Commission a Portrait

Commission a Portrait by Fine Artist Gary Armer

Beautiful portraits painted from life or photographs.

Why Commission a Portrait?

A portrait is timeless. A piece of fine art that is uniquely yours, or a gift to be enjoyed for generations. It can record a special moment, capture the beauty of the sitter or celebrate the life of a loved one.

Great portraits capture the true likeness of a subject, in a way that portrays their personality, unique mannerisms and inimitable quirks. From your initial enquiry to the final paint stroke, celebrating the true spirit of the person is at the heart of my work.

I’m a contemporary realist painter and paint in a traditional, representational style. I can capture the essence of a person with energetic alla prima portraits or paint in an academic style to bring a highly detailed and refined finish to a portrait.

I enjoy painting entirely from life using traditional and classical portrait techniques but can also work from photographs if the piece is a surprise gift or sittings aren’t possible. My portraits are a collaborative process and as a client or sitter your comments and feedback are key as the work develops.

Get in touch

You can contact me directly via phone or email below, or, complete the form to organise a consultation where I will discuss your initial ideas for the painting and happily answer any questions.

Alternatively, read on to find out more about the commission process and see examples of portraits and a price guide.

Contact the artist to discuss your portrait requirements.

“I can’t believe it, I’m absolutely stunned by the painting. It’s so realistic! Gary has captured the likeness of Betty perfectly. We will cherish the portrait forever.”

Mrs Jane Clarke

Beautiful Oil Portraits

Portraits from Life

Having a portrait painted from life is a memorable experience. You’ll gain an insight into the world of a fine artist, learn about the methods involved and be immersed in the process. My approach is flexible and designed to work around you, I can paint your portrait at your home, your place of work or in my private art studio.

Depending on your availability for sittings I can either complete the portrait entirely from life or make sketches and take reference photographs to work from back at the studio. In this case I may sometimes ask for a final sitting from life where I will complete final touches and welcome your suggestions for small changes.

Portraits from Photographs

Sometimes it’s not possible or practical to arrange live sittings, for posthumous portraits or surprise gifts for example, in these cases I can paint your portrait entirely from photographs.

A Complete Service

Throughout the process I can advise on framing and final varnishing and when the portrait is complete will organise a delivery at your convenience. My portraits are typically finished with a protective coat of retouch varnish and I can hand deliver works and perform an unveiling – a nice touch for special occasions or gifts.

Looking after your Portrait

After completion and delivery of the portrait I’m only a phone call away to answer any questions and give advice to help you look after your special piece for years to come.

Portrait Commission Price Guide

Academic Portraits

Academic Layered Approach (highly detailed finish): starting from £2,000

Approximate time to paint: 1 – 6 months
Approximate number of sittings: 10+ (2-3 hours each)

An academic portrait is a painting that is typically built up in multiple layers of oil paint and taken to a highly rendered finish.

Traditionally academic portraits have been used to help celebrate status or wealth through their detailed depiction of finery in clothing, jewellery and accessories.

The academic portrait option is great for those looking to invest in a spectacular painting as an extra special gift or to mark a lifetime of achievement perhaps as a company executive or service personnel.

An academic portrait can take weeks and sometimes months to complete and so while some of the portrait may be painted from life, photographs are used as reference for the majority of the process.

For academic portraits that are largely painted from life the number of sittings is dependent on the composition and complexity of the piece.

The following prices give a guide for commissioning an academic portrait. Please note that the cost can be higher for portraits with exceptionally detailed backgrounds or features such as clothing and jewellery. If required, framing, varnishing and any expenses such as travel and accommodation are charged in addition to these costs. Wherever possible I try to include delivery within the prices provided. The formats and sizes below are only a guide and I do paint other compositions.

For a more accurate idea of cost please get in touch to discuss your initial thoughts. For commissions that need to fit a particular budget (such as paintings as a gift) then I can help advise the best approach and composition.

Academic Portrait Price Guide

Alla Prima Portraits

Alla Prima Approach (looser finish): from £850

Approximate time to paint: 2 – 20 days
Approximate number of sittings: 2 – 5 (2-3 hours each)

An alla prima painting is typically painted from life in a single sitting while the paint is wet (alla prima meaning ‘at first attempt’ or ‘wet-in-wet’) but I currently prefer to paint over a minimum of 2 sittings, each between 2 and 3 ½ hours in duration.

