Portrait Painting Commission: “Navy Corpsman in Uniform”

february-portrait-painting-commission-corpsmanI have been doing portrait painting commission work for about five years now. In that time I’ve read a lot about how to plan and paint portraits, and I’ve studied with several well known and highly regarded oil painting instructors. Almost without exception their expert advice has been:

  1. ALWAYS work from a live model.
  2. If you must work from a photo, TAKE IT YOURSELF — using 3/4 lighting which produces the most useful shadows.
  3. If you must work from someone else’s photo, DO NOT attempt to use a photo taken with a flash (no shadows).
  4. Be prepared for customers who are unhappy with everything you produce. In fact, FORGET about portrait painting COMMISSIONS — It’s impossible to please people!
  5. And most recently: “You are not ready for anything more complex than a single pear, because you are not ‘holding the tone’. Certainly NO PORTRAITS.”

Fortunately I am pretty adept at ignoring all this advice whenever someone has a compelling “story” and gives me a new portrait painting commission!

A Few Portrait Painting Challenges

We’re about to move my art studio to its new location in our nearly-finished remodeled house across the lake. So this portrait painting commission popped into my studio at the most tumultuous moment! Here I was, packing up my paint, canvasses, easel and brushes, and designing my new studio space; and this very sweet man called to say he wanted a portrait of himself. But my client’s story was so irresistible, I couldn’t say “no”.

He had been a Navy corpsman, but all his photos of himself in uniform were lost in a house fire. His 13 year old son is fascinated with his father’s military service, partly due to the new movie “American Sniper”. So my client gave me a photo of a fellow corpsman in his dress whites — along with a group photo of him at a wedding (with his image less than an inch tall). Naturally he wanted to know if I could put it all together and complete the portrait painting commission in time for his son’s birthday!

Well sure! No problem!

My Last Portrait Painting Commission this Month!

So I went to my computer, copied and enlarged images, sketched and cropped and faked some shadows, and sketched some more. Finally I had a combination that was believable! I broke out my paints and blocked out ALL the portrait painting ADVICE I had been given.

Well, that picture practically painted itself! Before I knew it, there was a determined “fresh-faced” young corpsman staring back at me! I was thrilled and — best of all — so was my client! He says it looks very much like his original lost photograph. Hooray!

He was so happy with the result, he gave me another portrait painting commission right on the spot. Fortunately I’ll be able to wait until I’m in my new studio before starting on that one.

Raspberries to the experts! That was one exhilarating ride!


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7 Christmas Gift Portrait Paintings


Secret Christmas Gift Portrait Paintings — Revealed At Last!

Well, now that the big day has come and gone, it is time for me to show you what I’ve been frantically working on for the last two months. In November and early December I received a total of SEVEN commissions to do Christmas gift portrait paintings! These oil portraits tested my artistic and time management skills, and turned me into a full-time painter!

I’ve spent the past six weeks painting — often working 6-7 hours a day. My list of Christmas gift portraits began with the two cute kids Mason and Seneca (lower right above), then added three of Elaina’s grandson Bennett (upper left, upper right, lower left). I was so excited about these adorable subjects, I began immediately and made good progress in just a few days. In retrospect, it’s a good thing I got an early start on these, because along came commissions for the Two Happy Dogs and the Carson Family.

I hadn’t painted a pet for few months, so it was fun to immerse myself in capturing the facial expressions and fur textures of Lillian’s dogs. In the photo I used for reference, the background was a little out of focus. So I took some liberties (‘artistic license‘) with the foreground gravel and woods in the distance. :)

The final week before Christmas I had just the Carson Family (lower center) left to do, with four beautiful faces to capture. They turned out to be most cooperative, smiling at me the whole time. I was determined to get just the right expression for each of them; and was delighted the way these turned out. With some drying time figured in, the Carson’s were ready to be hand delivered on the 20th.

Whew! I felt like I had run a marathon! But now I miss all that company in my studio! Where did everyone go?

Managing the Family Christmas — Gift Portrait Painting Balance

These seven “due in December” Christmas gift portrait paintings were just enough pressure to cause me to pare my usual holiday madness down to essentials only — really a good thing! After all, it is all about gathering round all your loved ones, and spending time together. [Oh, yeah — and you have to coordinate schedules, feed them and stock the liquor cabinet.]

But when I look at these completed Christmas gift portraits and recall the great day we all had together yesterday, I have to say it was well worth the effort. Hope your family time was spectacular too!

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Two Family Portrait Paintings: ‘Seneca’ and brother ‘Mason’

November and December Family Portrait Paintings

The paint has really been flying in my studio for the past two months. I’ve had the extreme thrill of receiving SEVEN commissions! Six of these are family portrait paintings and one is a pet portrait.

Although they’re all in the same portrait category, these projects represent a wide variety of subjects, settings and sizes. And this is the biggest backlog I’ve had since I began painting seriously. At the end of November I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get them all done in time for Christmas! But I’m all caught up now.

Since most of these creations are for Christmas presents, their identities are TOP SECRET!!! Shhhhhh don’t tell! :-)

But I CAN reveal two of the family portrait paintings now, since these were done for an early December birthday present. Here are two cute siblings — Seneca and Mason:


‘Seneca’ and ‘Mason’

These two cherubs were commissioned by their mother’s aunt Lillian, my latest art patron. She lives right here in Austin, Texas; so I planned to deliver these family portrait paintings in person. When ‘Mason’ and ‘Seneca’ were complete, I drove them over and Lillian asked if I would like to see her art collection! Would I ever!

Delivering the Family Portrait Paintings and Viewing Lillian’s Art Collection

She had a houseful of stunning pieces, in every genre and medium. What a beautiful Austin home she has made with so many unique and thought-provoking pieces! I was grateful and flattered that she trusted me with her precious loved ones. She clearly has vast experience with looking at and appreciating art!

Not only that, she also commissioned another painting for her brother of his two handsome dogs! That one IS a Christmas gift; so I won’t post it ’til January.

I am so grateful for all of you who help in so many ways to support my art! 

Have a most wonderful Christmas season, and revel in the time spent with those you love!

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