Start a Portrait Painting Business For Fun, Profit, and Romance

What is the most romantic thing you can do? Start a portrait painting business – that’s what! You will grow fond of your sitter, have fun painting, and fall in love with the portrait you painted. After all, the portrait will be your “baby” and you will not want to let it go. Once you have painted your first portrait, you will see what I mean.

People love to have their portrait painted and you can make a substantial income with your exquisite paintings.

How much money can you make? A good, as yet unknown portrait artist, can expect to be paid anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 for a head and shoulders portrait. At this rate just 6 to 7 portraits can earn you a living. If you become known as a painter, you will be able to double and triple that income.

Portrait painting takes determination and skill. But it is also amazing fun. If you want to start a portrait painting business but feel you need more training or education, think about taking classes at a local art school. Most give evening classes as well as day classes.

You can get a jump your training by taking private classes or small group classes. Many portrait teachers or advanced students hold private classes you can join. Often teachers hold “painting vacations” in the summer where you can get in-depth training.

It also helps to study the work of master portrait painters. Visit museums as often as possible. Study portraits by Rembrandt and Murillo as well as those by Sir Thomas Lawrence, Alfred Stevens, André Derain, Gilbert Stuart, and John Singer Sargent.

Here are some tips to help you start a portrait painting business:

1) Painting portraits is all about seeing. Study people’s faces in all types of lighting. Try to see the big planes in faces – not the details.

2) Keep stepping back as you paint in order to observe the sitter and your canvas from a distance. You should be able to freely step back about eight feet.

3) Paint loosely with big brushes called “flats.”

4) Light your sitter with only one light source from a 150 watt bulb. The light should fall on one side of the sitter, slightly above the head.

5) Take a few dozen Polaroid pictures of the sitter so you can study them when the sitter is not there.

6) Keep the background simple so as not to distract from the sitter’s face.

7) The sitter should sit with his or her body turned slightly to the side and his or her head facing you. The eyes should be on a level with yours.

8) Schedule four to five sittings with the sitter.

9) Use a toned canvas. A medium earth tone or a medium grey-blue is excellent. It helps tie the painting together.

10) The easiest way to check proportions is to turn the portrait upside down. You will notice immediately if the features are right. Turn it right side up and make corrections.

11) There are certain standard sizes for portraits. Here are three of the most popular canvas sizes:

20″ x 24″ for a head and shoulders portrait

25″ x 30″ for a head, shoulders, and hands portrait

30″ x 30″ for a portrait that takes in the head, shoulders, and hands and goes nearly to the waist

When you are ready to “go public,” it is time to make money from your portrait painting business. The Internet is an inexpensive and effective way to get excellent advertising. Put up a Web site and include pictures of your portraits on the home page and subsequent pages.

Have a few hundred color brochures printed. Include a variety of portraits from babies and children to teenagers, and from middle aged to mature people. Include a pet, where possible as paintings of pets are a big draw.

Also, design business cards with a small picture of one of your portraits. Send your brochure and business card with a cover letter to embassies.

Here are a few other marketing ideas:

* Send out a press release with a picture of one of your portraits.

* Auction off a portrait session as a prize for a high-profile charity event and have the local newspapers cover it.

* Teach an adult education class about portrait painting.

* Finally, if you can afford it, place a small ad in an upscale magazine.

Be prepared to travel. Your clients will be located around the world. Some may want you to paint from a photograph only. Others will want you on site. The client pays your travel and on-site expenses.

If you decide to start a portrait painting business, you will never forget your first commission. This exciting home based business gives you more satisfaction than almost any other business on earth. You will give the world a stunning work of art that will live forever – along with your name.

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