The alla prima option is a great way for someone to experience sitting for a portrait artist but without the time commitment and higher costs of the academic portrait.

Sittings are mostly held at the my private studio in Lancashire but I can also paint at a sitter’s home, place of work or other convenient location of your choice.

The following prices give a guide for commissioning an alla prima portrait.

If required, framing, varnishing and any expenses such as travel and accommodation are charged in addition to these costs. Wherever possible I try to include delivery within the prices provided.

The formats and sizes below are only a guide and I do paint other compositions.

For a more accurate idea of cost please get in touch to discuss your initial thoughts. For commissions that need to fit a particular budget (such as paintings as a gift) then I can help advise the best approach and composition.

Alla Prima Portrait Price Guide

The Process – How to Commission a Portrait

Step 1: The Brief

Get in Touch

The first thing to do is get in touch! You can complete the form above, drop me an email or call me on +44 (0)7980 949 419.

We can discuss your initial ideas and requirements over email or phone or, when practical, I am more than happy to meet face-to-face either at my studio or the client’s home.

Typically, the brief will cover:

  • Who: The sitter or sitters who are to be painted.
  • What: Composition ideas and size (head and shoulders, half-length, full-length etc). And any additional details such as the background, particular clothing or jewellery to be featured.
  • Why: Whether the portrait is being commissioned for a particular reason (e.g. surprise gift, retirement, anniversary).
  • Where: Your preferred location for the sittings.
  • When: Potential dates for the sittings and approximate timescales for the painting to be completed.


After finalising the brief with yourself I will be able to provide a Formal Quote and Client Agreement.

The quote will detail the full cost of the portrait along with any agreed expenses such as travel and accommodation where necessary and delivery and framing if required.

Typically, 50% of the commission fee is required prior to the first sitting with the outstanding balance due upon delivery of the completed portrait.

When the Formal Quote and Client Agreement are approved the first sitting can be organised for a convenient time.

Step 2: The Sittings

Painting from Life

At the first sitting I will typically make initial reference sketches, take photographs and potentially complete a colour study in oils. The portrait composition will be planned further considering lighting and a potential colour strategy for the piece.

The following sittings will work through different stages of the portrait generally working from larger forms through to the modelling of lights and details.

Depending on whether the painting is following the academic or alla prima approach I may work on the painting from reference photographs in between sittings.

Artist and Sitter in the Studio

What to Expect at a Sitting

While I can paint at a location of the sitter’s choice, many clients prefer the experience of sitting for the painting in an artist’s studio.

Based near Poulton-le-fylde in Lancashire, my private studio offers a quiet, relaxing space with stunning countryside views.

Most paintings are completed during daylight hours to make the most of the natural cool northern light but evening sittings can also be staged with a variety of lighting options available.

Sittings are always relaxed with regular breaks and plenty of tea and coffee. I’m known to be a chatterbox and love to hear the stories behind the person I’m painting. I’m also happy to explain the process that I work through as the painting develops.

When I need to concentrate in silence, sitters enjoy these quiet times where they can simply sit, reflect and think or, if they prefer, listen to music. At the outset people sometimes think a 2 or 3-hour siting seems forever but most sitters are surprised by how quickly the time flies!

Sitters are more than welcome to have a friend or relative join them in the studio and watch the portrait being painted and join in the conversation.

For sitters who have longer distances to travel to the studio I can recommend local award-winning hotels and restaurants based along the picturesque River Wyre.

Step 3: Reviewing the Portrait

Finishing Touches

As the portrait reaches completion I will invite the sitter to review the painting.

Clients are welcome to view the portrait back at my studio but typically a digital photograph of the work is emailed to the client and they are invited to suggest any changes.

As the sitter is involved throughout the creation of the portrait nasty surprises are avoided and if changes are requested then these are usually minimal.

When both artist and sitter are happy that the portrait is complete and meets the client agreement which was determined at the briefing stage the portrait is set aside to dry.


Depending on the type of portrait and finish, the painting may take 2-4 weeks to be touch try before a temporary varnish can be applied.

I usually apply a removable retouch varnish to the painting to help protect it during the curing stage. Most oil paintings take a minimum of 6 months to fully cure before a final varnish can be applied to protect the painting over the longer term.

Oiling out a portrait with medium

Step 4: Completion

Delivery and Unveiling

When the retouch varnish is dry I will arrange with the client a convenient time for the portrait to be collected or delivered.

