Sunday, November 2, 2008

Commissioning a Portrait

There's something about turning the calendar page to November that triggers an almost Pavlovian portrait commissioning response. As an artist who accepts commissions, I can feel the earth rumble. Soon, the deluge will come.

If you're thinking about commissioning a portrait, I want to talk to you about your ideas, but I also thought I could help with a few pointers and ideas of my own. Please also visit my web site: and see the Gallery pages (Portraits & Figures and the Places pages) plus the Commissioning a Portrait page. The Places page shows my unique approach to painting people. I am painting a whole series depicting real people (husband Randy and me included) dining in restaurants and just enjoying special, relaxed moments. These are paintings that weren't actually commissioned -- but many (a whole lot) of them have ended up in the homes of the pictured subjects (or their relatives). Some are still for sale -- through me or through Chasen Galleries (in Richmond, VA and Charlotte, NC). Give me a call at (703) 403-7435 or email me at if you are interested in a piece.

In the Places gallery on my web page you can see that I love depicting people as naturally as possible... and particularly enjoy showing relationships and interactions between the painting's subjects. I could work with you to achieve a similar portrait of you, your family and your friends. This isn't the simplest approach to portraiture, but it is a great celebration of life. (I can and do paint more traditional portraits -- they can be the right way to go, too.)

For each of the paintings depicted in the Places gallery, I used photography that I had taken myself -- often using many photos as references, and then recreated some portion of the painting to work from life. An example is on "Randy and Me" shown above. This depicts my husband and I at a great restaurant in Santa Fe where we managed to garner the window table. Randy walked outside and took my photo, and I did the same for him. I used a composite of the two to understand how we looked together and to capture the background. Then, I painted myself looking at the mirror (didn't use the photo at all) and had my husband pose for me sitting on a stool. While that's a lot of juggling to pull the portrait together, the result is one that really rings true for the two of us. It's us.

Start thinking. What would be right for you?

By the way, I am dying to paint a dancer or dancers. This image has been "dancing" around in my head for about a year. This stems from my personal attachment to my "Bellydancer" paintings and seeing John Singer Sargent's "El Jaleo" painting at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. (This is the second time I've mentioned this ... hmmm.) Maybe Flamenco dancers, a scene from a wedding reception ... something exciting. I'm a collaborative painter -- I welcome other people's ideas. You can comment on this post or drop me an email at

Coming posts will give ideas for Christmas gifts, and much more about commissioning a portrait. Stay tuned.

"Randy and Me", 30"h x 40"w, oil on linen; "Jason", 16"h x 12"w, oil on linen-lined board; "Friends (in Florence)",11"h x 14"w, oil on linen-lined board. All paintings copyright Jill Banks. All rights reserved.

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