The beauty of childhood is brief, yet an oil painting gives pleasure for a lifetime and becomes a family heirloom.

You can afford real art

Commissioning a portrait


"...travelling around the world as we do & being apart from our children as we so often are it is lovely to have your portrait of them : it is such a living & breathing thing and really does make it seem as if we have them with us all the time. We see new things in it daily and remain thrilled with it as a real family heirloom." - testimonial from the parents of the children in the group portrait, of which a detail is shown here.

Above: Charlotte. For the whole picture, click on the image. More examples of my work are shown in the thumbnail images on the left: click on a picture to enlarge it. (If you do not see the images on the left please click here.)


Why a portrait in oils?

My aim is to show the best of the sitter and at the same time create a painting which is pleasing as a work of art.

A portrait in oils is also a record of the sitter over an extended time. Whereas a photograph catches a momentary mood, a painting gives more opportunity for many aspects of the person to emerge during the sittings, expressed by nuances of expression, choices of lighting and colours, decisions about the pose and the sitter's own feeling about how they want to be shown.

For my paintings I make every effort to ensure durability, from the choice and preparation of the canvas to the choice of pigments. You will be able to hand on your painting to generations to come.

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Own a real painting!

A portrait painting commissioned by you from me is neither a photograph nor a copy of a photograph: it is a collaborative work of art.

Walk into a room in which there hangs a poster of one of the great masterpieces of all time, and in the same room hangs a real oil painting, perhaps by an unknown artist but one which pleases you. Which draws you to it more? Which has more energy? A real painting contains, albeit in a way that is not easily scientifically explicable, an energy of its own. It gives out the attention that the artist put into making it. The poster has a flat surface which is only an echo of the depth and structure of the original. With a real painting you can see how the light penetrates the translucent layers and illuminates the picture from within, how the texture of the surface makes the painting live, how the artist has struggled with form and colour to create the small world that you see in front of you.

Next consider the process of portrait painting. It is a process extended over time. As the sitter relaxes into the sittings, perhaps talking to the painter or taking the opportunity to rest attentively, something more true to essence may emerge which the observant artist can portray. Painting is a matter of selection, and in portrait painting it should be selection of the best. All this takes time.

More mundanely but just as importantly, how long will a family snapshot last? The usual colour technology will give you an image with a lifespan of perhaps 12 to 15 years before exposure to light will destroy the colour balance. Get out your old family snaps and see if I am right (you may be lucky if they were Kodachrome 25, otherwise probably not). A well-prepared linen canvas painted with the best pigments will last for centuries.

This is not to decry the very best photography. A skilled photographer can obtain many of the qualities of a painting with sufficient time and patience and perhaps a number of sittings, and can make you a fine black and white silver or platinum print that will last for well over a hundred years. But for work of this quality you will not pay less than for a painting. That is because in either case you are buying something achieved by much study, practice, and attention to detail. It will be art of lasting value.

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What happens when you commission a portrait?

Normally I would come to the sitter. This is because the sitter will be more relaxed in their own environment. Also we may decide to incorporate something of significance to the sitter into the picture. A portrait is a two way process in which the sitter actively participates (or a three way process if the sitter is not the person commissioning the portrait).

Several sittings will be required and I shall also take photographs. Individual requirements vary but in general I prefer to work from live sittings whenever possible as it gives a much more alive result. Reckon on up to six sittings of about one and a half hours each (shorter and fewer sittings for young children, longer for older sitters depending on tolerance: I do not want to bore my sitters).

william c

(William: detail from a group portrait)

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Whenever I have been asked to meet particular deadlines (eg: family moving to another country, or painting to be ready for a birthday) in the past I have met them.

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Satisfaction guaranteed

You will be involved in every stage in the project, and I shall discuss with you the pose and clothing of the sitter, the composition, the setting, and the mood of the painting. You will see each stage of the work, and I shall share with you my perception of the artistic issues, and at the same time be guided by your comments as the painting progresses (in my opinion such collaboration between artist and patron is more likely to enhance rather than dilute the artistic value of the work). In the event that you are not entirely happy with the finished product I shall, in discussion with you, re-work the painting to your satisfaction. In the unlikely event that you are nevertheless not happy with the painting, I shall retain the picture and refund without quibble any moneys paid except the non-returnable deposit (20% of the quoted final price to cover materials and initial expenses). At the outset you will receive a written guarantee from the artist confirming these terms.

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naomi 2 small jpg


Prices currently start at about £600 for a 14x18in head and shoulders. Travelling expenses additional. You can see for yourself on this site whether my style appeals, and a good likeness is guaranteed. Email me or use the enquiry form for a quotation.

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Contact information

Martin Dace, 147 Jerningham Road, New Cross, London SE14 5NJ

Tel: +44 (0)20 7639 6311; fax: +44 (0)20 7639 1842


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Views this page since 26.04.2001