40×38″ oil on linen
Just finished a new portrait painting commission for a Charlotte, NC family of three young children (brother and two sisters). The final, 40×38″ oil on linen canvas, painting surpassed all expectations. Creating this family portrait was a wonderful experience and I’m going to share it with you.
The father of three beautiful children was interested in surprising his wife with a portrait painting of their children which would hang proudly over the living room mantle. He found my website online while searching for portrait painters, liked what he saw, and gave me a call.
Children Portrait Painting Charlotte, NC | Case Study
We discussed his vision, the portrait painting commission process and pricing. Our initial challenges included 8 hours travel distance between us, and how can it be done without his wife’s knowledge to keep it a surprise.
It was important to the father not to cut any corners, so I needed to visit the family, conduct one or two photo sessions with the children, and help them with clothing, posing and scene setting choices. This was more then he wanted to handle alone so he decided to consult his wife. She was elated with the idea and took over from there.
Portrait Painting Commission Process
After a couple of phone conversations we made a plan, agreed on a price, and an approximate painting size. We put something in writing, received a deposit and scheduled a visit. I had a lot of conversations and emails with mom about colors, clothing, scenery, posing and backgrounds. I shared a dropbox of images of family portraits with her, and she shared with me her taste in portraits.
At this point, I had a real good idea of how to best approach the creation of the portrait, so I packed up my photography gear and jumped on a plane. After arriving, I spent a couple of afternoons with the wife and children, photographing various scenes, and came back to my studio with a large selection of great professional resource photos.
Portrait Artist Charlotte, NC | Photo Session
I digress. I arrived early to meet the family at one of the Charlotte,NC photo session locations. It was an unseasonably cold summer day. I was rightfully concerned that the children, dressed in their light summer clothes would be very uncomfortable outside.
I walked around outside on the mansion grounds, looking at the light and scenery, trying to decide where I wanted to set up a scene to photograph. Unfortunately, the place was crawling with dozens of photography workshop students carrying big reflectors creating chaos and making it difficult to work.
Luckily, I had already spent one afternoon with the family and had many good resource images. The day before I created portraits in their home using off camera flash, as well as outdoors with natural light. Outdoors at the mansion, I continued to search for the right spot …. then there it was, right in front of me. I was grateful that the photography class didnt see it.
Natural Light Portrait Resource Photos
I found a spot with natural, reflected light in the front, bouncing off the side of the mansion, a brick walkway leading into the scene and lit lanterns perched on column tops protruding from the foliage on either side in the back. The scene looked like something out of a Kinkade painting.
So I quickly did a few test shots to get my settings dialed in then went into the mansion, warm up, and wait for the family. Luckily, when they arrived, we ran out to this spot, and created portrait photos until the children got cold then came back inside to get warm. This was scene that the painting was created from.
Portrait Commission | Client Communication
It was particularly nice having the opportunity to get to know the family before creating the portrait. They are such a nice family and the children were a joy to work with.
After spending several hours culling through hundreds of images, I uploaded a photo gallery of my favorites and sent the family a link to the gallery. Over the span of a few days, the family narrowed it down to a handful of their favorite images. We discussed how we might be able to combine the best parts of the images, and detailed crops.
I cropped the images several different ways, and they decided on the crop and the exact size of the painting at this time. At this point, I knew everything I needed to know to get started creating the portrait painting.
Hand Stretching Fine Belgian Linen
The needed stretcher bars, as well as a roll of fine Belgian portrait linen just happened to be in my studio, so I spent the first day getting the support set up and stretching the canvas. I used Artfix L84C Extra Fine Linen — It cost about $2,000 for a roll. This is Artfix’s finest portrait canvas, with an exceptionally smooth and uniform surface that’s ideal for portrait and fine detail work. The canvas has a unique absorbency that allows paint to “bite” into the surface for permanent adhesion.
It’s quadruple-primed with oil primer for a surface that exhibits all the qualities of canvas prepared with a lead-based ground, but without the toxicity. For serious painters who insist on archival quality, Artfix is hand primed according to time-honored methods and features an exceptional quality, surface and luminous undertones. Artfix is made with the Finest Belgian linen, featuring the longest natural thread for a strong, flawless surface. Artfix is double sized for protection against oil paint, allowing uniform breathing which reduces paint film stress.
Portrait Painting – Keeping Focused
I like to stay focused on a project if possible, so I pretty much spent a good 6 hours or so every day for a month working on the painting. When completed, I emailed the family a photo of it, since they were a long distance away. I then hung it in my living room, and lit it, and just pondered it for a few days. A few days later, I spent another day making a couple of tweaks, then it was finished!
Portrait Painting Completed | Safe Packing & Shipping
Took another pic of the painting and sent it to the family. Put several coats of varnish on the painting allowing each coat to dry, and ordered a very special art box to pack it for shipping. So nice that the canvas is unframed so it’s more affordable to ship. Received the balance due, so fedex air shipping the painting to it’s new home!
Below: Painting, with a clear plastic protective sheet cover, in a custom foam padded art box ready to ship to it’s new home!
Whew!! That was a lot of work! It was a labor of love for really nice family. Now they have a special legacy that they will treasure for generations.
I made a quick video showing the stages of the painting from beginning to end, and added some of my guitar music in the background.