The Process

I meet with the client either in person or online.

To be a successful portrait, it has to be the ideal expression of what the client wants.  We start by discussing who will be in the portrait and build the concept from there. I’ll rough sketch what you have in mind to make sure we are on the same page. We discuss the setting you want, style and so forth. I like to plan with the client to build out what will be special for their family. Sometimes the setting is a favorite vacation spot or a family home. Wardrobe, pets and objects in the portrait can all add meaning. We also consider where the portrait will hang in the home so color choices won’t clash and the painting will be the right size. Then we do a photo shoot.

In this portrait, the client wanted their portrait set at their beach club. Every element of the portrait is important because of the joyful memories it will evoke when the parents grow old and the boy grows up. In two generations, this will be a portrait of Grandpa as a little boy.

It’s my job to make it easy. I know what questions to ask to help you form your vision. Often moms are unsure of what their kids should wear in the portrait. We sometimes go through the child’s wardrobe together. Good preparation makes for a relaxed fun photo shoot.


I always have more than one composition in mind before we start shooting; and, we can ad lib with ideas and opportunities that present themselves during the shoot. We record a variety of images so the client can pick what they like best. In this case we shot options for two single portraits or one double portrait. We even included some with the family dog, a clumber spaniel.


IMG_2459Every picture doesn’t have to be perfect. The photographs are reference photos. One photograph might have the best expression or pose of one child but not the other. When it comes to the actual painting I combine the best elements to create the perfect portrait. We capture enough images during the shoot that the client can choose exactly what they want and then I put it together.

When the photos are ready we can go over them together. Then I start drawing. The drawing is where the portrait begins to transform from a concept to an image. Concept sketches may have been done at the outset; but, they are a scant reflection of the finished portrait.


The photo shoot may have captured hundreds of images. Depending on how the photo shoot went there may be a few different directions we can go. I whittle the photographs down to what is workable, then I meet with the client so they can choose what they like best.

Photo Paste Up

Since we may be stitching together information from a number of different photographs, I use the drawing phase to work out details before I start painting.



The drawing becomes the working plan for the finished portrait.

Finished Drawing

The finished drawing is reviewed with the client. This give us the opportunity to decide on any changes for the final painting. Seeing the drawing helps the client with final decisions. For example, the client may want the size to be larger or smaller than what we talked about. Looking at the drawing in the home where the painting will hang makes it easy for the client.

When it’s time to start painting I tape the drawing to the wall in my studio. I refer to the drawing constantly. It makes the painting easier because most of the challenges with regard to anatomy, movement, proportion, likeness and overall composition have been addressed. Also, since the client has a very good idea of about how the finished product will look, I know they are going to be happy. The painting can still present challenges; but, it’s much easier with a good drawing.

Ayers, Mon May 03, 2010, 3:13:21 PM, 16C, 11372x15216, (306+471), 150%, Repro 2.2 v2, 1/15 s, R27.6, G21.8, B39.4