Monday, March 29, 2010


I just returned from a wonderful 3-day event in Houston called the Bayou City Art Festival. I was one of 300 or so artists, and I was blown away by the variety and creativity that this festival offered. My work was some of the most traditional there, and I was perhaps the only portrait artist. I don't know how much longer I'll be doing art festivals (it's a bit stressful for me to travel with all those paintings!), but I always enjoy meeting so many interesting people at these kinds of events.

There are so many different artists at these big festivals (Bayou City is ranked 7th in the country) that I'm lucky if anyone spends more than a few seconds looking at the paintings in my booth. However, first impressions are important, and some of the questions people ask give me valuable insights as to how I can make my work easier to relate to. So today, I thought I would blog about some of the most common questions I get asked at art shows.

1. How long have you been painting? I've been painting for about 7 years, but drawing ever since I could pick up a pencil. I did a lot of colored pencil in high school and during college, and that was a great way to learn color theory before taking on the challenges of oil painting.

2. Do you take commissions? Yes! Commissioned portraits are my specialty! There are a number of things I like to paint, such as landscapes and still lives, but people still rank at the top of my list. I've never had an unhappy client - my portraits always look like the person they're supposed to look like!

3. How much would a comissioned painting this size (points to a random portrait) cost? First of all, I believe that everyone deserves a chance to be commemorated in a work of art, and quality portraits should be affordable. I use the highest quality materials to withstand the test of time, so it should be understood that portraits cost money to make. They also take a lot of time. Therefore, my prices are based less on size and more on how much of the person is actually in the painting. Head studies start at $1000 for one person, and go up with the addition of hands or full-length poses (the size then increases by default). I charge slightly more for additional people in the portrait, but I also work closely with the client in determining a size they want for their home and where it will hang (i.e. bedroom, over fireplace, hallway, etc.), and I also do my best to work within your budget.

4. Do I send you a photo or do you work from life? I only work from a client's photos if the portrait is posthumous, or from an event or earlier stage in life (such as childhood past, or a wedding). The photos would need to be very high-quality, with good lighting and adequate contrast (no flash photography). I am completely capable of working either from photos or from life, but what I prefer to do is take my own reference photographs whenever possible. I am willing to travel within a 5-hour radius to do photo shoots on location. If painting an adult portrait, I prefer to start the portrait from life (1-2 hour sitting) and then finish it in my studio from reference photos, or do a color study / quick sketch from life and finish from photos. The reason for this is that photography, no matter how good, loses many of the subtleties in color, light and dark, that make a painted portrait so great. My goal is to make your portrait better than any photograph could ever be. 

5. How long does it take to paint a portrait? I work in layers, using classical techniques (more like the old masters and less like the contemporary "Alla Prima" painters, who can finish a painting in a day!). I like to let each layer dry before working on the next. Depending on the scale and complexity of the painting, I need at least two months to complete the portrait.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Perfect Evening

Case in point: Lighting is detrimental to a painting's success.

I began this painting of my friend Susan last fall, and she would sit for me in the evenings, reading her book aloud while I worked.  Painting at night was both good and bad. It was good in that my studio, which lacks north lighting of any kind (north light is, of course, ideal!), was able to stay controlled with one light source as opposed to being bombarded by light coming in from all over the place through the windows. The bad part: I was literally painting in the dark! I had a small light to illuminate my canvas, but this caused issues with glare on the wet paint, so I had to move it back quite a way to see what I was doing.

I started the painting using a cool light, but decided it needed to look more natural and warm, like she was actually reading next to a lamp. So, after switching out the light (I didn't have a real lamp), I was much happier with the warm colors and deep shadows. Below: original lighting...

The Perfect Evening, original lighting
Here it is with the lighting I eventually switched to:

The Perfect Evening, better lighting
And the final painting, which you can find on my website with detail shots here:

The Perfect Evening, 24x36, oil on linen


Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Wow, I can't believe my last blog post was over 2 weeks ago! Sorry about that...
I've been extremely busy, but I'm so grateful because it's the best kind of busy! I have several portrait commissions going, a show coming up in Houston in two weekends, and a gallery (Weiler House Fine Art) asking for more work! So...I'm spreading myself a bit thin these days but it's a good problem to have, and I'm sure my artist friends can all relate.

So, the big event coming up is Bayou City Art Festival in Houston on March 26-28. You can find out more from their website at I'll be in booth 209; look for me if you happen to stop by!

New paintings (and finished versions of works in progress) will be up soon.

Monday, March 1, 2010


As I promised on facebook, here is my current portrait, shown in different stages. I just finished it today.

"Cate" - 10" x 8" - oil on linen glued to board

I sell head studies like this for $1000, in any size from 8" x 10" to 12" x 16".

Cate, stage 1
Cate, stage 2
Cate, stage 3
Cate, stage 4

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