Portrait Painters who use photography fall into two distinct groups:
those who have the ability to create a painted portrait when sittings can’t be arranged
and those whose creative process involves photography combined with face-to-face sittings.
Portraits Created from reference material
For a variety of reasons, it is not always possible to arrange sittings, but there are artists who can work from reference material supplied by the commissioner. One key photograph will often form the basis for the structure of these works, so this image would need to be nominated.
To help the artist create a work which has greater depth, they should be given supplementary information about their subject, such as additional photographs and/or film. The opportunity to speak with the sitter or with those close to the individual can also be helpful for a posthumous portrait.
Photography is also helpful in cases where opportunities for sittings are limited, or for portraits of children who find it difficult to stay still (see below left ‘Sophia’ by Simon Davis, and right ‘Anna’ by Mark Roscoe).
Portraits created using the artist’s own photography
For many artists, photography has become part of their creative practice. Simon Davis, for example takes his own photographs and pins a selection of them round his easel and Brendan Kelly will take as many as 400 images as part of his creative process. v
Choosing an artist
Because portraiture using photography is a special skill, and many portrait painters only work from life, it is best to seek the advice of a commissions consultant.
If the work is from reference, the consultant will share your key image with selected artists in order to ensure that they are able to work from the selected image, and so that you can be given quotes for the type of work you would like to commission.
The consultant will send you a portfolio of artist-options from which to choose. Once you have chosen an artist you can discuss the project, and confirm whether both parties are happy to proceed. At this point, and if you are happy, a deposit is taken.
The Royal Society of Portrait Painters offers one-to-one consultations with their Consultants, without obligation.
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