|Doing any commissioned work is a collaborative process. It goes something like this. . . .
We get together under relaxed circumstances. A cup of tea, a glass of wine, whatever. We look through my portfolio and talk about what it is that I do and what it is that you want to express through my work.
If it's to be a portrait I'll guide everyone through a conversation where we talk about the portrait in terms of the sort of feeling one wants to achieve - formal / informal / elegant / fun / action-oriented as well as such things as setting, colour and size. . . . Then on a separate meeting I bring my camera and take pictures of the subject(s) - again, the emphasis as always is to make the process enjoyable and stress-free.
I then work up sketches based on the photo session and make a presentation of a few options. Feedback is very important and welcome at this point. Often this will suffice and I'll begin the painting process but sometimes we'll decide to work in a different direction and this may involve more sketches or even another shoot. Once all parties are happy with the plan, I'll proceed with the actual painting.
The whole process from first meeting to the end product usually takes 3 to 5 months (but yes, I can often work to deadlines).
Ana Maria and I after our photo shoot in Madrid, Spain
Jonny and I whisper at his portrait's unveiling
|F. A. Q. s and Testimonials|
|What's the right age for a portrait?
All ages are good - each age just requires a different approach. My youngest subject has been a few months old, my oldest in her 80s.
At each age there is a different feeling, a different energy that the portrait will share. The portrait captures a specific moment in time.
Wheather it's the wide open adorableness of a toddler, the feisty playfulness of a preschooler, intensity of adolescence, the strength of adulthood, the wisdom of age. . . It's a very personal choice and all depends on what you what to capture and express.
"The relationship we have with our portraits is both intimate and aesthetic. We love them as art, and we love them - more and more with the passage of time - as the expression of an unrepeatable moment."
- Ann Marie MacDonald
My kids are perfect most of the time, however . . .
When I do portraits of children I understand things may get crazy. They may not know the full implications of why I'm following their every move with a camera but they know something's up. Something Big. Parents are often surprised at just how amok they run!
Sometimes sibling rivalries will rise up larger than life. I of course strive to pay equal attention to each child, but as you well know, that often helps very little.
Then there are the wee ones whose meltdowns are often unpredictable and fierce.
All this can be extremely stressful for parents who are watching over the process and hoping against hope that their kids will calm down, play nice and not wreck the family portrait.
Let me rest assure you - they're not wrecking anything. With these photos I'll mix and match, cut and paste, design, plan and combine. They are important tools for the painting that will follow and if a happy day can't be achieved - I've got no problem at all rebooking - as many sessions as it takes. This is all towards finding the truth that lies behind the chaos - that your kids are indeed perfect.
"Our decision to have Kirsten make a portrait of our daughter was easy. We'd seen her work and loved it, and when she described the caring and consultative process she employs in making her pictures, we knew we'd have a lot of choice and input on the final works. After a happy photo session with Amelia, Kirsten presented us with a range of images which were so pleasing we decided we wanted two! Kirsten's pair of portraits of Amelia hang in our dining room and attract admiring comments from everyone who comes to our house."
"The portrait of Eli by Kirsten Johnson is one of our most treasured possesions. If there was a fire in the house I'd run back in to get it. It's a magnificent work of art by a gifted artist and a lasting record of our beloved son. She didn't just capture his essence at that age - 2.5 - she captured his essential spirit. She took the time to get to know him, talked and played with him and took many photos so that even now years later - it's still "him". It makes us smile every time we look at it.
-Diane Flacks / Janis Purdy
|I want to get a portrait done of myself - am I vain?
I've been commissioned by several people to do portraits of themselves and I'm always struck by how little it has to do with vanity. I find that people come to me with this request because they want to capture a significant moment in their lives. Often they've just been through a personal ordeal and are celebrating coming out the other side.
These portraits are always a joy to do because they're all about strength and people taking control. So no, you're not vain.*
*But just in case you're a teensy weensy bit vain - rest assured, I've also got a keen interest in making people look their best.
You work from photos but I take horrible pictures!
Everyone takes horrible pictures. At first. Back in the old days of film I could alway count on the entire first roll being a wash out.
Taking a good pictures is all about relaxation, becoming comfortable with the camera and this simply doesn't happen quickly. Now that I work from digital stills I have the freedom to take many many photos so we have the time to settle, to relax and enjoy the process.
This inevitably enables beautiful pictures from which to create a beautiful painting.
"I loved the portrait process; it's way more participatory--and revealing--than photography. Many people who have seen my portrait comment on how she captured a certain "look". Kirsten was able to capture something lurking below the surface. And years from now, someone may look at it and wonder 'What's she up to?' I like that a secret little part of me will survive long after I'm gone."|
- Liz Armstrong
"Having Kirsten paint my portrait was almost therapeutic. She is interested and interesting as she explores your psyche."
|I want a portrait of my family but SOME of us are more into it than SOME of us.
People often have a pre-conceived idea of what a portrait is and will look like. And they don't want any part of it.
I can't really blame them - I too have seen some pretty cringeworthy examples of portraiture. Stiff, dreary or maudlin examples where awkward looking people look like they'd rather be anywhere else but that particular painting.
When I make a portrait I make sure that each member of the family participates in a way that makes him or her feel comfortable. This applies to the way the photo shoot is conducted, to the pose, the attitude and even the overall concept.
If I'm working with teenagers for example - I often find it helpful to work with them alone first, starting by taking photos that are more like band shots or maybe with a couple of their friends. All so they can trust that they're an active part of the process.
Sometimes if a child is shy I leave the camera out of the equation and just play with them for a while. We'll play trains, draw, decorate cupcakes - something so we can get to know each other and relax.
When I come to show you the mockups you'll see several versions of what the portrait might look like. You'll see that I take different aspects (faces, even body parts) from different photos. All so that each person can look their best while I create a harmonious whole. At this point feedback from everyone involved is welcomed and encouraged.
"My children have been captured in an oil painting not in a still, stagnant way but in a breathing, living form. Our children have been represented magnificently. I'm so appreciative that this has come into our lives!"|
I love your work and want to commission something but not a portrait - I'm not sure what.|
I'm not daunted by your indecision. I'm intrigued.
Some people have a very specific idea about what they want - a
portrait of a loved one, several loved ones, a loved thing, themselves. . . . Others just have a vague idea, a colour scheme or a feeling.
Sometimes people get ideas from looking at other work on my website. Some people want a sock puppet painting but can't think of a phrase (I'll help) or are drawn to something in the Catfight line or whathaveyou.
Whatever the case, a commission is always collaborative process. I'll guide you through it to something you'll love.
|I'm thinking of giving a portrait as a surprise.
Is there a way to do this AND have the person to be surprised IN the portrait?
I was almost going to blab away all my secrets! Let's just say that I love the challenge of surprising someone - it takes a certain amount of creativity to make this come about.
I'm quite an experienced performer but I'm not a comfortable liar. Except when the lie is in aid of someone bringing joy to a loved one - then I'm all for it.
Lies, trickiness and deception. Yipee.
How much does a commissioned work cost?
Pricing is based on size and size is based on things like - how many people and things are depicted? Is it a full body composition? A more intimate head and shoulders or something in between? When potential sketches are presented I provide the info on what each would cost. Here it is all mapped out, showing you pieces of a similar size. . . .
If you have any other questions - don't hesitate to click on the contact link below and send me an email.
It's a big and bold decision to get a commissioned piece of work and I enjoy answering your questions.
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