A portrait with a challenge..or two

Last year I was approached by someone who had previously commissioned work from me. The previous commission was challenging and I have to admit that I very nearly declined it but in the end I decided that rather than take the easy way out, I would attempt to rise to the challenge. Well, the same happened again this time around.

The challenge this time was to produce a portrait of my client but he wanted it to contain references to the following:

his love of reading

his love of gardening

his love of playing the ukulele

his love of travel, specifically Egypt and the pyramids, The Parthenon, castles and Norfolk beach (his family originate from the area).

I produced a number of ideas on how these elements might be included through preliminary sketches. We met at the client’s home and discussed the merits and issues of each idea. The sketches were left with the client to ruminate over. Further discussions ensued and a combination of ideas expressed through the sketches were agreed along with ideas borne through discussion.

Photographs were taken of the client sat side on to a rear window of his home to determine the pose and lighting. On examination of these photographs I realised that whilst I was happy with the lighting and the positioning of the sitter in relation to the light source, I was deeply unhappy with the pose.

A further meeting was arranged where I painted a quick sketch of the client using acrylic paint on canvas board (I prefer to work in oils but I did not want to leave his home reeking of linseed oil and turpentine!). More photographs were shot including two of his ukuleles. The painting was taken back to my studio where some additional reworking was performed.

I proceeded to arrange the composition using the photographs that I had taken but again was dissatisfied-this time with the arrangement of a cushion and a throw on the settee on which I had placed him.  We arranged another visit to his home to take more photographs with the offending cushion and throw removed. A return to digital manipulation of the photographs and the composition was finalised…or so I thought!

The board was prepared, the image drawn onto the board and paint finally applied. However, further small yet necessary changes were made throughout the process of painting this portrait in terms of composition and content. Eventually, the portrait was finished and the client visited my studio to collect it. As with all commissions there is a level of anxiety regarding whether the client will like the final work. Happily he does like it and the finished oil on board was taken away to be framed.

Portrait commission

I am so pleased that I accepted the challenge of painting this portrait , it certainly took me out of my comfort zone but then every work that I start seems to do that!