Tiff’s Family Portrait Painting — Dad, Mom and Brother


My Family Portrait Painting Adventure

Today I delivered my latest commissioned family portrait painting to a lovely lady who lives in Hutto and works in North Austin. Tiffany called me at the end of May and asked me to paint a portrait of her deceased father, mother and brother.

She texted me a variety of individual photos and snapshots of them, but there was no picture of them all together. I was challenged to put together a painting that would show them all together happily in heaven. And to make it more interesting, my vivacious client left no doubt that her dearly departed family would be more mischievous than somber in their heavenly location!

Planning and Preparing the Portrait Painting

I started with six of the family photos Tiffany sent me. I cropped, enlarged, cut-out and arranged and re-arranged the family members on a canvas. The biggest difficulty was putting them together in a way that made sense, with their heads facing the same direction. Then I had to pretend there was just a single light source (despite the different lighting in the photos).

Although conventional family portrait painting doctrine dictates “lighting from the left” (think Mona Lisa and most studio photography), I opted for lighting from above because most of the snapshots where lit that way — and it is supposed to be heaven, after all! So I came up with a composition, which I sketched and texted to Tiffany for approval. She replied saying she “loved it”; so it was time for the fun to begin!

Painting Tiff’s Family Portrait

None of the details of the photos were particularly clear; but in the end that was probably better. It forced me to paint my IMPRESSION of Tiffany’s Dad, Mom and Brother, rather than searching for the correct LINE to define a shape. Once the paint started flowing I really got to know the family well.

My family portrait painting subjects and I had lots of little conversations about just what they wanted me to do. Sometimes I would sit down away from the canvas and they would holler at me:

“Hey you can’t leave my right eye like THAT!”

“Do you really think my left ear is down that low?”

“I need more of a smile!”

Yep, they kept it up until I got it right. I texted the final version to Tiffany for approval, and she phoned me back — she was so excited!

Delivering the Family Portrait Painting to Tiffany

After two weeks of drying time I was able to apply a varnish (satin finish-UV protected). I arranged to meet Tiffany for lunch near her work. [It’s great to have a local commission and being able to hand deliver my artwork — especially the family portrait paintings. By comparison, wrapping one of my creations in a box and just mailing it away is almost painful.] I arrived first and watched the door; and before long a beautiful younger version of “Mom” walked in! I had to have a photo of all four of them together!

Tiffany loved her family portrait painting, which she says is a tribute to those dear people she has lost in this world. Now she’ll have them on her living room wall, where she can talk to them every day. They are a gregarious bunch; I think she’ll be hearing a lot from them!

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‘Two Little Cowboys’ Portrait Painting and Fond Memories

2-cowboys-portrait-paintingI finally got a chance to do this cowboys portrait painting in my new basement art studio overlooking Lake Travis! It took more than a year to build the house; and with all the moving and decorating, I’ve gone six long weeks without lifting a paintbrush. But the new studio is great: I have have lots of light, plenty of storage for canvasses and art supplies — and enough space to have several paintings going at once.

I had a request for another commission back in February; but I put everything on hold to concentrate on the house move. Finally I was ready! So a couple of weeks ago, I contacted my “patron” David. Surprise! He said he wanted me to do this Two Little Cowboys portrait painting for his girlfriend first.

My Cowboys Portrait Painting Subjects

The adorable photo he sent me showed two little guys who looked so much like MY boys at that age that I just couldn’t believe it! My guys are 27 and 30 now, and WOW did that photo bring back some memories! We used to go to the Austin rodeo every year and the kids always looked just like this — ready to rope a calf or ride a bull if necessary. Look how the hats are wider than THEY are!!! So precious!

I’m kinda curious to know what these two really look like; but on the other hand, I feel like I KNOW them perfectly.


Future Cowboys Portrait Paintings Material?

These are my own little cowboys, Clark and Ross (age 2 and 5). Maybe I’ll do a cowboys portrait painting of them some day.

This week, I ordered a self-contained portable air conditioner for the studio. Hopefully it will be useable even on the hottest summer day. One of the nicest things about my workspace is that with the access from the outside deck, down the stairs, it is like “going to work”. Remote and private, with no household distractions to get in the way of progress! I can put on my tunes or have silence — no TV competing in the background. OH, YES, I’m in heaven.

But this week I’ll be starting on another commission from David. I already have it sketched out, and have some ideas about the composition, colors and shading I want to use. And I’m looking forward to more singing, dancing and painting in my new dreamy studio.

I hope you all do something you love in a place that brings you joy!

Posted in Portrait | 6 Comments

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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