Here's a pretty typical example of the process we follow to do a commissioned painting. The client, Ben, was an avid horseman, and had a photo of himself and a good friend riding their horses together, which was to be the basis of this painting. The photo was taken in Florida, but Ben and his friend both have places out here in Wyoming, so he wanted to have them riding with a Wyoming landscape in the background; we discussed this, and agreed to put the Tetons in the background. A further requirement was that he wanted to ensure that both he, and his friend would be readily recognizable in the painting, even though the figures would be relatively small. We began with our standard agreement, which has an appendix which describes the desired painting in as much detail as possible so I can understand whatever mind's eye image the client may have before I begin the actual work. Here's what the descriptive COMMISSION AGREEMENT APPENDIX specified (names have been changed to protect the innocent); just close the new window when you're done reviewing the Appendix.

The first interim deliverable was a very simple 8 x 6" thumbnail drawing in pencil. I felt that this drawing gave an adequate representation of my basic idea, and I presented it (as a jpeg image sent via email) to Ben for his approval. He liked and approved it.

In many cases, we might do two or three small pencil/charcoal sketches like this, to try out different compositions, dimensions, etc. In this case, the image was pretty well fixed going in, so only this one sketch was necessary to reach agreement for the next step.

In the case of a portrait, the next step would usually be a full-sized (same size as the final painting) pencil or charcoal drawing, and the main objective would be to ensure that I have achieved a sufficiently accurate likeness of the subject before beginning to do color sketch(es).

I proceeded to do the next interim deliverable, the small color sketch. This painting was done in oil on a 12 x 9" canvas panel (which was in the same proportions as the final painting, but was only one-fourth the size). I paid much more attention to the correct drawing, and the values and colors of this sketch to ensure that it was a relatively accurate representation of how the final painting would appear. It was presented to the client (again, as a jpeg image sent via email) for his approval. He liked it very much, except...

Ben felt that the yellowish shirt of his friend detracted from the fall aspens in the background, and I agreed with him, so I modified the color sketch, putting the friend in a khaki-colored outdoor shirt. We both liked the color of this better against the fall aspens, and Ben approved. After a bit more thought, I told him I wanted to change the friend's shirt to a long-sleeved shirt, as the painting was set in the fall, and Ben was in a long-sleeved shirt as well. Ben agreed. Finally, he asked me to adjust the angles of his feet in the stirrups, so his toes weren't pointing outward. We agreed that it would not be necessary for him to see these final changes painted in the small color sketch, so I proceeded with the final painting.

Here's the final painting, 18 x 24", oil on canvas mounted on board. Ben was very pleased, because we "homed in" successfully on the image he wanted - and happiness is always a function of expectations.

Framed up, and ready to ship!