Process: Tom & Laura’s Wedding Portrait Painting

I thought it might be fun for you to see the stages of creating this modern fairytale portrait painting. I scheduled about a month, at two days per week, to work on this 16″ x 32″ acrylic painting on canvas. To learn more about commissioning a painting, click here. So without further ado:

Stage 1: Drawing using graphite and then Pitt artist pen.

Stage 2: Grisaille in Chromium Oxide Green.

Stage 3: Colour wash. Quinacridone Red, Pthalo Green and Green Gold.

Stage 4: Establish background buildings and sky.

Stage 5: Working on everything but negative space objects.

Stage 6 & 7: Work on the car.

Stage 8: Paint the figures and adjust the background to create proper recession and focus. DONE!

To see more of my portraits click here.

To learn more about commissioning a painting, click here.

Process: Paintings are grown, not executed.

I was posting some progress images of a wedding portrait I am currently working on to my Facebook page, One Life Fine Art (if you are on Facebook, make sure to like and follow me there), and it occurred to me suddenly that the person for whom I am making the painting could actually be terrified by what they were seeing!

The first phase was the line drawing, the second, a grisaille in chromium oxide green, and the third was the layer where I work out my major colour story (in this case a series of full strength washes of pthalo green, green gold and Quinacridone red/violet mix).

On top of that I will start to refine the forms and paint in details, balancing lights, darks and colour as I go along. To me this seems natural, but to someone who has never seen a painting grow from sketch to finish, they might have assumed the process was something like paint by numbers or colouring books, where each clearly delineated area has its individual colour mixed and applied from left to right, in one go.

I suppose some artists work like that, but my paintings are more like a living thing, layers upon layers built up from the back to the front of the painting (or canvas to picture plane), with each layer growing from the layer beneath.

The major difference is in how preplanned the painting is. Am I merely executing something which already exists fully realized in my head, or am I working with the idea to create something unique to itself?

Working left to right, filling in areas in a planned and orderly fashion is certainly efficient, but doesn’t allow me to take advantage of coincidence or discovery. Knowing that I can’t possibly anticipate every eventuality in the painting, I would rather give myself the opportunity to stop earlier than planned or change things to capitalize on coincidences as they appear. I couldn’t see these coincidences and happy accidents if I were focussing on the orderly filling of areas of colour instead of an organic approach to the image.

So, should you be out there watching my paintings take shape and feel you are on a bit of a rollercoaster ride in terms of progress, never fear, we will arrive safely. You will just have to have a little faith in the process and trust your pilot. In the mean time, sit back and enjoy the ride!

Why commission a painting?

I am not going to give you a lot of practical, solid investment oriented reasons as to why you should commission a work of art for yourself or your ‘organization.’

I could talk about the difference between having a professional trained in translating feelings and thoughts into an aesthetically pleasing visual expression, and an amateur snapping an off the cuff photo and having it ‘blown up.’

I could talk about honouring your subject with a one of a kind highly crafted and durable object.

I could talk about investing in both the status and worth of yourself or your organization, and the subject, through having it recorded in the time honoured manner of the wealthy, the noble and the pious.

But I am not.

Instead, I am going to talk about magic:

The real reason you should commission a painting, in my opinion, is because of the magical way it heightens your feelings about the subject.

The Crone Children
Oil on Canvas
30 x 30
by Debbie.lee Miszaniec


I don’t completely know why, or how, but the act of having a professional artist invest hours, weeks or months, of their time, skill and attention into the interpretation of your thoughts and feelings in relation to the subject (a home, a garden, a pet, a loved one…) seems to imbue the subject with a certain magical quality of stirring emotion, even more than the photo that may have served as reference.

At unveiling, time and again I have witnessed unexpected tears as the individual sees the painting for the first time. Whether it is a gift or for yourself, I think this is what you are looking for when you commission an artwork, that recognition of the magic of feeling, time and attention.

What do you think? Have you commissioned an artwork? Why? What was the reaction to the finished work?