I deliver many of my paintings in person and I’m happy to stage a more formal unveiling of the portrait if desired.

Clients are welcome to collect paintings from my studio by appointment or I can provide a quote for the work to be couriered by a suitable company.

Upon receipt of the painting the remaining balance of the commission fee will be due.

Framing and Hanging

Throughout the portrait commission process I will be more than happy to offer framing and hanging advice.

If preferred, I can also oversee the framing of a portrait with one of my recommended framing partners.

Gary Armer with Young Girl and Portrait

“Absolutely bowled over by the stunningly lifelike wedding portrait Gary painted of us –
a wonderful and lasting memento of our special day.

Gary was a real pleasure to deal with – very professional, talented and an all-round nice guy.
Cannot recommend him or his work highly enough!”

Mrs Gemma James

About the Artist

I am a contemporary realist painter of portraits, landscapes and still life who lives and works in rural Lancashire, North West England.

Recognised for my accurate representational painting style and ability to capture intricate fine detail, the majority of my works are realist fine art oil paintings on canvas created entirely from life or from a combination of studies and photographs taken during live sittings or situations.

One of my portraits, “Not a Penny More” was selected for the 21st National Open Art Exhibition in 2017 and displayed in London. The portrait was also voted into the top 10 of the MS Amlin World Art Vote and went on to be exhibited at the National Football Museum in Manchester as part of the Football Is Art exhibition in 2019.

As well as completing portrait commissions I also paint portraits of pets, houses, landscapes and still life paintings with a selection of recent works available to buy direct from my online shop.

Please bear in mind that I accept commissions alongside my other art projects and sometimes there may be a waiting list. Clients are served on a first come first served basis but I will always strive to meet any special requirements.

I consider Herbert James Gunn, John Singer Sargent, George Romney and Henry Raeburn as inspirational artists.

Gary Armer Realist Artist

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do people commission a portrait painting?

Many people commission portraits as they simply would like a unique work of art for their home or collection. Portrait paintings can also be commissioned as a:

  • Birthday Present Idea (especially for landmarks like 40th, 50th and 60th birthdays)
  • Retirement Present Idea
  • Wedding Present Idea
  • Graduation Present Idea
  • Anniversary Present Idea
  • Posthumous Portrait to Celebrate the Life of a Loved One
What types of portrait commission does the artist undertake?

The artist is happy to consider a broad range of portrait commission types including:

  • Portraits of Children
  • Portraits of Adults
  • Portraits of Couples
  • Family Portrait Paintings
  • Group Portraits
  • Portraits of Business People
  • Club and Association Member Portraits
  • Portraits for Schools, Colleges and Universities
  • Military Portraits
  • Religious Portraits
  • High Sheriff Portraits
  • Wedding Portraits
  • Posthumous Portraits
What if I need the painting in time for a specific date such as a birthday or other special event?

Gary prides himself on his ability to meet the needs of his clients and will always go the extra mile to help meet any deadlines you have. However, creating a bespoke portrait does take time and if a deadline is particularly tight then Gary will advise if the timescale is realistic.

Please bear in mind that Gary accepts portrait commissions alongside his other art projects and sometimes there may be a waiting list. Clients are served on a first come first served basis but the artist will always strive to meet any special requirements.

Commissioned Portrait Letter for Surprise Gifts

Where a painting is needed by a particular date such as a birthday, anniversary or retirement the artist can provide a bespoke letter (very much like a voucher) explaining that a portrait has been commissioned for the person in question.

What is an academic portrait?

An academic portrait is a painting which is painted over numerous sittings using multiple layers of paint. The artist will typically complete a layer of the painting and allow it to dry before moving on to the next stage and painting over the top, often in glazes.

The underpainting of an academic portrait typically provides a framework for the latter stages with the outline, major shapes, shadow shapes, colours and tonal values established.

The following layers of paint will look to establish the likeness of the sitter and move toward refining colour and smaller details.

What is an alla prima portrait?

Alla prima is Italian for ‘at once’ as this type of painting is usually completed in a single sitting. This approach to painting is also often referred to as ‘wet-on-wet’ or ‘direct painting’.

Essentially alla prima portraits are painted with a much quicker, direct approach and with a looser finish.

What paint and surface is used for the paintings?

Gary works in quality artists’ oil paints on either a cotton or linen canvas or canvas board or panel and he can happily advise which surface would be best for your painting.

Currently the majority of the artist’s palette is made up of Winsor & Newton and Old Holland Artists’ oil paints.

