One of the more recent custom commission pieces (pictured below) is for a family in Seattle, WA. Erin was telling me about how they go as often as possible to Roche Harbor, WA— which after seeing the pictures, I can understand why! So she was looking for a family portrait that used their favorite vacation spot as the background.
After we get the number of people and the context of the painting down, I start pulling together reference photos for the background— both sent by Erin and found online. Such a beautiful place! And with so many great angles and details to choose from, I wanted to be sure that I got the whole atmosphere of the place by trying to incorporate snippets of everything.
Rather than doing a literal backdrop using only one angle of the island, I approached the painting by making a composite background that incorporates the highlights and landmarks of the place, as well as maintaining the a palatte consistent with the colors that are repeated in the reference pictures.
But after I got the basic pieces in place I sent a preliminary photo to share what I had in mind. This was the point where she said that maybe they would prefer literal for their painting— and that's just fine. Below is the actual background image of Roche Harbor, using the most recognizable slice of the island for their family portrait.
So once we get a confirmation on the background it's time to layer in the family. Naturally reference pictures are sent over so I know what we're working with from the very beginning, as it helps to have an idea of where the family is going to fit before the background gets started. — If you're diving with dolphins, for instance, we would need to work in more water room in the foreground. Good to know ahead and plan accordingly.
Family reference pictures, above.
Family photos are great because they tell me more about who you are, where you go, and sometimes a bit of personality. A few important things to keep in mind when choosing pictures to send: how recent are they? not a problem if you prefer a picture from 20 years ago, but it might look strange to have a painting of your college-aged self with a present-day spouse, or children who are in reality 2 years apart but the photos show one at 8 and the other at 15. Also pictures with you guys as a group give me an idea of relative scale (respective heights, hair color, etc.)
Too many pictures are better than too few, but take a minute to notice if your favorite photos have funny lighting (like the yellow overhead light here), or if the angle of your face in picture is up or down, which can easily skew my perception of what your nose or chin really looks like. Do your family photos also include you guys in sunglasses for the most part? We can work around them, but it's helpful to get all those key details in a followup photo so I can make something as close to what you actually look like to send back to you :)
So this was was the first version of the family final that I sent for approval, and Erin wanted to make a few adjustments. Even though there were missing teeth in the reference picture, she thought her daughter would like it better if all her teeth were included (in anticipation of those that were yet to come!), softening her smile, as well as lengthening and lightening her hair.
For herself she said that her hair is a bit wavier, and I noticed as few details on the face that I wanted to change when she sent a new reference photo.
Adjusted version below.
It's quite a process! But sending updates along the way ensures that you can see the process and add or adjust something before the painting is complete.
Did I miss anything? Interested in starting your own custom piece?
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