Starting a commissioned portrait – Day 54

Today I started the drawing for a portrait I’ve been commissioned to do. It’s to be a surprise so I can’t share it here with you. I did take advice from Lance Weisser (blog at and I’m doing the drawing using watercolour pencils. Hopefully this will deal with the problem of trying to cover up graphite pencil marks with paint.

This week I came across Robert Bateman’s website and he gives his advice on painting. Here’s the full article.

When I was in college I worked in a picture framing shop and Robert Bateman prints sold faster than we could frame them. I was always in awe of his work and how he was able to capture wildlife in such an amazing way.

There are things he says that really resonate with me.

One definition of a masterpiece I have heard . . . when you see it, you should feel you are seeing for the first time, and it should look as if it is done without effort. This is a very, very tough yardstick. I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever done a masterpiece, but when I am struggling with each painting – and they are all a struggle – I often feel that I am nowhere near those two goals.

How incredible that one of the most successful artists in Canada feels like this! I relate to the ‘struggle’ as I also struggle with each painting. There are times I’m ready to scrap it and that’s usually when it’s time to take a break from it.

People often ask how long it takes me to do a painting. The answer is, I don’t know. I work on five to fifteen at once. I like them when I first start them, then they always get worse so I start a new one to cheer me up. By the time the fifth one looks really awful to me, the first one doesn’t look quite as bad, and a new idea about it may have come along so I can work on it for a while. One took me about six years off and on!

This is exactly why I like to have more than one project on the go at a time. I think artists often suffer from the pressure to do ‘one thing at a time’ and that can be very limiting. Right now I need a break from Tied to a Dream so I can be happy starting on a new project and then go back to that painting when I’m refreshed and excited about it again. That will probably be on the weekend!

7 thoughts on “Starting a commissioned portrait – Day 54

  1. weisserwatercolours

    These quotes from Robert Bateman are SO helpful. I am in a slump painting-wise right now, and that gives me a real lift. Thank you so very much. He is our premier member of The Federation of Canadian Artists, and we are very fortunate to have him. I hope to heaven using watercolour pencils for your initial drawing proves to be a good thing. It has always worked for me though some are a bit more water soluble than others (the blues stain and so do the reds).

    1. bstonehouse

      We are very fortunate to have him. I’ve been fascinated by his work for years and I love that he’s willing to share what he does. I’ve been using orange, brown and green watercolour pencils for the drawing and we’ll see how it works out! Just having something in a different colour other than graphite is a good thing. The graphite pencil often smeared and created a dark shadow under the light colours so this is fantastic! I really appreciate your help!

      Sent from my iPad

  2. emjayzed

    Thanks for this post. I’m relatively new to painting and committing to doing something creative regularly so it was very useful advice.

    Traditionally I’m one of those people who start something and then HAS to finish it before moving on (multi-tasking is not a talent of mine!). However, I’m finding when it comes to art/creativity that this is rather limiting as, when I get stuck I just stop and then I feel sad that I’m not creating. Eventually I return to it after I’ve finished my “pity party”! lol

    I think I will take this advice and perhaps try and change my ways so that when I get stuck I’ll start something new to re-motivate, then go back to the previous piece giving me “grief” 🙂

    1. bstonehouse

      I find it’s helpful when I have a few projects on the go at different stages. If I feel like painting I can paint but if in more of a drawing mood then I can do that instead. Sometimes I need a break from what I’m working on so I can renew my enthusiasm for it.

      Everyone finds what works for them though and I think it’s great that you’re making time to be creative! I look forward to seeing what you’re working on!

      1. emjayzed

        Thanks, I have a new “project” currently which isn’t turning out like I hoped but I’ll post when I’m done 🙂 In the meantime I am going to invigorate something I “gave up on” as your post motivated me to give it another chance!

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