Portraits

“Your art goes below the surface of skin and tissue and goes directly to the soul.”

LW, client

Portrait Commissions

I deeply believe that our individual stories matter, both to us and our loved ones, but also to the communities we belong to. Our experiences and stories get written on our bodies and our faces, embedded in our bones and skin. These stories deserve to be witnessed, honoured and shared with our loved ones, but also left as a legacy for those who come after us.

Portraits have been used for many things over the centuries: to flaunt wealth and power, to garner fame, to prove you’re more beautiful than the other princess the king might marry. But I think this misses how powerful portraiture can be in our own lives.

Portraits can be transformative, liberating, healing. They can be about closure, growth, or triumph. They can be about telling different kinds of stories than the ones we were told. We can use portraits, of ourselves and others, to change the narrative: both our internal narratives and the cultural narratives we participate in.

My process is highly collaborative and dedicated to telling the kind of story you want to tell. We can play with background, clothing & costume, lighting, and more: whether you want a subtle, intimate portrait or something playful and bold, this process is about exploring the kind of legacy you want to leave behind.

A client once said to me when commissioning a portrait to mark a significant moment in their life: “It was either going to be a tattoo or a portrait, and the portrait seemed like the better choice.”

I invite you to peruse the samples of my other portrait work below and read about the process. I would love to work with you on your legacy.

“Sarah saw the intricate beauty in me that I hadn’t yet seen in myself… and, eventually, I felt important & worthy enough for someone to spend hours of their time to paint me.”

E.D.

“Sarah makes you feel safe and welcome. My portrait definitely captured a side of me that I usually don’t see. A portrait captures an accumulation of your micro expressions that makes you You! There’s dimensions.”

E.D.

In the past, I was willing to have my portrait painted as a part of art, but now that I’m transitioning I’m enthusiastic about it. Sitting for Sarah is entertaining and relaxing; conversation goes everywhere and the time passes quickly. I enjoy seeing myself through Sarah’s eyes. She sees me.

C.G.

Fees: What are your prices?

Price depends upon the number of figures, size, and complexity of the background, but the prices below will give you an estimate.

Corporate and institutional portraits start at $25,000 for a 40” x 50” ¾ length portrait.

Family portraits of a single person, usually of the head & shoulders, start at $3500. 

Portrait drawings start at $750 for an 8” x 10” cameo.

Reference Photos: How do I choose? Can you take them for me?

I require high quality digital images or printed images to work from. If you’re local to Ottawa, I’m available to meet with you (depending on COVID restrictions) to take my own reference photos. If you’re farther afield, I can advise you on how to pick a selection of photos for us to discuss or how to take suitable photos.

Some basic tips are: single light source from the side (not back), more neutral expressions over giant toothy grins, high resolution images taken with a digital camera or excellent camera phone, and the photo taken from enough of a distance to reduce camera distortion.

Sittings: What’s a portrait sitting like? Do I have to sit for you for hours and hours? It seems like it would be boring and very time consuming.

If we’ve agreed to meet in person, whether in my studio or I’m traveling to meet with you, I require only one portrait sitting to create a portrait for you (although if you’d like to come more often, I certainly won’t argue!) 

We’ll meet for around 3 hours. We’ll spend some time discussing outfit and backdrop if we need to make final decisions in person. Then I’ll make a small colour study in paint and a small pencil sketch and take my own reference photos. While I’m painting and drawing, we’ll be taking regular breaks every 20 mins or so and chatting the whole way through so the time passes quickly. There is no need to stay perfectly still and the chair is comfortable with supportive cushioning.

Christmas: I want to commission a portrait for Christmas! When do I need to tell you?

The last day I take Christmas portraits is August 15. This allows me to plan properly and be certain that your piece will arrive in time, including sufficient drying time for oils and shipping. If it’s past August 15, email me to be put on a waiting list in case of cancellations. 

Timelines: How long will my portrait take?

