The choosing the right artist is the key to a successful commission.
It is best to seek advice when choosing an artist as it is so important to chose the right one..
You will see a lot of artist’s work whilst doing your research, but rest assured, you will know the right one when you see them. Choosing an artist that you respond to is quick and instinctive in the first instance. This means that you can work at speed to create a short list.
Reducing the short list is a slower process. Here you need to establish which elements are due to the artist and which the sitter, you will also need to have an idea of their fee level and method of working. 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.
Meeting the artist can be a good way of establishing the finer details but it is worth ensuring that you know as much as possible before investing your time.
Most people commissioning portraits have little or no experience in the field so expert support is essential. The Royal Society of Portrait Painters offers the support of consultants as well as a wide range of assured artists.
Our Members are rigorously selected by professional portrait painters who themselves have been elected by their peers to the Society. They are elected to Membership on the strength of their portraits over a period of years by the whole Membership. The emerging cohort is drawn from artists who 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. You can 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
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.