How is the portrait painting created?

When painting from life the artist uses a combination of the sight-size technique and comparative measurement. Gary is more than happy to explain these techniques to the sitter during the course of a commission.

Where is the artist located?

The artist works from his private studio in the Lancashire countryside. He is based close to the market town of Poulton, in between Blackpool and Preston.

The artist welcomes clients to his studio by prior appointment and has painted for clients locally in Lancashire, Cumbria and Cheshire to name just a few locations.

Will the artist travel to complete a commission?

Yes, Gary can travel to your home or another suitable location such as your place of work to complete a portrait.

The artist has painted for clients in Lancashire, Cumbria, Cheshire, Hampshire and even Switzerland to name just a few locations.

How long does a portrait painting take?

The duration of a portrait painting is very much dependent on a number of factors including the size, composition, complexity of detail, approach (i.e. academic or alla prima) and availability of the sitter.

Oil paintings can typically take 2 months to dry sufficiently before being safely shipped.

Do you paint portraits from photographs?

Where possible the artist prefers to paint at least some of the portrait from life, aided by his own photographs taken at sittings.

However, the artist can work from supplied photographs when working from life isn’t possible such as posthumous portraits or paintings as a surprise gift. If you would like a quote for a painting based on your own photograph then please don’t hesitate to email it to the artist and he will be happy to advise on whether he can paint from it.

How are the portraits delivered?

Wherever possible the artist prefers to deliver a completed portrait in person. Alternatively, clients are welcome to collect works from his studio by prior arrangement.

When delivery in person or collection is not convenient, the artist will arrange for the painting to be carefully delivered by a specialist courier.

Do you paint posthumous portraits?

Yes, the artist can paint a posthumous portrait from a photograph or collection of photographic references.

Do you provide framing of the finished portraits?

I don’t currently frame any paintings myself but I can oversee the framing process for clients, working with one of my preferred local framing partners.

At any point during the commission process I can offer advice on how best to frame and hang your work in your home.

Do portrait paintings need any special aftercare?

Most portraits are provided with a retouching varnish applied which helps protect the oil painting. In time you may wish to replace this removable varnish layer with a final artists varnish which Gary can help you with.

Gary always provides advice on looking after your painting upon delivery and explains the dos and don’ts on where to hang the final piece in your home.

Who owns the copyright of a portrait painting?

As is the norm with any work of art, the copyright automatically remains with the creator.

If the commissioned portrait is to be reproduced in another format or used for commercial purposes then Gary is more than happy to discuss such usage at the briefing stage.

Are the portraits varnished?

Yes, portraits are normally delivered with a protective layer of artists’ retouching varnish applied.

How long do oil portraits take to dry?

An oil painting can typically take from 2 to 8 weeks to be ‘safely’ touch dry so a retouching varnish can be applied and the painting delivered to the client.

An oil painting will continue to fully dry (or cure) over time and this process can typically take over 6 months.

What are the payment terms for commissioning a portrait?

To secure a first sitting and begin the portrait the artist requires 50% of the total commission fee (including expenses) up front. 25% of the total fee is invoiced after the portrait has been reviewed and approved by the client with the remaining 25% then due upon delivery of the final portrait.

For larger commissions over £7,500 the artist is happy to break down the payment schedule into smaller percentages over the course of the commission.

Do you paint portraits of pets and other animals?

Yes, I am now offering alla prima portraits of cats and dogs. Please view my Pet Portait Commission page for more information.

What should I wear when sitting for a portrait?

Portraits work best when the sitter wears clothes which are true to their identity and that they feel comfortable in. It often helps to wear clothes that won’t date the painting.

Contact the Artist to Discuss Your Requirements

If you are interested in commissioning a painting then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

You can contact me directly via phone or email below, or, complete the following form to organise a consultation where I will discuss your initial ideas for the painting, make suggestions and answer any questions.

Contact the artist to discuss your portrait requirements.

“Within each portrait I strive to capture not just the sitter’s appearance but their personality, attributes and mannerisms that make them special.”

Gary Armer | Artist

Not Ready to Commission a Portrait Right Now?

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 “…I’m absolutely delighted with the interpretation and feeling you have created in minute detail in the painting… the painting is going to be a wonderful memory of my year in office but it is also something we will enjoy for a long time to come for the workmanship and likeness it represents.”

Mr Sam Rayner, High Sheriff of Cumbria

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