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Portrait painting as a vocation

Portrait painting as a vocation

For those who would love to paint portraits on a commission basis, once again, I want to give some advice. The most important thing I must say is: Make sure you’re good enough.

One of my first commissions

One of my first commissions


  • Study as much as possible from live model.
  • Take some portrait painters as examples and examine their art. Try to discover why their work is so good. Not only for techniques but also the visual quality of the work.
  • Don´t be satisfied with your own result too quickly! Do not think you’re good when people around you find your work fantastic.
  • Realize that you should be able to bring to fruition a portrait under any circumstances. Provide the perfect photography, if you’re going to work on that basis.

Make yourself known

  • When you think your level is good enough, spend a lot of time and energy on painting some good sample-portraits.
  • Show them to the world. Today there is Facebook, Instagram, own websites etc etc. Make good use of them. Show only your best work!


  • Try to find out what artists of a similar level as you charge for a portrait. Work out your own pricing list, divided  into categories: head, head and shoulders, mid-size, three quarters, full figure.
  • If one asks you for an indication of prices, send this list. Never answer or negotiate verbally on request. Haggling over a price is more appropriate for a second hand car.
  • See here:  My example of a price-list


  • Be professional at all times.
  • Honour commitments and keep the customer informed of the painting’s progress.

Mission Impossible

  • Do not accept orders which are unachievable. For example, a commission based on a bad picture of a loved one.


  • Obtain a good reproduction of your art work and save it well.
  • Use these examples for your publicity.

Find a good gallery

  • Take the time to find a good gallery that wants to represent you.


  • Give the very, very best of your talent!

Related post.

Another commission from the beginning

Another commission from the beginning

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Comment Section

2 thoughts on “Portrait painting as a vocation

By Fredrick on 15 August 2016

Hi Ben, In your video “Portrait Of A Little Girl” you state that “Almost rule of thumb, where shadow meet the light the colors are the brightest”. Other artists state that where shadow meets light it is almost always grey?. One quite well known artist says that John Singer-Sargent used to rim shadows with a grey tone.
I love your great work.

By Helga Parker on 7 August 2016

Hi Ben, thank you so much for sharing this information and a reminder to keep in my head at all times to follow my passion. That means that I have to come to Chelva, Spain to study with you again…. Helga

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