hand positions would be refined and agreed.

Sometimes a client wishes to commission a portrait based on a specific photographic image/s  that they can provide - necessarily the approach for posthumous portraits. This is fine, with the proviso that the reference photo is suitable in terms of lighting, preferably directional to define forms, and of sufficiently high resolution to enable observation of the necessary detail.


This can be at a location determined by the client/subject or at my studio in Milton Keynes. The majority of clients/subjects wish to be portrayed in their own surroundings. A key issue I would stress is lighting. Wherever possible, natural lighting, but not direct sunlight, is preferable - light from a window/s facing in a northerly direction is ideal. Artificial lighting tends to give a warm cast and the cooler colours in the subject are lost.

Understanding Requirements

Following an enquiry, a telephone conversation can quickly clarify the requirements for commissioning a portrait painting, these include:

  • Family/Business/Official Portrait
  • Setting/Location
  • Clothing
  • Lighting
  • Size (Head and Shoulders to Full Length)
  • Background
  • Location for finished artwork (Where it will hang)
  • Time availability of the sitter

From this information, I will then be able to let you know a proposed approach, timescale and price. For a complex portrait, an initial meeting may be necessary to clarify requirements. I am available to work anywhere in the UK.

Get a Price

You can contact me directly by either calling 01908 605055 or by emailing [email protected].

Your web browser is out of date.

Update your browser for better security, speed and to get the best experience on this website.

Update your browser