The Ultimate Romantic Anniversary Gift
Have you ever considered commissioning a masterpiece, portrait painting, based on photos from your wedding, and presenting it to your spouse as the ultimate, romantic, surprise, anniversary gift?
Well, if you’re like most people, the thought probably never crossed your mind, and if you ever had considered the prospect, once you found out the cost, you probably decided to buy an expensive piece of jewelry or take a trip to Italy instead!
However, if you are a special person who deeply values your spouse and wants to show your appreciation in a unique and personal manner, commissioning a portrait may be right for you. Perhaps your spouse already owns plenty of nice jewelry, you’ve shared many nice trips, and you’re looking for a more intimate and unique gift. Perhaps you can afford a trip and a painting as well!
Portrait Commission – the Gift that Keeps Giving
The joy from a masterpiece painting is the gift that keeps giving. Everyday that your spouse glances at the painting, a new well of appreciation for your thoughtfulness ignites, and continues for a many lifetimes.
Tom M. of Bethesda, MD is one of those special people who values his spouse deeply and came to us with this romantic idea. Tom wanted to surprise his wife, on their wedding anniversary, with a large oil portrait on canvas, of the two of them, dressed in their wedding attire, as they looked on their wedding day, several years ago.
To meet Tom’s objective, without his wife’s knowledge of course, we began browsing through their wedding photos to find the ideal resource images to inspire the work of art.
More Than Just Resource Photos
For many reasons, using photos as a resource for this painting is ideal, however, of course, I add my own artistic, creativity to the work, considerably raising the quality of the finished product far beyond that of merely copying a photo.
I had Tom email me access to several of his favorite photos from the wedding, then I chose a few that I thought would help make the best painting, and then sent them back to Tom. After narrowing the selection further to a couple of his favorite images, we discussed and agreed upon final cropping and size options, and I was ready to get started!
Oil paint doesn’t replicate ink from a photo, but rather takes on a unique look of it’s own which is only attained from masterful brushwork, by a highly skilled portrait artist, and oil paint, on fine linen canvas.
Initial Drawing on Canvas
We chose to make the work of art, 26×36″, using only the finest Artfix L84C Belgian linen, which was previously gessoed in oil four times, so the canvas is very smooth, stretched over the Simon Liu 13/16” X 1 ¾” stretcher bars. The stretcher bars are more expensive, and shipping is high, but the bars are thin and easy to frame, yet very sturdy.
Below is my initial drawing, laid out on the 26×36″ linen canvas, sitting on my Best Classic Santa Fe II, which was heavily inspired by the wedding day photos of the couple that we selected.
My drawing is intended to simply layout the elements rather than creating an elaborate drawing because it will soon be covered over with paint. A polished drawing at this stage would be a waste of time and energy.
Notice both people have big smiles and are looking directly at the viewer.
Generally, smiles with a lot of teeth are avoided in fine portraiture, however, making the client happy is priority number one.
Although big smiles are very challenging to paint, in this case it worked well because we captured their warm personalities.
Early, Ugly, Black & White Painting Stage
Embarrassing, early, ugly painting stage that no professional artist would show….except me! I decided to do my first layer of paint in black and white so I could focus only on light and dark (not color).
It’s hard to sleep at night when this is staring back at you on the easel. You gotta have faith that it’s going to work out in the end!
My purpose in showing this first stage of black and white paint is to show that 1) this painting is going to be a lot of freaking work! and 2) paint obliterates the under-drawing further supporting my point that a polished under-drawing is a waste of time!
Early, ugly color painting stage
Looking very scary as expected this early in the process. I prefer to work the whole canvas at the same level of development rather than focusing on a small area.
The price I pay for this process is that the entire canvas looks ugly for a while in the beginning. My goal at this stage is to quickly cover the canvas with a thin layer of color as close as possible (which can’t be very accurate yet).
A Mid-Process Painting Stage
The painting is taking shape now. This is about painting session seven.
The elements are in proper places, the values are close, the colors are close, the likenesses are very good.
When I get to this level in the process, I like to make checklists of things I want to do in the following session. For example, the highlights in her hair need to be darkened next time.
At this point, when looking at the work from a distance, it needs to look great, and it does. (except for her arm)
As we move in closer, we see the time consuming detail work that still needs to be done.
A Late Painting Stage
This is a late painting stage in the process. Everything is laid in correctly, and some elements, such as his tux, the veil, gown and bouquet have been finished to a high level.
The key to efficiency is not to do the finish work until the proper time. Otherwise it will have to be done again.
The subtle folds of the tux look really nice. Everything’s coming together. Her arm still needs work. Hair is looking really nice.
Her gown is an off white, and not supposed to be as light as his shirt. The flowers were taking a lot of direct sunlight. At this point, I was trying to determine how dramatic or subtle I wanted to express the light on their faces.
Nearing completion. You can see I brought her arm up. Warmed up the painting quite a bit. I spent quite a bit more time on the facial expressions, and teeth.
I can see that I got a little heavy with the light on the faces so next time I’ll correct that.
Signed it a little too early, but very close.
I could spend my whole life on a painting trying to make it perfect.
Perfection is an illusion. ‘Finish’ is determined by a number of things such as deadline and a desire to have a fresh attractive finish.
The fewer the layers, the better. Less is more. So to keep it fresh, I’ll only add another layer if I feel very strongly that it’s necessary and I can improve what exists.
I have accomplished what I set out to do …. excellent likenesses, captured their warm personalities, high realism with an abstract soft background.
It’s so nice to bring back the memory of the couple looking their best on that special wedding day!
Below is a picture of Tom’s wife, Sandy, standing in front of the framed and lit finished painting hanging in their Chevy Chase,MD home. I wish I could have been there to see the surprise on Sandy’s face when she received this gift!
When Tom came to my studio to pick up the finished portrait painting, my wife, Laurel, took a quick picture of Tom and me with the painting, as shown below.
In case you’re wondering… that’s a water fountain in the back.
“I was very nervous for a lot of reasons about the idea of a wedding portrait for our 10th anniversary. It would be a big investment for something that was very subjective and I had no idea if my wife would like it at all.
I was impressed by Mark’s work on the website and decided to begin working with him. I narrowed down the photo choices and consulted with a close friend to determine which one made the most sense. We didn’t have a photo without teeth/smiles, so that wasn’t an option. I have to say that it is shocking when you first see a portrait of yourselves and both Sandy and I felt that way.
Mark did an absolutely amazing job. Much better than many other things I have seen out there. A great combination of realism and incredible detail along with a more impressionistic background. It really grows on us every day and we feel more attached to it all the time – that’s a really good feeling.
I am so happy we chose Mark and thankful for the treasure that he has given our family. And he and his wife Laurel were terrific to work with and good people!”