Smaller portrait paintings can usually be completed in 3-6 months, depending on complexity. Corporate and institutional portraits can take 6-12 months to complete depending on size and scope. Drawings usually take 1-3 months. If you have a deadline in mind, the sooner you get in touch, the better!

Size: how big or small can my portrait be?

Size varies based on the style of portrait you’re looking for. Intimate family portraits range from 9”x12” for a single person “cameo” (head and shoulders) up to 48” x 60” for a family of four. 

Corporate and institutional portraits are typically between 36” x 48” to 40” x 55” in size and are usually “¾ length”, in which the head and body to just above the knees is painted.

Location: Where are you located?

I’m based in Ottawa, Canada but I’m happy to travel anywhere to work with my clients (post-COVID, of course). For now, I’m working from photo references provided by my clients.

Materials: What will my portrait be made from?

Unless otherwise stated, all paintings are oil on linen or panel and drawings are done on either hot press archival watercolour paper or toned pastel paper in graphite and white chalk. 

Contract & Payment Timelines:

I provide a contract at the beginning of each portrait, stating the scope of the project, timelines, and payment schedule. Payment is usually a 50% non-refundable deposit (unless the contract is cancelled before work begins) or 25% for works over $20,000. I update the client throughout the process with photos of the work so that feedback and adjustments can be made. For larger works, sketches and colour studies will be provided to give you an idea of what the final product will look like. Major adjustments to the design after these sketches and colour studies have been approved will incur extra fees. The final payment is due upon completion, along with any extra costs such as shipping, framing or insurance that we have decided upon. Pieces will always be shipped freight in a custom built box or crate.

Ready to get started on your legacy? Say hello!

4 + 4 =

About

I’ve always been drawn to portraiture and people’s faces – I am endlessly fascinated by the human body in all of its intricacy, subtlety and grace. Growing up, it was the portraits in art history books that I first fell in love with – people’s stories and lives looking out at me centuries later. Bored in class in elementary school, I made a whole series of portraits of the backs of my fellow students’ heads. Two decades later, now I have the honour of getting to paint the front of people’s heads as well, much to my relief.

I currently live in Ottawa, Canada with my elderly three-legged Maine Coon rescue cat and a small flock of plants that boasts a stunning (for me at least) 75% survival rate. In my spare time, I knit with absentminded disregard for patterns & instructions and dance ballet for the sheer joy of seeing how high I can lift my legs in adage. My eternal love can be bought with whiskey and cookies, in case that comes up.

If credentials are a thing that interest you, I spent over 2 years studying at Studio Escalier in France, painting and drawing the figure from life for 30 hours a week. My art has been featured in American Art Collector and Fine Art Connoisseur, and awarded a Certificate of Honour at the Portrait Society of America’s International Portrait Competition. I have demonstrated 18th century portrait drawing techniques at the National Gallery of Canada (three times) and ran a figure painting & drawing school for 5 years. My work has been exhibited in Canada, the US and Ireland and I am currently working towards another solo exhibition (2022).

Sarah was so amazing to work with. She is patient and easy to work with. I never really thought of myself as someone who would commission portraits, but I knew Sarah, and had seen samples of her work on social media. I feel my portraits are so special and intimate; they are life-like and it makes me feel like my children are here even when they are not.

S.W.

Our painting brings back many wonderful memories, and it’s a great joy to see my husband portrayed so very well. He likes it because it captures his image from a few years ago in his favorite place besides home, Italy. 

D.K.

I see these portraits every day
and think of Dorian Grey
each one a self of my own true selves;
none less wonderful.”

L.W.

I wanted to capture my daughters at the height of their beauty in a unique and memorable way. I told Sarah at the time, there were so many ways that this might not have worked out, but the whole process was wonderful and the outcome completely satisfying. Looking at my daughters’ portraits makes me feel proud of my daughters and proud to have had them painted.

C.H.