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What are the steps involved in getting a portrait?

First step is selecting the photo. Next, deciding the size and whether it will be oil or pastel. (I can help with these steps.) Then, a commission agreement can be sent, and a 25% deposit paid. Mock-ups are sent, and once approved, the portrait is started. When it is done except for finishing touches, a photograph or scan of it is sent via email for feedback. If no changes are needed, it is finished and another photo sent for final approval. The portrait balance is due then. Shipping is last, and payment will vary due to size, distance and method. See Commission Info for more details.

How long does it take?

Once the commission agreement is signed, it depends on waiting list. If there is none, for a headshot or just one pet, expect 1-2 weeks for the whole process. (For oil portraits, there is drying and varnishing time.) If the portrait is large or has a complex background, it could be longer. I will let you know approximately when you should recieve it before starting the process.

What if I'm not sure what photo to send?

If you’re not sure which photo to use, send me many photos, and I can make suggestions. Tell me about your pet’s personality, and what you want the portrait to feature. (Some people want to show the whole body, especially if it’s an athletic animal, others just want the face featured.) From the photos, I can see which might work best as a portrait. The quality of the photo is important as well.

What if I don't know what size I want?

Traditionally, portraits are almost life-size, so they seem life-like. If too small, they look more like illustrations. I can suggest a good minimum size for the photo it is based on, but it is your choice ultimately. The size depends on the pets’ pose, if it’s the whole body or just head, and the medium. For example, small pastel portraits are hard to show any fine detail, but oils on canvas are more precise, and oils on panel even more so, as they have smooth surface.

What if I don't have a good photo?

Send me them anyway, and I might be able to work from them. They don’t have to be perfect, as my techniques improve upon the image. If they really are unusable, you could do some photo shoots, using my Photo Tips. Some clients take awhile to get a shot they’re happy with, and that’s fine, as the art will be a lasting tribute. Sometimes I can combine different photos to create the portrait if all else fails, or the pet has passed away. (See Before and After page) If sending digital photos, send the largest size, and in the original format, if possible. Camera photos aren’t usually high quality; digital cameras and hard copies (film photos) are preferable.

How much do you charge for multiple pets, or scenic backgrounds?

For the 1st additional pet, approximately 20-30% will be added, depending on complexity. For 3 or more, 10-20% more each. For scenic backgrounds, approximately 20-30%. It also depends on complexity, and if the background is in the original photo, or is from another photo that needs to be added. For example, if the pet is in front of a house, versus a meadow scene, the house takes longer to paint, so it costs more.

What's the difference between Oil Paintings and Pastels?

In oil paints, pigments (the color) are mixed with linseed or similar oils. Pastels are almost pure pigment, and are solid, not liquid. Therefore, they can’t be mixed to create any color as with oils, although they can be layered and blended. Pastels are in stick and pencil form, and oils are applied with brushes. Because brushes can have very tiny tips, and pastels are limited by how small the pencil tip can be sharpened before they crumble, finer detail can be achieved in oils. And more color range is possible with oils. They also have a luminosity, due to the pigments being suspended in the oils. Pastels have a flat, matte finish, and oils have a sheen.

Are Pastels lasting, or hard to care for?

Pastels are valued for their long lasting beauty. Because they are almost pure pigment, and have no liquid binder, they do not degrade, yellow, or crack over time. Historically, pastels can be traced back to the 16th century and have been used by many famous artists, such as Manet, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Whistler, and Degas. These works still look great.

Once properly framed, and under glass, preferably UV blocking, pastels are easy to care for. They just need to be kept in a non-humid space, so that no condensation can occur. Temperature should be fairly stable, no extreme heat/cold fluctuations, for the same reason. Avoid placing in an area with extended periods of direct sunlight. Special care is needed for shipping, because of the glass. Click Pastel Care Tips for more instructions.

What's the difference between Oil on Canvas or Oil on Panel?

Oil on canvas is shows the texture of the canvas, and that texture can make very fine details and long, silky fur hard to achieve if the size of the canvas isn’t large enough. In those situations, I sometimes recommend archival wood panels, as the surface is very smooth, therefore allowing more detail and finer fur. (See examples below) Wood panel was used frequently in the Renaissance period, including Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”, but some of people prefer the look of canvas.

How do I care for my Oil Painting?

Oil paints are usually dry to the touch within one to two weeks but take up to a year to fully cure, so be careful with the surface, so you don’t damage the paint. Oil paintings should be framed without glass. Protect your oil paintings from environmental damage, such as too much sun, heat, cold, humidity, and smoke. Dust your oil paintings. A thick layer of dust will dry out the paint, possibly causing cracking. Don’t spray anything (like Pledge) on the painting. A soft, clean brush, like a paintbrush, may be used to dust paintings.

For a more complete instruction sheet, see Oil Painting Care Tips.

Do you offer Custom Framing, instead of Stock Framing, and what is Stock Framing?

Only in special circumstances, such as the client has no easy access to a frame shop. The reason is that everyone’s taste and decor is so different, and it can be very time-consuming to try all the frame possibilities, send digital pictures, get approval, etc. And, if being shipped, it adds to the cost because the package is bigger and heavier. But I will try to answer any questions you have about framing, and offer suggestions if you want. For framing tip, Click on “Framing Tips” below for more instructions.Stock framing means off-the-shelf frames.

What are the payment options, and do you offer payment plans?

I accept Mastercard, VISA, AMEX, PayPal, and checks. Payments plans can be arranged if paid in full before shipping.

What if my artwork is damaged during shipping?

I insure the portraits for shipping. Although damage has never occured, due to careful packaging – if it does happen and is something fixable, such as a small tear in a canvas or a smudge in a pastel, return it and I will repair it. If it is beyond repair, I will replace it free of charge.

What is a temporary varnish?

It is a “Retouch Varnish” used to protect paintings that have dried to the touch, when it is still too early to apply a permanent varnish. (Oil paintings take up to a year to “cure”.) It protect them from dirt, dust, and pollution in the environment, and unifies the painting’s sheen, bringing the color up to the brilliance it had when the painting was wet. (When a painting dries, some areas appear glossier than others due to variations in the types of pigments used.)

How and when do I apply a permanent varnish?

It takes 6 months to a year for the oil paint to “cure” before a final varnish should be applied. In my paintings I usually don’t paint very thickly, so 6 months might be fine. The temporary varnish might look good for years, but if the colors and tones appear less brilliant, it is time. You can return the painting for me to varnish, or take it to a good frame shop, or art restorer. (Or do it yourself; it’s not that hard, and there are many instructions on the web. Just be sure it’s a varnish for oil paint, such as Damar Varnish.)

Example of oil on canvas – Note the texture of the canvas on this
portion of 8″ x 10″ portrait. This is an extreme example.
oil example

Example of oil on panel – This is a portion of a 8″ x 10″ portrait.
Note the smooth surface, and fine detail. panel example