Portrait Artist Sydney – How to Commission a Portrait Painting

Charcoal portrait by portrait artist Sydney

Portrait in Charcoal by Hettie Rowley- Portrait Artist Sydney

Portrait in Pastel by Hettie Rowley- Portrait Artist Sydney

Portrait in Pastel by Hettie Rowley- Portrait Artist Sydney

Portrait Artist Sydney - how to commission a portrait painting

Portrait Artist Sydney: I am a portrait artist living in Sydney NSW. Apart from painting portrait commissions - pets and people!, I also teach portrait painting in Sydney and surrounding areas.  For people thinking about having a portrait of a loved one - or themselves done, I've put together a few frequently asked questions to make the process of finding and hiring an artist not such a daunting experience. 

So what are the frequently asked questions?

  •  Where and how do I find a portrait artist in Sydney?
  • How much will it cost?
  •  What size will it be?
  • What medium?


Feel free to contact me with any request or question regarding commissions

Question 1:  Where and how do I find an artist?  

Friends and Family

Maybe you already know an artist. Or maybe you have a friend or family member who is an artist and you’re familiar with their work and love his or her style. Great! Just a little word of caution. Just because you know the artist – do not assume that he or she should do a portrait for you for free. Remember that this is most probably the artist’s only income. Keep it businesslike and professional to safeguard both parties.

Artists Online, Websites, Art Groups and Galleries

If you do not personally know an artist, there are a few ways to find one. Online is most probably the best source.  Look for artists (visit their website and social pages) whose style of painting fits your idea of what you want.  If you want your portrait done in a photorealistic style then you should not choose an artist with a loose whimsical style, and vice versa.  

After all, a portrait painting is a gift to someone else or yourself to be enjoyed for years to come - a gift that will last a lifetime and beyond!   It is an investment in time and money.

Local art galleries and art groups are also sources for finding an artist to work with. 

Ask for a Portfolio

You should always ask to see a portfolio of work before making a commitment choosing an artist.  At the end of the day, choosing an artist is instinctive. You will know instantly If an artist’s style of work connects with you or not.

Make a Shortlist

I would suggest though that you make a shortlist of artists who appeal to you. Your first choice might not be available in your timescale or might be above your budget.

Location is Not Critical

Just one more note. Don’t let location of the artist influence the final decision.  It is better to commission the right artist than someone you are not completely happy with but they just happen to live near you.

Question 2:  How much will it cost you?

The price will depend on the medium used, the size of the painting and the complexity of the commission. 

a Small graphite drawing of a head and shoulder portrait can be created relatively quickly - and therefore a lot cheaper than an oil painting that includes a background and maybe even the full figure.

Keep in mind also that works on paper i.e. watercolour, pastels, graphite and charcoal generally need to be framed and that will be an added cost. 

Framing and delivery are generally not included in the fee but should be discussed at the same time.  Added fees can make a huge difference to the price of the painting.  If you choose an artist who is  local to you, you might arrange to pick the painting up after completion to save postage but if the artist lives in another country for instance please be aware that postage and packaging would be an extra charge.

Portrait in Pastel by Hettie Rowley- Portrait Artist Sydney

Portrait in Watercolour by Hettie Rowley- Portrait Artist Sydney

Portrait in Pastel by Hettie Rowley- Portrait Artist Sydney

Portrait in Pastel by Hettie Rowley- Portrait Artist Sydney

Question 3: You’ve found an artist you like, now what?

Every artist works differently.  My process is this.  Once you’ve contacted me, I will go through the options with you.  This just means a lot of questions so that I can get the context of what to quote on.  For instance:

  • What size do you want? (If you measure the space, please keep in mind that the painting might need a frame and that will impact on the actual size of the artwork) 
  • What shape?  To help answer that - think of where it will hang?  Is the space for it long and narrow or wide and flat?  (this will determine if the painting will work better in a portrait or landscape format)
  • How many people (or pets) in the painting?
  • Head and shoulders only or full figure?
  • What medium would you prefer the painting to be in?
  • Do you have a certain colour range you want to adhere to?  (for backgrounds and clothes etc)
  • Is the person to be in the portrait local and can she or he sit for me or is it a surprise and you are giving me photos to work from.
  • And very importantly. Completion date. Don’t commission a huge oil painting a month before you want it – it won’t happen.
Pet portrait in pastel by Hettie Rowley - portrait artist Sydney

Pet portrait - Maggie in pastel -Hettie Rowley - Portrait artist Sydney

Pet portrait Narla in pastels - Hettie Rowley -Portrait artist Sydney

Pet portrait - Narla in pastels - Hettie Rowley -Portrait artist Sydney

Question 4: What is the next step?

Now that I have all the information, I need from you, I will quote you for the work.  If you accept the quote, I will either ask for photos to be emailed to me or arrange a date for an initial sitting.  Think of this as getting to know each other.  It might take several emails and conversations to sort out this stage but it’s well worth the effort. 

If I am to work from photographs, I will ask you to send me more than one from different angles. You can tell me which your preferred photo is but if I feel that another photo/pose will work better then I will discuss it with you.

If the portrait is to be done from life we will arrange for a place and time for the sitting(s).  The initial sitting will be to work out the best pose, I will do some initial sketches and take some photographs. We can decide on the background and colour scheme in this session.

I will then present you with ideas/initial sketches for final decision and you will pay a deposit to confirm the commission.

Once the deposit is paid, I will start the painting.  Work in progress photographs will be taken and emailed to you once I feel that the work is at a stage where changes can still be requested if needed.  Please note, depending on the medium, changes should not be too radical.  Asking for radical changes might incur extra fees.

Finally!  Your painting is finished.

I will email you a photo of the finished artwork and an invoice for the remainder of the fee. When you approve it and pay the fee, I will package the painting and post/courier it to you or arrange for a pickup if you are local. I never deliver a painting without receiving payment in full first. If it needs to be shipped then shipping charges must be paid at the same time.

Full payment details can be found on the commission page of my website.  You can also see more of my portraits on this gallery page

Paintings will be flat packed and drawings will be roll up in a tube unless it’s framed.

Want to find out a bit more? Visit The Royal Society of Portrait Painters.