I am an American oil portrait artist. Here in America oil portrait artists are many and varied in their skills and styles. In this country there are several associations and guilds that an oil painting artist can join in order to learn and grow in their skills as well as to find validation among their peers through participation in competitions. Such competitions also allow the American portrait artist who wins awards to build a resume that can impress their potential clients and thus grow their clientele.
Recognition of Modern Portrait Artists
Another way great portrait artists validate themselves as accomplished artists in the US is to paint portraits of public figures. Whether it be a celebrity, politician, or movie star, painting a recognizable person will go far in establishing for the American painter a solid reputation as one of the best portrait artists around.
Oils as a Medium
I think the medium of oil is probably the favorite of the average portrait client for a few reasons. Oil paintings in general possess the best reputation for longevity even though a pastel or watercolor or even pencil drawing will last just as long as an oil portrait as long as it is created with archival quality materials and framed properly behind glass. Oil painting portraits carry with them a certain tradition that other mediums do not.
Why are Oil Portraits More Expensive?
You will find fine art portraits in oil more commonly in official public buildings because of the tradition behind them. For these reasons and perhaps more, a portrait painting artist who paints portraits in oil and in pastel would commonly price the oil paint portrait higher than the pastel. Framing oil portraits is usually much less costly, though, as there is no need to cover them with glass or to use matting. Therefore, a framed oil painting often has more vibrancy since there is nothing obstructing the viewer’s gaze. The new non-glare glass that modern American framers use on pastels and watercolors is very good but it will soften the image slightly. The softening is usually a worthy trade for the amazing job it does at reducing the reflections you will get with regular glass.
My Own Personal Experience with Oil Portrait Painting
In my own experience with the various mediums that I have used, painting a realistic portrait in oils requires quite a bit more skill and experience than painting in pastel. It involves instruction in color mixing as well as learning what viscosity (thickness or thinness) of the paint is needed for different stages of the process. Whereas with pastels you have each color you need in a separate stick. There is some blending and overlaying of color involved, but there are less variables (such as paint viscosity, drying time, under painting, types of oil mediums, brushes, etc.) to consider, not to mention the issue of your mixed paint drying on your palette before the portrait is done, and the clean up involved at the conclusion of each painting session.
Those are the reasons my oil portrait painting prices are higher than my pastel portrait prices. In any medium, my goal is a beautiful heirloom portrait that is worth every moment I invest in painting it and every dime the client spends to have it done.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment in the comments section below or contact me to discuss a portrait commission and I will get back to you personally.