Working Method

     I have been painting portraits since high school, but my first commissioned portrait was painted in 1975.  At that time I worked only from life.  As the paintings became larger, more detailed, and more complicated, I learned to work from photographs.  Almost all of my portraits are done from photographs now, except self-portraits. 

     When I receive a commission I usually spend some time getting to know the person or family.  I play with the children or talk with the adults, either at their homes or in my studio.  I find it helpful to work with people in their own environment and am happy to travel to their home or office in order to see the subject in a more personal setting and photograph background material.  Then I begin photographing and take 50 to 100 shots, with the subject in different light, poses, and types of space.     

 When I return to my studio I draw from the photographs, working out the composition in a sketchbook.  I may also do several detailed studies before deciding how to proceed with the painting.  The photographs are documents which offer me choices as to which hand, which drape of a shirt, which turn of a head I will then combine for the finished work.  I may invent an element for the background, alter a color, or remove something that doesn’t fit.  Usually the painting does not look like any one photograph.  The client may have a preference regarding the background, the pose, how formal it should be, etc., but if not, I can make suggestions.  Once the painting has been started, it is up to me, with no previews by the client until it is finished. 

     A portrait painter needs to be discerning without being intrusive and my reputation is based on my ability to see more than a superficial expression of personality.  I like working with all ages.  My preferred medium is oil on canvas although I have done a number of commissions in watercolor, pastel, charcoal and pencil on paper.  Generally, my larger paintings require two to three months of working time, but a head and shoulders can take as little as two weeks.  I can photograph the subject at almost any time, even if there is a waiting list for doing the actual painting.