How to commission a portrait

Commissioning a portrait is not complicated, but there are a number of steps to go through. Click below for a comprehensive step-by-step guide to commissioning a portrait.

1. Decide on a size and price

Please refer to “Prices at a glance”:/archives/2005/07/19/price-list/ for an idea on prices for various sizes of portrait.
Single mounting for traditional portraits is included in the price. The default width of mount is 1/3 the smallest width of the actual portrait, other widths can be arranged prior to the mounting.
Please take the mount into consideration when deciding on the size of your portrait, as the overall width will be 1 2/3 x the width of the original commission.
If you require double mounting please add £2.

I prefer to paint individual portraits as group portraits can look crowded, but I am happy to paint group portraits if that is what you have in mind.

2. Contact me to discuss specifics and send me a 20% deposit

Once you have a rough idea of what you want we will discuss everything invloved to ensure you get exactly the portrait you want. You can contact me by “email”:mailto:mim@arotau.com or phone (07775 940 445). We shall also agree a price, which will include a non-refundable deposit of 20%, payable before the painting process starts, in the form of a cheque to Miriam Drake.

3. Sittings or photographs
I prefer to meet my subject in person in order to have an informal sitting and get a feel for the subject’s personality and add this essential spark of life to the portrait. I am able to travel within zones 1-4 of London, but if you live outside this area and you would love to have a sitting, this can be arranged at the extra cost of travel expenses.

The sitting can be at your own home or place of business so as to minimize your own efforts. During the sitting I will take preliminary sketches as well as taking a number of digital photographs, so that the work can continue without inconvenience to you.

If, however, a sitting is not convenient for you (or if it would be impossible, e.g. for posthumous or surprise gift portraits), I am happy to work from your photographs. However care needs to be taken in choosing or taking an appropriate photograph, as what makes a good photograph does not necessarily make a good painted or drawn portrait:

Pose – We tend to treasure photographs of hugely smiley faces looking directly at the camera, but believe me, this makes a naff portrait reminiscent of the visual delights of the 70’s! The subject should be looking slightly off to the side, but not full profile, and the face should be as relaxed and natural as possible. This does not mean that smiles are not allowed, they most certainly are, but the subject should not look like a plastic person from a magazine. The eyes can be looking diectly at the camera, but this is really an issue of what you would like most for your particular portrait.

Light – If the subject is anything like me, he or she will like photographs to be bleached out with a flash so as not to show all the imperfections. The bleached flash effect can look great with contemporary portraits and may be a good option if the subject is particularly self-conscious, however, in normal cases it will create a flat and lifeless portrait. Natural light coming from straight behind the camera or from where the subject is looking is best so as to light up the main features and give good shadows. The light should not be coming from behind the subject, nor should it be reflected light coming from everywhere as this will make the image very flat. Shadows are good, they give depth, but only in contrast to light so make sure the whole face isn’t in shadow.

4. I will create your portrait

Once suitable photographs have been obtained, the painting of your portrait should take 1-3 weeks depending on workload.

5. I will send you a small copy of the portrait

When your portrait is finished a small print will be forwarded to you for preview. If you are happy with the portrait we shall proceed to the next step. Adjustments can be made, but provided the portrait follows what was originally agreed I will not re-do a whole portrait (for example, if you change your mind about the specifics or pose once you have seen it). You can at this stage decide that you do not want the portrait, which will mean no further cost to you, though as stated above the deposit is non-refundable and the painting shall remain mine.

6. Mounting and framing
Traditional portraits come with a single mount included. Additional mounts come at £2 extra each. We can discuss and agree mount colours at this stage. The mounts will be cut for your particular portrait and so you will be charged for changing your mind after the mounts have been cut.

For traditional and contemporary portraits, I can arrange professional framing at the extra cost of the frame. Prices of frames depend on the width and material you require. I shall agree with you the style and price of the frame before the framing process. Again, a change of mind will be at extra cost to you.
A frame will also increase your postage and packing, which we will agree on beforehand.

7.You pay the remaining balance
If you are happy with the portrait then you pay the remaining balance of the agreed price.

8. I will send you the completed portrait
The original portrait will be wrapped in bubble wrap and placed in a sturdy cardboard box then delivered safely and securely to you via Royal Mail Special Delivery ‘Next Day’ (for insurance purposes).

The whole process should take no longer that 4 weeks max, from step 2 to 8 (5 if you want it framed) or from step 4 to 8 if you are sending your own photographs.

Should you need the portrait for a specific date (such as a birthday or anniversary), this can be arranged.