Child's Oil Portrait, Mac Canale, Memphis, TN  

Tuesday night I had an open studio event, where guests could come and see the portraits I’m working on and ask me questions about my creative process.

It was a great chance for those interested in a commission to see a portrait in person.

After guests mingled and enjoyed wine and apps, I gave a brief talk on my mission, which is to help families celebrate their relationships by honoring their children. That’s the fuel behind what I do - to make children know they are loved and valued.

I get a lot of questions about my commissions, so I suggest that anyone interested read my FAQs page. In it, I give a brief overview of the process, breaking it down into three steps: first there's the consultation with me, then I take pictures and do sketches, then we celebrate with an unveiling party.

Obviously there’s more involved, but those are the basic steps.

But I’ve found with the moms I talk to , they often want to know their role in the commission process. Do they pick out the clothes, setting, pose, etc? Do they need to have an idea in their head of what it should look like?

The answer is no.

To make it clearer, I'll use this example. Imagine you are at Restaurant Iris. You’ve come because you’ve heard Kelly English is a great chef, and you trust he’s going to deliver a great meal. The waiter gives you the menu, and you choose an entrée. You may have little tweaks you’d like them to make, like no blue cheese, but you wouldn’t go into the kitchen and tell Kelly how to make the dish.

It’s the same with commissioning an artist.

My collectors come to me because they like my work and trust my vision. They trust that I can paint a beautiful portrait of their child.

I spend time getting to know the children I paint. I interview their parents. Then using what I know about them and my artistic expertise, I interpret their likeness in a portrait. I do not copy photos and I do not work from someone else’s photos. It limits my creative control.

And that’s the only way I can do my best work.

Sometimes my collectors have preferences, like they want their child painted outside, or in a favorite chair. I am happy to consider those preferences, but I always tell people it may not be what’s best for the portrait.

A great example was with a recent commission. My client wanted her son holding a family heirloom. Well, he was totally resistant to it and it would have made a very stiff, unnatural portrait. I went in a different direction and she loved the portrait.

That's how I continue to do consistently great work that my collectors love and adore. And that makes me happy.