A Commissioned Portrait

When doing portraits, I like to capture something about the person I am painting as much as capturing their likeness – so I had a lot of questions when my client Asher approached me with the idea of giving a portrait as a gift to his friend Jack.

First and foremost, Jack is a proud grandfather to his grandson Jackie – so Asher made a point of getting his hands on a picture that showed a window into this special relationship (see below).  Of course, like many snapshots, the background and composition of the shot weren’t necessarily ideal for a painting – which is where my process began

 The original snapshot of Jack and Jackie

The original snapshot of Jack and Jackie

My first step was to work with the cropping of the image to get a good composition and bring the focus in to Jack and Jackie’s faces.  From there, I worked with Asher’s input about Jack.  As it turns out Jack is an art enthusiast (making this an extra-special gift!), so I wanted to make sure my final piece was as much a painting as it was a portrait.  I also wanted to make sure my work was in line with what Jack likes.

 The crop I used for the portrait

The crop I used for the portrait

Jack’s favorite artists are Willem de Kooning and a Maine artist named Bill Irvine.  My first challenge was that neither of these two painters are realists, so I decided to use a looser style than I usually do to capture a little of the feel of these artists while still making sure the portrait looked like Jack and his grandson.  I also used some of the minimal palette of neutral earth-tones together with primary and secondary colors that de Kooning had used in several of his portraits.  To create some interest in the background while still keeping the painting minimal, I blocked out a primary yellow field and then used a Bill Irvine painting to balance it out with red.

 Example of de Kooning portrait

Example of de Kooning portrait

 Bill Irvine's "Red Nightfall"

Bill Irvine's "Red Nightfall"

When I gave the final 18”x18” painting to Asher, his immediate reaction was “wow, that’s Jack!”.  Better yet, when I asked Asher about how Jack liked it, Asher told me that Jack gave him a big hug when he presented it – and shared that Jack is not a “hugger”!

 Enjoy!

-Jason

 The final painting!

The final painting!