How to Choose an Artist for Your Custom Portrait

How to Choose an Artist for Your Custom Portrait

Whether your youngest daughter is having her first baby or your parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, there is always a reason to celebrate with a commissioned piece of art. This is such an exciting time, because you are helping to create a family heirloom that will last for generations! Although exciting, this time can also feel a bit overwhelming. Choosing a photo is just half the plan, and the other choice lies in the artist who will actually create the work.

There are many factors to consider when choosing an artist to create your custom masterpiece. Follow the steps below to help make the process run as smoothly as possible.

Consider your own style.

While the artist will work with you to create the work, you are the one who will be enjoying it for years to come. Imagine your painting and how you envision it coming together. Consider these painting styles:

Photorealistic - Photorealistic artists will paint a work for you that looks exactly like your photo. It will be very difficult to tell the difference between the photo and your painting.

Example of photorealistic portrait

Realism/Expressionism - This type of painting will look like your photo, however, it will be created in the artist’s unique style. For me, I like to keep the portrait instantly recognizable, but infused with colorful and whimsical elements. It is important to check out some of the artist’s other works to determine if the way they “express” portraits on canvas resonates with you.


Abstract - Abstract works will resemble your photo, however, the painting will be very different. Most often, portraits done in this style will not look like the person or be easily recognizable as such. Abstract portraits typically use a lot of shapes to create their work.

Mathijs Vissers - abstract portrait artist

Asking yourself these questions will help you. Do you want the painting to look exactly like the photo or would you rather an artist who infuses their own style into the work? Do you have a specific color palette or painting style you absolutely cannot live without? If so, it is important to research artists who deliver the style you seek.

Consider the artist’s style.

Art is art - meaning, you could give the same photo to 100 different artists and you would end up with 100 different paintings. Take the time to research the artist you want to work with. Visit their website and social media accounts to see how their art makes you feel. It is important that the work resonates with you. Look at the color choice, composition and type of brush stroke. Even if the subjects aren’t what you would choose, look at how the artist puts paint to canvas and the expressions he or she is able to catch. If an artist’s work speaks to you, they are worth considering.

Consider your home.

It is good practice to decide where you would like your custom portrait to hang in your home or office before commissioning an artist. This way, you have a better understanding of any color conflicts that may occur as well as the size of painting you would like. Having an idea of the size will also help you to determine an artist because most artists either prefer to work on smaller surfaces or larger surfaces. A good way to determine whether an artist you are considering likes to paint large or small works is to look at what sizes they offer on their website, or what size canvases they show on their social media accounts.

Consider the process.

Does the artist you are considering hiring offer a free consultation? Does he or she offer to help you choose your inspiration photo or direction for your piece? If you want anything changed in your photo, it is imperative you have the opportunity to talk to the artist completing your work one-on-one. Some artists simply paint the shapes in front of them while others like to know the story behind the works, why they are special and the essence of the people they are portraying. If this is important to you, then choosing an artist you can actually speak to and work in partnership with may be the right choice for you.

Consider your timeline.

It is important to ask your artist how long your project may take. Since artists invest countless hours into each and every work, there can sometimes be a bit of a waiting period between the time you reach out to an artist to the time you receive your work. As a general rule of thumb, you should expect a quality portrait created by an individual artist to take about 6-8 weeks to complete.

Consider your budget.

In the art world more so than anywhere else, there seems to be a massive variance between price points. When considering your budget, it is important to remember that you are investing in a piece of work that will last a lifetime and beyond. Will you daughter want to take the portrait of her as a baby to her college dorm room? Will your children want to display that portrait of your grandparents on their wedding day in their own homes one day?

Budget is a big topic, which is why I cover it more fully in my blog post on the topic "How Much Does a Custom Portrait Cost". Custom portraits are an investment, but they are investments in timeless and precious keepsakes that will last a lifetime.

Custom Paintings from Photos

If you are looking for a custom portrait artist in the Phoenix area or anywhere, I would love the opportunity to create something spectacular with you.

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