The portrait procedure begins with a meeting between the artist and the client. Through careful observations of the sitter’s mannerisms and surroundings, the artist starts forming ideas for the pose and background. Russell is constantly thinking of the finished portrait including props that may be used to help describe the subject’s interests or profession as well as any other clues that help to convey the personality of the sitter. Clothing, setting and where the portrait will hang will also be considered at this time. For portraits where the subject poses in the artist’s studio, he or she will be asked to pose anywhere from 1 to 5 sittings of one to one and a half hours per sitting, with breaks taken as often as needed. In some cases articles of the clothing will be placed on mannequins or hired models to minimize the sitters posing time.
Russell likes to paint from life whenever possible. He generally works from a combination of photos and live sittings. The props used in the portrait are painted from life when the subject is not posing. Once the pose has been set and the items that are to be included in the portrait have been arranged, (i.e. chair, drapery, tables, books or any other prop) all of those things will remain just as they appear in the painting, undisturbed in the studio, until the portrait is completed. This enables Russell to paint on the portrait at anytime keeping the lighting consistent.
Russell prefers to take the photos himself in order to control the lighting and to include details that he thinks will help the portrait process. In cases of posthumous portraits, it is important to gather the best photographs available of the subject, as well as any other supporting materials such as videos.
Once having agreed on the details of a portrait, such as size, price, background, and delivery date a portrait commission is accepted with a deposit of 1/3 payment. This commitment is necessary to block out the required time and secure a place in the artist’s work schedule as well as enabling Russell to gather together any materials that may be needed to begin the work. After the deposit, the first sitting is scheduled where Russell will take photos and make compositional notes and sketches. The photographs are gone over together with the client to select the best pose. Once the selection is made Russell will in some cases, (especially in the more complicated compositions or when decisions about color are uncertain) work up small-scale color studies. These are for compositional and color harmony purposes. When that is approved, the final canvas is stretched and primed.
Russell often travels for portrait commissions. When working on a long distance portrait he will travel to meet the subject for the first time, taking many photographs and making preliminary sketches as in the studio. Before he travels, there is a discussion of where the pose is to take place (i.e. office, home, outdoors) and the available light sources, natural or artificial lighting that might be encountered. Natural light is Russell’s first preference.
After the client has approved the composition and pose, the artist will work up studies in the studio. Russell likes to involve the client, keeping them informed throughout the entire painting process by e-mailing images for feedback.
Travel expenses are additional. All efforts are made to keep them at a reasonable level.
An average portrait takes 3 to 6 months for completion. A small head and shoulder portrait can take less time, depending on the artist’s work schedule.
A commission is accepted with 1/3 payment as deposit, the second 1/3 payment when halfway completed, and the final payment when the portrait is finished and delivered. Other arrangements may be made, including time payments. Framing by the artist is available. Framing expenses are additional and are included in the final payment.