Portraiture

Have you ever wanted to see your own portrait painted before your eyes? Own a precious, unique work of art that captures your ideal self in a fleeting moment? In the past few years I’ve learned that many people do, although not so many are aware of the fascination until it’s happening.

It’s a pleasure to be offering portrait sittings now. These are intimate, in-person sessions. They take around two hours. We do a number of paintings – usually around 6 – until we get the one we love the most. Sometimes, subjects like more than one painting and they can keep both. The large paintings like the one of my friend Laure above are 22″ x 30″ for $500. For those with less wall space, I offer 15″ x 22″ or smaller for $300. To inquire, please email or call +1 647 686 1922. Currently I’m in New York, but it doesn’t matter where you are. I travel a lot and we will find a way to be in the same city.

Portraits can be full body or face, in any state of dress or undress, and I can do couples or small groups also (inquire for rates).

It’s exciting to transition from fashion illustration to portraiture and fine art. This has occurred in a very natural way. It’s funny how this kind of thing happens, as soon as I thought to myself that I wanted to offer a portrait service, before I even told anyone, I was approached by this lovely young family that had a big empty wall in their family room and gave me the serendipitous opportunity to debut my idea. Seeing this group framed and successfully installed was an absolute delight, and knowing that the family will be enjoying their personal art in a room they relax in every day is an honour.

Portraiture is definitely more challenging than commercial and editorial fashion illustration for several reasons, not just because fashion illustration is often ephemeral and a portrait hangs on the wall for years if not decades. For fashion, the most important thing is to get the attitude right; it has to look now – that’s why I called my book Draw Fashion Now. For portraiture, it’s necessary to capture the individual personality – people need to be able to see themselves in the art. So it’s a much more intimate process – to be able to make people feel seen. Certainly this ability is connected with my work as a Tarot reader. However it was fashion that guided me to developing this new skill.

Here’s the story.

In 2007, recently graduated from fashion school, I felt that I needed to loosen up my illustration style. The way I decided to do this was by taking a small sketchbook to some local fashion shows in Toronto. Initial sketches were just little pencil scribbles. Then I got a bit more ambitious. I started to travel to fashion capitals to sketch the shows.

Here, I want to give my younger self some credit. Just writing this now I’m realizing how difficult this whole process was. No one was sketching at fashion shows when I started out and it was a challenge to explain to publicists and editors what I was doing and why they should care. Access was hard to get and paid gigs were like the holy grail. I was fairly poor and doing this required me to make a lot of financial sacrifices. It was not at all a money making endeavour – most seasons, I lost money. A few seasons, I broke even. Later on, there were a number of younger illustrators following in my footsteps, which didn’t make it any easier.

I kept at it because… well I’m not sure why exactly, probably because I couldn’t think of something better to do. I really wanted to draw beautiful drawings of beautiful people wearing beautiful clothes. This ideal was rarely matched. Recently I went through ten years of archives to see if there was anything worth framing, and I only found four drawings that I would consider successful by my current standards. FOUR DRAWINGS IN TEN YEARS.

Oddly, reviewing the record now, the early drawings were pretty good although the quality of the materials was not. The worst drawings were from years 2-7. Somehow I felt that they were really getting better at the time but now I can barely look at them through my fingers. At year 8, some kind of breakthrough occurred. The pinnacle was this drawing of Yasmin Warsame – getting the opportunity to sketch a supermodel in her prime was a treasured moment. I remember the experience of this sketch being incredibly easy and joyful. I could have cried; this was what I had been trying to do the entire time.

Around that time, there was a trend starting for having live sketch artists at fashion parties. This seemed to perfectly complement the skill I had been developing and soon I was doing many of these gigs. I had never had something I was doing be trendy before. I turned out hundreds and hundreds of small sketches that people would take with them as party favours. I was fast and good; the mid-century fashion illustration style I had developed was idealistic, it flattered people and at party after party I was a hit. People would line up and wait for hours to get a sketch. It was pretty remarkable.

Younger artists soon entered the field – in fact I was constantly referring gigs to them – because I raised my rates until I was really only doing the luxury clients like Chanel, Hermès, Smashbox and Ind!go.

I was getting tired of the fashion industry though. I started Drawing Tarot combining divination with portraiture – first time querents get a free portrait as a gift.

Subjects were almost always pleased with their little portraits, but for me, only a few would really stand out in my memory. My standards have only gotten higher, I guess. It’s not very satisfying to me to dedicate only five minutes to a drawing. I want to be able to spend time with the person and know something of their character. I want to be able to go through several iterations of a portrait, adjusting the composition, warming up my lines, and delivering the final painting with confidence. I want to create large artworks that are precious objects, true treasures. This means recognizing the value of all of the efforts it took to develop this skill.

If you’d like to be seen, get in touch. I’ll let you know when I’m coming to your city.