Custom Portraits

I wrote this piece for the Artistic Portland blog, but wanted to share it with you here as well:  


Have you ever considered buying a custom portrait but felt nervous about the price or the process?  I would like to share my process with you so that you can see how fun it is, and worth the cost for a personal piece of art for your home or as a memorable gift. 


family portrait by Lea K. Tawd

"Rita, Chris, and Rory" 10 x 10" by Lea K. Tawd

The most important thing you can do before you get started is shop around and find an artist whose work really resonates with you. As a portrait artist, the first thing I want to do is make sure that you are in love with my artistic style so that you will be in love with your painting!  I have lots of artistic skills and capabilities, but what is fulfilling for me about painting portraits is that I get to put YOU in one of MY paintings!  My style is whimsical and feminine, and my people are very stylized.  If you are looking for a realistic portrait, there's nothing wrong with that, but I am not the artist for you.  

The next thing you'll want to look into is the price.  My prices start by the square inch, so I can send a price list at your request.  This will help you choose a size that fits your home and your budget.  We will both sign a very simple contract to agree on any special requests and a date that I will need to finish by, and I'll ask for 1/2 of the price up front. 


Portrait Process - laying out the composition
Then we are ready to get started!  I'll send you a photo whenever I get to a "point of no return"--a part of the painting that can't be changed once I move to the next step.  I'll start with a simple composition in charcoal, which can be wiped away easily. 


Portrait Process - sketching out details
Then, working from photos that you have sent to me, I will fill in the details so that the subjects will resemble themselves.  I am not trying for realism, but I do want to capture their basic features and a "feeling" of the person I am painting.


Portrait Process -beginning painting
Next I'll start to add some color.  I'll go back and reference your photos throughout the process, and each time I send you a photo I will wait for your approval before I move on.


portrait process - getting all of the color down
I prefer to paint my subjects with their eyes closed.  When it is just one person, it gives them a sense of introspection and a moment of quiet.  When it is a group of people, it shows them really feeling the intimacy of the moment, enjoying each other's presence. 



Mother and babies New Mom portrait  by Lea K. Tawd
"Julia, Fiona, and Natalia," 2016. 11 x 14" By Lea K. Tawd
A few final details, and it's finished!  I'll send you a final photo to approve, sign the back and add a wire so that you can hang it as soon as it arrives.  My paintings are on a solid wood panel, with a 1.5" thick cradle on the back, so there is no need for a frame. 


The time it takes from start to finish depends on several things--my schedule, the time of the year, whether or not you have a deadline, and the size and scope of the project.  We'll talk about all of that when we get started and I will keep you updated if anything changes.  
Many of these steps will be similar with any custom work that I or another artist does for you.  I hope that seeing them laid out this way helps you to feel more comfortable with the possibility of purchasing custom art for your home!  I am always open to answering questions, and will gladly send a price list without any pressure to buy.  Just email me at
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