Guide to commissioning a portrait

portrait commissionI am very happy to accept portrait commissions to paint portraits of your loved ones. I love painting people above all else. Click here for my portraits page, to see examples of my previous work.

Plesase drop me a line if you’d like to discuss a a portrait commission with no obligation. Paintings can be worked from life or photo.

Commissioning a portrait might sound like a daunting process but given the right discussions at the outset, it can be rewarding process for both artist and client. Here are a few Testimonials from some of my clients to hear just that!

You can easily start a no-obligation conversation about commissioning a portrait but before you do so, it’s a good idea to think about a few key things. If you’re interested in the whole process, please read on…


When I decided I’d like to commission a painting of my husband‘s rugby, Sheri was the first person I thought of. We had some wonderful still life paintings of Sheri’s from previously. I contacted her and sent her a rather complicated, busy photo which I had opted for as the basis of the painting. Sheri was very enthusiastic about the challenge from the outset. She explained what the stages of the process would be and kept in touch with photos, each step of the way.

The end result was absolutely incredible in its detail and resemblance. I am in awe, as are all those who have seen it.

What a talented and incredibly personable artist. Thank you so much again, Sheri – until the next time.

Jen and John Maclay, Glasgow

It was a pleasure working with Sheri on these commissions. She made us feel involved in the process whilst delivering more than we could describe or have imagined.

The result is two paintings that delight us daily, they are so personal to us and we never tire of looking at them and the memories they bring.

We cannot recommend the experience highly enough…go on, try it for yourself!

L & J McCaffrey, W. Sussex

A few things to consider when commissioning a portrait



Portrait of three sisters © Sheri Gee

Where you will hang the final piece is a big consideration as to the size of the artwork and in some respects what it’s painted or drawn with.

Most artwork you should avoid from hanging in a very sunny spot, though oils and acrylics fare far better than water based or dry media, such as pencil or charcoal. In bright natural light artwork can fade so be careful where you choose to hang your cherished pieces. Ideally choose a spot that is well lit but isn’t in direct, blazing sunlight.

Establishing the space will help you work out the ideal size you’d like. You might want a show-stopping portrait that is the focus of one wall, or perhaps a smaller piece to become part of a gallery wall where many artworks are eclectically hung together. Armed with these details, the artist will be able to suggest sizes that they can offer.

To Frame or not to Frame

Now that you’ve established where it will hang, let’s have a think about the final piece. Would you like something that needs to be framed, which could be work on paper, a painting on a board or a standard depth canvas, or do you prefer unframed canvases? A standard depth canvas (approx 1cm deep) can be hung without framing but you may prefer to ask for a deep edged canvas (approx 3.5cm deep).

Most artists will string a canvas so you receive it ready for hanging. If you want something framed, you could take the finished painting to your local framer or ask the artist if they have any advice or if they could help you with the framing.

The Sitter

A portrait commission can be completed from life, with visits to the artist, painted from a number of sittings or from the artist’s own photographs; or a painting can be made from the client’s photos.

Where the artist doesn’t know the sitter, and has never met them, it’s important to let the artist see a number of photos to help establish the likeness in their mind. Ironically, it is possible to take a photo of someone that doesn’t look like them. One single photo might not be enough to ‘understand’ a person’s likeness.

Most portrait commissions I’ve been given have been gifted to the ‘sitter’ and have been secret commissions. In these cases, it’s important to be sure what the recipient would like to see of themselves – what kind of pose would they be most happy with, for example relaxed or smiling etc.


oil portrait of a young girl

Which leads me onto the pose. At this point, I find it useful to think of artists or paintings you’ve seen, perhaps in art galleries or on-line, that you’ve loved. Commissioned portraits in galleries are usually of sitters in relaxed poses, in good light, with relaxed faces. The eyes could be looking direct at the viewer or looking off to the side. Here’s a lovely collection of impressionist portraits that might give you inspiration.

I have painted my family often, which stems from being inspired by seeing them in certain places, or beautiful light. When inspiration strikes I use my phone camera to take a number of photos to hopefully paint from later on. If you want to commission a portrait of someone close to you, bring them into the discussion and watch for a nice relaxed pose and good natural light. Gathering a number of good reference photos is really important if the portrait can’t be painted from life.

Personally, I prefer the relaxed pose over a staged smiling piece, which can often feel more like a snap shot.


Once you begin to talk to the artist, it is really helpful to discuss which of the artist’s work you like the most, in relation to the style you’d like for your portrait, and which are less appropriate. Having all of these discussions at the start will really help the artist know what you’re expecting of the final piece.


If the portrait is for a clear deadline, such as an anniversary or birthday, communicate that at the outset, so the artist can plan their work effectively and make sure the painting is dry in time. Depending on how thick the oil paint is, it could take weeks to dry. Portraits can take months to produce, so do bear that in mind if you have a strict deadline requirement.


oil-painting-family-portrait-commission-NHSThere are many factors that come into play with the price for a portrait commission. It is not necessarily the case that a smaller portrait is less expensive than a larger portrait. A head and shoulder portrait, for example, could be less complicated and less time consuming than a full figure pose. A single person portrait will be vastly different from depicting a group of people. Depending on what you’d like in the painting – head and shoulders/full body/one person/many people – the artist will be able to give you a quote. Things like framing, shipping (and customs if overseas) will usually be extra to this price.

As a rough starting point guide, I charge £300 for a single person, head and shoulder portrait, approximately 8 x 10 inches.


Once the artist and client are both happy with the details and the client wants to proceed, it is usual for the artist to lay it all out in the form of a contract. This will give details such as the size, medium, price and deadline. It is usual for an artist to ask for 50% of the fee as a deposit before work begins, with the remainder before the final painting is posted/given (with the client being happy at this point with the finished portrait via photos sent digitally).


Early stage, sketched out on canvas © Sheri Gee

When I work on commissioned pieces, I enjoy the dialogue with the client, showing them in-progress photos if they’d like to see them, and letting them know how the piece is coming along. This way, there will be no surprises when I reveal the final painting.

When the painting is finished, the artist will be able to show you photos of the finished piece, to ensure you’re happy. Artists are used to showing their work and receiving feedback, so don’t be afraid to say if something is bothering you at this point. Clear communication is key and the artist will want to know if you’re satisfied with the outcome.

It’s important to me that the client is happy with the finished painting, especially so with the likeness to the sitter.


If you are not local to the artist, the painting will have to be packaged and posted, once it’s dry. At this point the artist should be able to give you a quote for shipping and will be able to tell you when it should arrive, making sure you’ll be home to receive it.

Please note that any customs fees will be liable to the client.


Mother and baby oil painting

If you’ve reached this point in the process, you are now a commissioner of original art which will bring you joy for years to come.

I hope you found this helpful. If you’d like to discuss a portrait commission, get in touch today. You can email me at

Thanks for reading,