When commissioning a portrait to be drawn or painted from a photograph you should not expect to get an exact replica of the reference picture - for that you need to go to Tesco or Boots Photo Shops. You will probably have looked at the work of several artists and decided upon one whose style you enjoy. Artists add their own interpretation and help to bring the subjects to life in a way that photographs cannot, whilst still producing an accurate likeness of course.

The clearer the reference photographs are, the better the end portrait will be but I am often asked to produce portraits of animals or people who have passed away and where the reference photos are poor. In these circumstances I will work with my clients to produce the best likeness I can based on the references and client's instructions.

Here are a few examples of portraits I have produced from photos (good and bad) during the last couple of years:

I had a panic phone call on 16 December from a lovely lady  (on the right of my portrait) who had just realised it was her Mum's 60th birthday on Jan 4th and could I please help by producing a family portrait to be presented on the day?  I was just finishing my last Xmas Portrait commission so agreed to take this on - I managed to complete it, frame it and deliver it to her on 24 December - we met at a motorway service station mid way between our homes.  Exciting stuff:

This is another family Group. My client wanted a portrait of her Mum, Aunt and Gran to present to her Mum as a birthday present. The reference photos had been taken at her Gran's birthday a few years earlier and sadly Gran had now passed away.

There were lots of tears during the making of these portraits. Sophie lived to a very ripe old age and left a huge hole in the lives of her owners. I was asked to produce a head study but the reference photos were rather old and bleached and I wasn't sure I could pick up enough detail, so I drew a full body picture based on their favourite shapshot of Sophie in a bluebell wood. Despite my misgivings I was then persuaded to 'do my best' to produce a head and shoulders portrait and these were the results - I'm not especially proud of them but the clients were extremely happy to have these memorial portraits so I'm really showing them to indicate what you can expect from 'less than perfect references.

Even with excellent reference photos, the originals can be improved upon in the painting/drawing - eyes can be made to sparkle a little more, mud can be removed, ears repositioned, food removed from a child's chin etc

Here I was asked to darken the horse's coat to compensate for the photo being a little bleached by flash and to 'neaten' the mane

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