How Long Does it Take to Paint a Portrait for a Show

In the making of Dreamer, my sitter sat for me for about a 30-minute photoshoot. I took almost about 50 or so pictures from various angles.

The Process

Camera has a very conspicuous impact on us. It makes us smile at any given moment :-)
Once the lens is pointed at us, we just cannot help but let go whatever expression we're wearing in exchange for this perfect blissful smile. We are trained that way - to present our best two second lens-perfect smile. So, its a skill to let the sitter loosen up to the point where they let you get beyond that practiced smile and capture whats most natural to the sitter. It takes a while, but we eventually get there.

After the photoshoot, I printed out the whole shoot and set out to select one. Once I had that perfect expression I was looking for, I chose it and had it enlarged to read it further. I reviewed my interaction with the sitter in front of this printout. Once that connection is made, I examined few options for the size and composition.


I selected a 16 x 20 for the portrait and painting started. Along the way, I realized, the background of the work had a great influence of the works of Gwenn Seemel's paintings. So, before moving forward, I emailed Gwenn and asked for her blessings and as expected, she had all the encouraging words about remixing it in my artwork. So, I went ahead and let the brush do its work.

I wanted to change the color and texture of the outfit of my sitter. Here is the Maxican peasant top that I admired a lot for its feminine touch with lovely white color and delicate colorful-embroidery. It seemed to be fitting to have it on the sitter who loves this color and have this kind, compassionate demeanor.

At this point, I let the painting sit. And I observe. this period is one of the most important time to ponder over - I start to have the feeling of departure. I know in the next sitting it will be over. The entire journey will come to an end. The end saddens you like any other awesome, productive journey, that you don't want to end and thus unconsciously, I delay this stage.

Once I am ready to let go, I return back to it. At this point, I know what will go where - the painting practically finishes itself.

About Art

Artists are often asked, how long we would take to finish a painting, and I am no exception, "I cannot really say!" Technically, there is only this much time you need, but in real life, you never know.

Once the paintwork is over, The portrait is allowed to dry completely. Oil paints take longer to dry especially if the weather is not warm. Once dry, I paint the edges with protective paint, mostly acrylic variety. This saves the corner of the stretched canvas, in an event we would like to have it re- stretched or hang without frame.

Later, I have the work varnished. Its usually a non-yellowing, matt-acrylic coat to protect the oil quality of the paints.

Finally, its sent to the professional framer who makes sure the presentation is in-line with the basic color-scheme. At this point, the painting is all ready to hang!

Now, you get a glimpse into the process. Its long, tedious, subjective, and unexpected. Would I like to repeat it again? Oh yes, any given day, just ask me!

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How Long Does it Take to Paint a Portrait for a Show
Photo Reference and the Finished Portrait
88 users have voted.

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