Commissioning a Portrait
Most works from our studio are pieces made specifically for a client. Some want a statue of a saint, others want a small sculpture for their book shelf, etc. Those commissions are relatively straight forward: The customer tells us what they want, and we make it. Payment is usually half down at the start with the second half being paid at the completion of the project.
Commissioning a portrait is a bit more involved but much more exciting for me because of the way in which I get to closely interact with my clients.
Prices start at $1000 for a life-size fired-clay bust done in the rough style of impressionist sculptors like Rodin (click for an example). A more photographic fired clay with faux bronze finish starts at $3000 (click for an example). A bronze, however, starts at around $6000 because of the quite involved casting process. It is interesting to note, however, that because of the casting process, the cost drops significantly for multiple copies after the initial portrait. For example, the initial portrait might cost $6000 but the second copy of it might only cost half that. (So, please don't hesitate to order a couple copies for each of your grandchildren to enjoy.)
Another factor to consider when deciding which type of portrait to order is durability. A fired clay bust is similar to fired pottery. It can chip and break if not handled properly. A bronze is prone to dents but does not usually break in handling.
Below is a general overview of the process.
1. The first step is to obtain pictures and measurements. While I can make a relatively accurate portrait based on a couple pictures (a front and side view preferably), the most accurate portraits are done from a living model. Because most people don't have days to spend sitting while I sculpt, reference photos and measurements are used.
Generally we'll schedule a time to visit with the client and subject of the portrait. Photos are taken from many different angles and measurements of the subject are taken. The image above illustrates the measurements I use. (Click the image for a larger version.) The first of 3 payments is made at this point.
2. I sculpt.3. As the sculpture evolves, pictures are taken and posted on our website so our client can see the progress and make suggestions on changes to be made. If the client is within a reasonable distance from our studio a second sitting may be done in order to make final adjustments to the likeness.
4. When I'm finished with the portrait and the client is happy with the likeness a second payment is made before it is fired (Clay bust) or molded and cast (Bronze bust).
5. The final step in the process is to give the piece a finished patina. In the case of a fired clay, the bust turns a pure white. A faux bronze patina may be added or it may remain white with a transparent sealer.
A finished bronze can have a greenish patina, a rich leathery brown, or may be buffed to a bright, nearly gold, appearance.
6. The final payment is made upon delivery of the finished piece. This can be an emotional time and is the part of the process I cherish as we come together to witness the unveiling of a moment in time, captured for generations.