Thursday, October 17, 2013

How To Paint Posthumous Portraits

Posthumous Portrait Commission
Morning All:

Shipping out of the studio this week is a 22 x 24 posthumous portrait for a client in The South, pictured here.

During my portrait painting career so far I have been honored many times to do this type of sensitive commission work and I consider it an honor each time. I don't take the task lightly.

I also feel the art of posthumous portraits  reflect how important modern day portraiture remains.  A life captured on canvas, reflected on, through an artist's searching eye, captures something  that the camera doesn't. This type of work is also very meaningful for the grieving family and can help in their time of sadness.

Sometimes these portraits are displayed at the memorials. Imagine 300 people judging if you have a likeness!

So how does one approach this delicate painting task? Here a a few thoughts I have:

*Get the best photo reference possible of the sitter, at different ages and stages of his life.  You don't want to paint them in their final days.

*Talk to the family, if you can, for any insights into the deceased sitter. Stories and memories. Character traits.  Do your homework. Know who you are painting so you can put some of that into the painting.

*Find out if there was a favorite tie or a favorite something or other you can add in that isn't in the photos. These little touches can be very special for the family.

*Deliver the portrait in a very timely manner. A grieving family doesn't need to be kept waiting too long.

*Expect the unveiling to be very emotional. Leave your clients alone in the room for a few minutes with the portrait before seeking comments or approval.

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