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What do I need to know before selecting an artist?

Brush Strokes

–  Portrait artists paint in different styles ranging from abstract to high realism. You’ll see portrait paintings where brush strokes are almost invisible, and other paintings with very thick blobs of paint. I like thick blobs of paint on the surface occasionally, but not on the tip of the nose!

My friend, Howard Behrens, was famous for painting with palette knives which looked great in his Mediterranean architecture scenes, however I have yet to see this style of paint application used in a pleasing manner when painting the subtle human form.


– Also, some artists will paint with highly saturated, over-the-top color, and other artists prefer a more subdued, harmonious color palette.

It’s important to look carefully at the work of various artists and decide what suits your taste the best.

Real | Abstract

– I strive for high realism in the faces and bodies of my portrait subjects. For me, the likeness must be dead on. If I walk in a room and I see a real live person looking back at me (in my painting), I get a thrill.  It’s quite a worthy challenge.


– However, I want my work to look like a beautiful painting, not a stiff photo, so I like to have fun and get creative with fabrics, backgrounds, and other supportive elements. I love movement and avoid the stiff and boring.


– I express my feelings creatively in my art, with some abstract elements, but I prefer realistic subjects. Sometimes I push the color in faces a bit, but I’m not going for the ‘Chuck Close’,  ‘Van Gogh’ or ‘Picasso’ look.

Other ‘Artist For Hire’ Considerations

If you love the artists work, and the price range fits your budget, contact the artist, describe your vision, and determine if you are a good match.

How does the commission process work?

Artists can over-complicate things!  So I prefer to keep the process as simple as possible.

Step 1 – Scope Discussion

Give us a call and let’s discuss your budget,  and your vision  ie… formal, informal, mood, setting, clothing, size, number of people etc.

Next, if we can agree on a price, the details, put something in writing, take a deposit, I can get started! However, if possible, I prefer to do the photo session in the next step.

Step 2 – Photo Session

Before locking in details, purchase a professional photo session with me.  Having a number of amazing professional portrait photos to use a tool is a huge plus.

Communication before, during and after the photo session allows us to hone in on the details for the painting project.

I always offer my assistance in choosing the setting, wardrobe, pose, and lighting for the subject of the painting.

It is not only how I paint on canvas that makes me an artist. It’s how I see, arrange, compose, and “feel about the subject” that are of equal importance.

I work carefully with you to ensure that your painting will be a true, classic portrait, that captures the likeness as well as the spirit of the subject.

If it’s not possible for us to do a professional photography session, I’ll consider working from your high quality photos.

Portrait sittings are welcomed if the portrait subject(s) desires to do so.

Step 3 – Finalize Portrait Details | Price

Using our resource photos as a tool, we can experiment with different crops, and arrive at a size, and price, put something in writing, take a deposit, and get started!

I do preliminary sketches, color studies, and I hand stretch all my canvases on the finest quality Belgian linen.

My price for a completed portrait painting usually falls between $5,000 and $50,000 depending on the complexity of the work.

My professional portrait photo sessions cost about $500, if local, depending on what we’re doing.

Step 4 – Completion & Delivery

Upon completion of the painting (usually 2 weeks to 3 months depending on complexity),  balance is due in full prior to shipping. Your unframed portrait can be shipped, delivered, or picked up at our studio. Shipping or delivery cost is responsibility of client.

What should I expect to spend on my commissioned portrait?

$5,000 to $50,000


Should the portrait painting include a frame?

Frames are not included for several reasons. First, on medium and large paintings, frames increase shipping expense tremendously. Second, frames are a personal style choice that should take into consideration home decor and are best left to the client.

Can you paint from a photograph?

Yes of course. I can use high, quality photographs as resources for the painting. I don’t try and paint an exact copy of photos, rather I can use them as inspiration …..  a valuable tool, to create the work.

I’m a professional photographer so I prefer to do a photo session and create my own resource images.

What kind of photographs make the best painting?

A variety of high quality professional photographs are the best resources for a painting.

What are the smallest and largest sizes you paint?

11×14 to 36×72″

How long will it take to finish my painting?

I usually need 2 weeks to 3 months to complete the painting depending on complexity, paint dry times, and time availability.

How much does a commissioned painting cost?

Artists can be expensive or inexpensive depending on many factors. Key factors are fame, skill, experience, cost of materials, complexity of project.

An artist can be famous, and suck, and you’ll spend a fortune.

Or an artist can be really good, highly skilled, very experienced, and not-famous (like me :), and you’ll pay a very reasonable, middle of the road price for a very, high quality work of art.

Lastly, you can find an un-famous, low experience, low skilled artist, who will paint a portrait for a sandwich!

Hiring a portrait artist is kind of like hiring a band for party. You can get Elton John for $2.5 million, or Bonnie Raitt for $80k, or a really hot un-famous 10 piece wedding band for $15k, or a good local bar band for $1k, or the neighborhood garage band to play for beer!

For Mark E. Lovett, you’ll pay from $5,000 to $50,000. Some projects take hundreds of hours!

Portrait Commission Agreement Considerations

Put Agreement In Writing – Today, emails function perfectly well.

Items that should be addressed in the agreement:

  • Your name and the artist’s name
  • Date of the agreement
  • Portrait Painting Project Description
  • Completion Date
  • Cost break down  (shipping, tax etc)
  • How and when payment should be rendered

Revisions – Milestones?  Progress Check?  Feedback?  Changes?

Client changes is a very personal topic that each portrait artist will handle differently. I’ll tell you how I feel about this topic.

If the client loves my work, the client is going to love my work!

Really simply, I work very hard to get the details nailed down BEFORE I start, so I know we’re on the same page.

We’ll narrow it down to one or two resource photos, we’ll decide on a crop and size,  a completion date, and any other pertinent details, then we’re good to go.

I’m going to work extremely hard, and give it 110% effort because I want the end result to be a masterpiece, and for you, and me, to absolutely love it!

Upon completion, the client is welcome to view it before final payment, and if you don’t love it (which never happens!) I’ll make one revision to try my best to please you. Then I’m done. That’s it.

Revisions are a normal part of my creative process, but only one revision, if needed at the end, includes the client.  Very rarely do I ever make a revision for the client.

An oil painting can lose it’s fresh, beautiful feel if over-worked. More painting and revisions doesn’t always mean ‘improvement’.  An oil painting isn’t like a photoshop psd file where, if you dont like yesterday’s revision,  you can go back to a previous layer.

I don’t expect the client to know when enough is enough. It’s my job to know when it’s time to stop, not the client’s job. Often, less is more when it comes to a painting, and I’ll know when it’s time to put the brushes down.


From the moment something is fixed in a medium (be it a canvas, on a piece of paper, in a photograph, or in a digital file), it is copyrighted to the artist who created it.

Are you only purchasing the original, with the intent to hang it on your wall? In that case  the artist can make prints from a digital copy of it, use it in their portfolio or license a digital copy of the image out.