It is really important to choose the right artist because a portrait is not only a celebration of the person portrayed, it is also a laying down of heritage.
Most people commissioning portraits have little or no experience in the field so expert support is essential. The Royal Society of Portrait Painters best offers the support of consultants was well as a wide range of assured artists.
The quality of their work is assured because the portrait painters have been vetted by their peers. Our Members are elected to Membership on the strength of their portraits over a period of years by the whole Membership using a rigorous process. Those not yet elected, have been selected to exhibit alongside our Members at the prestigious annual exhibition at Mall Galleries.
Because choosing the right artist is so important, we offer a Portrait Consultancy Service not only to help you to select the right artist, but also to help you through the process. Our consultants are You can choose to contact us to book a face-to-face consultation at our Central London Offices, or to use email or telephone consultancy. There is no financial commitment until you book the first sitting with your chosen artist.
In order to get your eye in or, if you would prefer to choose an artist without advice, please see our Online Artist Finder.
To see some 200 recent portraits by over 100 artists in Central London at Mall Galleries please note that our annual exhibition will take place 4th -19th May 2017
How to commission a portrait
Creating a brief
The brief is a description of the sort of portrait you would like. It is helpful to have worked out as much as you easily can before starting your search. The information gathered will also be essential to help our Consultant to offer you an appropriate choice of artists
- Approximately how large you would like the portrait to be, bearing in mind that artists refer to canvas size
- An allowance of about 10 cms (4″) should be allowed all round for framing
- What sort of pose the organisation has in mind – head and shoulders, full length etc.
- The setting, a specific or imagined background or plain
- Any deadline for completion – this is often driven by the unveiling date but sometimes by the availability of the sitter.
- And lastly the ballpark figure for your budget
Choosing an Artist
Once you have a brief it is time to select your artist using the criteria in your brief. It is best to seek advice when choosing an artist as it is so important to chose the right one. Most portrait painters travel to their sitters. This means that their location is not so important. It is better to commission the right artist in the long run than to commission the artist that happens to live nearby or to be a friend of a friend.
Although the amount of information available can be overwhelming you will know whether you relate to an artist’s work almost instantly. This means that you can shortlist incredibly quickly. Once you have created a shortlist it is time to go into more detail, to get to know their body of work, their working methods and fee structure. Once you have identified a favourite artist it is time to get to know them.
Meeting the artist
Having identified an artist it is a good idea to meet to discuss the portrait in detail. This will give you the opportunity to make sure you get on and will give the artist enough information about background and context to provide you with a quote. Up until this point you will have been working with a price-guide as each portrait is different. Most portrait painters are happy to travel to their sitters, particularly if you have chosen to include a background. If the artist has to travel a long way, basic travel expenses should be covered for this meeting. The quote will be for the artist’s fee. Expenses such as travel, accommodation, framing and delivery are not included but should be discussed.
This is useful for establishing expectations and preventing problems due to misunderstandings. Many people are not aware, for example, that copyright belongs to the artist unless it, or part of it, is assigned to another person. A full contract tends to be disproportionately complex so most portraits are arranged on the basis on a written exchange setting out the basic parameters of the portrait such as the size, medium and content and any firm expectations such as the completion date.
Most portrait painters take a deposit once the first sitting has been booked, normally 1/3 or 50%, with the rest on completion.
Whilst 6-10 sittings of one an half hours to two hours is normal for a portrait artist working primarily from life, the use of photography means that some artists can work with a little as one or two sittings. The majority of portrait artists travel to their sitters, but to others the controlled lighting in their studios is too important to their work so the sitter will need to travel to the artist. Sittings are usually enjoyable and many friendships have been struck as a result of them.
Completion and framing
Once the work is finished, the artist will often show you a digital image for approval before the work is handed over. This can be with, or without the framing. Whilst framing is not included in their fee, portrait painters will often advise on framing and sometimes they will organise it as well.