So, on the same night as the opening of “Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch, The Loneliness of the Soul” in Oslo, Tracey Emin was also exhibiting a painting at the Turner Contemporary Open, in Margate, alongside my painting “American Dreamer”.
I must admit to being very pleased with where they placed my painting. I can see why they did it; the splash of red in my work sits nicely next to Ms Emin’s piece. The whole exhibition has been cleverly arranged with similar decisions throughout. It was an aesthetically pleasing experience going from room to room, and I’d strongly recommend a visit.
An even nicer surprise was when Ms Emin left a nice comment on my Instagram post. It can be a hard slog being an artist. Lonely and largely unrewarding, with prolonged periods of rejection and dejection just briefly interspersed with the briefest glimmers of hope. So it’s nice when someone from the Artistic Aristocracy says something nice to you. Thank you Tracey.
I’m very pleased to have my portrait American Dreamer accepted for the Turner Contemporary Open exhibition, due to open in Margate this Autumn. I’ve been based in Kent for a couple of years now (if you count a year in lockdown), and I haven’t had the opportunity to show my work locally. And it’s very exciting to be involved in a “real world” show again, hopefully with real people milling about looking at the art.
The drawings and photos from this sitting date back to the long hot summer of 2013 ☀️ I remember the day well. It was so oppressively hot, my model felt quite unwell. There was a power cut just as I set up the studio lights, so I had to quickly relocate the sitting to near the window in my lounge. Maybe because of the unplanned nature of the sitting (they weren’t the poses I’d been planning on), I didn’t really bother looking at the material for a very long time.
I suppose it was the chaotic end to the Trump presidency that made me think again of that sitting years before, with a young model sporting a stars and stripes top. 2013 had been a period of relative calm and optimism: No cold war, divided nations, Capitol Hill riots, Brexit, Pandemic or Lockdown. Yes, 2013 seems like a different world. I am hoping, after what feels like a much darker and more challenging time, we may be heading towards a calmer, more hopeful future.
The Covid pandemic has been so very disruptive to my art practice, with commissions postponed, exhibitions cancelled, and my studio closed down for months.
But this particular commission was the exception, as it came my way because of the pandemic. A group of friends struggled to think of an interesting birthday present for their housemate, when all the usual “experience” gifts are somewhat limited with covid restrictions. So what better gift can you give someone than a commissioned portrait 🙂
That moment when I sit down with the sitter can often be quite nerve-racking. On the surface I try to appear professional and reasonably competent, whilst I’m anxiously searching for the most suitable lighting and appropriate poses, and trying to decide how best to describe this person, who normally I have only just met.
This particular sitting went very well. It was a wonderfully bright day and the first location we chose turned out to be ideal. The sitter was very easy to talk to, and I very quickly had a good idea of how I wanted to paint him.
If you’re interested in commissioning a portrait, feel free to contact me via the email address on the Contact page. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.
How do you commission a portrait? Well, having recently posted the short video above on Instagram, I thought a more in depth guide would be helpful.
Firstly, the most important thing is to find an artist whose work you like. I would suggest that factors such as the collectability and market value of an artist are less important when commissioning a portrait. You’re not looking for an investment, but instead want a sympathetic rendering of yourself or a loved one. You don’t need to go through a gallery or agent. If the artist has a website with a contact form or email address, or has a social media profile, then they will almost certainly welcome enquiries about commissions. Otherwise they will have something like “contact *** gallery for information”. Some artists may be happy to produce a painting from a photo you provide, but most serious portrait artists will want at least a short sitting, even if it’s just to work out the best pose for reference photos.
Once you start searching, you’ll probably be surprised by the wealth of artistic talent that’s hidden nearby. Open studio events, group shows, regional art competitions and art fairs are a great way to find local artists…., and of course, there’s always Instagram. Once you have a shortlist of artists that you might want to approach, you will have to give some thought to the type of portrait that you are looking for. Price will depend partly on size, but also complexity. For instance, two figures will take longer to paint than a single figure, and a plain background will be easier to paint than the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
The lighting and setting will depend on the subject. Harsh, directional lighting might add character while softer, flatter lighting is generally considered more flattering.
So you’ve decided that you want to commission a portrait. What do you want this painting to say about the sitter? Historically artists would include props to indicate the trade or position of the subject, but in present times people would probably not choose to be defined by their job, but would instead prefer to emphasize some other skills or attributes.
It’s quite popular to have a family group portrait, but bear in mind that for most artists it will add to the cost – two figures takes longer to paint than a single figure. And of course the chosen size of the painting will affect the price.
Artist are very often the targets for online scams. I receive far more phoney emails than I do legitimate enquiries. If you do choose to contact an artist about commissioning an artwork, it might help to include your contact details, or a link to your social media profile, just to help persuade the artist that you’re genuine.