The first stage is to establish the parameters of the work; who is to be in it, whether a background is to be included, how large the work is to be, which medium and an idea of how much you would be prepared to spend. (Please be aware that, when discussing size, artists think about the canvas or paper size whereas you will be thinking about the overall size which includes the frame).
Armed with this information you can then embark in choosing an artist. This decision is key to the success of the portrait so it is important that you get it right. Research is essential. The research element should educate you as to what choice of artist would be within your budget, their style, your taste, their location and availability. You will soon develop an instinct for the art that appeals to you, and it is this instinct that should guide you to the right artist at the final stage.
Quality is hard to assess online so a short list of no more than three artists should be made with a view to visiting your preferred artist. If you try to visit all three you will find the process so time-consuming that you are likely to be daunted by it. (The other two artists are there as a back-up just in case your first choice does not work out).
Once you are sure about the artist it is time to book the first sitting, and it is only at this point that you become committed and that a deposit is often paid. The deposit not only helps with the artist’s cashflow but also demonstrates your commitment to the process.
Very often a portrait painter will travel to their sitter. The number of sittings depends on the artist’s working practice. These are relaxing and enjoyable experiences and many friendships have been formed between artist and sitter.