How to Commission a Nude Portrait

nude portrait of woman
Nude portrait

Have you ever thought about commissioning a nude portrait painting?

I am often asked “Can you paint a nude portrait?”
The simple answer is yes. I don’t see much distinction between a nude portrait and a more conventional portrait. In fact, almost half the commissions I have worked on were for nude portraits.

artist drawing nude model in studio
artist drawing nude model in studio

The process

The preparations for both are much the same. Ideally I like to arrange an in-person sitting. This is probably more important than with a traditional portrait, because while you might have some perfectly good headshots that I could use as a reference for a painting, you’re unlikely to have suitable nude photos. If you’re uncomfortable posing nude, it sometimes helps to have a meeting first, where I can discuss the process and we can get to know each other, so that the actual sitting doesn’t feel so rushed.
During a sitting I make several drawings, trying to find a pose and lighting that is both complimentary and visually interesting. Once a pose has been selected, I will take a reference photo, and use that along with the drawings to create a painting.
I can have sittings in my studio, or am happy to travel to the client’s home. That’s often the best option, as the sitter is more likely to feel at ease in their home environment.

life model sitting next to life drawings
model sitting next to preparatory sketches

Can I paint your nude portrait from photos?

Yes, I can paint a nude portrait from photos you provide. I appreciate that it might be impractical to have in-person sittings, or you might just feel uncomfortable posing nude.
I can advise about taking new photos. Expensive cameras aren’t necessary. It is more important to avoid lens distortion and to get the correct lighting. Both are achievable with a good phone camera.

nude female model sitting on bed
An example of an unplanned pose that worked well – the model was just taking a break between poses

Getting the pose right

Just as with a traditional portrait, it is well worth the effort to try and get the pose right at the beginning, which is not always easy.
It often turns out that the best poses are not planned for, but can happen by chance. The light might fall on the body in a particular way; a fleeting expression might say more about you than a carefully prepared pose. This is why I like to ideally have a three hour sitting, to explore a variety of poses. If I am working from photos you provide, it’s best to send me a variety of photos, so that I can see a range of facial expressions.

male nude studies - two nude men sat on chairs
male nude studies

Why do you want a nude portrait?

The most important step is finding out what the sitter wants from the painting. Everyone has a different reason for commissioning a portrait – nude or conventional. Understanding why you want your likeness painted will help me decide how to paint you. I’ve heard as many different reasons as I have painted portraits. We are all unique in our own ways, and a portrait painting should try to reflect that.

woman on bed

Is a nude portrait the best way to boost your self-esteem?

Last year I was contacted by journalist/author Radhika Sanghani who was writing a feature on women who have commissioned naked portraits of themselves to celebrate their bodies. It was something she had personally done, and she was looking to be put in touch with women who had done the same. None of my customers wanted to be contacted (possibly because the story was destined for the Daily Mail), but Radhika managed to finish her article without my help, and you can read it here: Is a nude portrait the best way to boost self esteem
I found it particularly interesting reading three different stories for why people had commissioned a nude portrait of themself.

Faceless portraits

traditional liferoom poses of the model's back

A popular pose is the traditional life room pose of the model’s back, as shown above. It’s the pose I will suggest if I suspect the model is at all uncomfortable posing nude.
I did paint a short series of headless nudes, as part of a project called Unnamed Portraits. It is also an option that you might want to consider for your own painting, if you prefer to maintain some anonymity in the finished painting.

artist standing next to two paintings of headless nude portraits

How much will a nude portrait cost?

Prices depend mainly on size of canvas and also how complex the background is.
A 40cm x 60cm full figure nude portrait in oil on canvas will cost from £600
A 60cm x 80cm full figure nude portrait in oil on canvas will cost from £750.
Prices do not include delivery, framing or my travel expenses if I have to travel outside of London or East Sussex for the sitting.

a typical nude portrait of nude woman asleep on bed
60cm x 80cm nude portrait in oil on canvas

Endless Possibilities

The most exciting thing about painting portraits is also the most daunting thing: there are such endless possibilities for how to paint someone. The background is also an important factor. You can be painted sitting in the familiar surroundings of your favourite room, or you can be transported onto a beach or some dramatic landscape.
It might help looking at examples of nude portraits, by myself and other artists (photos or paintings), just to get some ideas.

If you are thinking about commissioning a nude portrait, feel free to contact me with any questions. I am always happy to chat, with no obligation. Embarking on a portrait commission is a collaborative exercise between the artist and the sitter. It should be both rewarding and enjoyable, and can be more affordable than you expect.

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