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Commission Portrait Oil Painting Instruction- The Finish

Closing in on the finish, I have added another layer on almost everything. I out a rim of light on her hand on hip and arm. It’s subtle but you can see it.

I certainly lightened some shadows, added some highlights, and put a finishing touch on the background finally deciding to graduate it from light on top to dark on bottom. Once dry, I am ready to sign it.



On a commission portrait, probably the most important thing is attaining a likeness, and better yet, a flattering likeness. The artist and client have different concerns. I may be more concerned with the light and shadow patterns on the face, but the client may be more concerned with how the dress compliments her figure. Here a compromise was reached. I would have preferred different lighting on the face, but given all the other positive attributes of the image the client chose this because it was a beautiful flattering image, but it certainly was not easy to convey in paint. It was a huge challenge  but I think we succeeded. I usually like some shadow under the chin, nose  and in the eye sockets. If you notice in this portrait, because she was window side lit, the edge of the chin disappears into the neck with no shadow.

Upon completing the portrait,   I had the client come and view the painting. She loved it with the exception of a couple of small things. When painting a commission portrait, Im painting to please myself, but I also want to please the client.  After she pointed out a couple of issues she was concerned with ………. the lips, shadow under her nose, and an edge or two on the dress, I decided to correct them on the spot with the client watching. I really do not want to receive a checklist from the client and spend another week working on them and find out later that we miscommunicated.  What pleases me may not please the client and we may be back to square one. When addressing subtleties, there may be many ways to approach them and the finish can be very much up to individual taste.

I felt that maybe we had a better chance of straightening the issues out together in close cooperation. We discussed the pros and cons of making various changes and many were dropped. I touched the lips and nose shadow areas as well as one edge on the dress to her taste, and voila,  twenty minutes later she was happy, she loves it and she took it home!

It was a great experience. It was a huge challenge.  Although I’ve never had a baby because Im a man, it seems like it may be like giving birth. There were some frustrating moments as there are in all paintings, but we persevered. I did my absolute best, the clients really happy and it’s time to move on.

Keep in mind when viewing the pictures of the various progressions of the painting that there are variances in the photography. Meaning that the same painting image may look warmer , cooler, brighter or darker in the photograph posted when the painting hasn’t changed.

Thanks for visiting. Hope you enjoyed my ramblings.


Mark Lovett



24×32″ oil on linen