Pretty as a Painting: An Atlanta Parent’s Guide to Commissioned Portraits

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Think a billion images on a hard drive are enough to memorialize your kiddo’s precious baby face or unruly cowlick before it’s gone? Then you’ve never taken a gander at a beautifully rendered oil, pastel, or charcoal portrait. Not only does a commissioned work of art demand to be framed and hung in a place of prominence in your home (unlike those iPhone snapshots that are content to hang out on your computer), but a professionally done artist’s portrait can capture the exact thing you remember most about your little, before it disappears into the haze of adolescence. Like your own little precious one, these original portraits don’t come cheap, so read on to make sure you’re fully prepared for the process before your baby is all grown up.


Portraits are most often created using oil, pastels, watercolors, or charcoal, though a various assortment of mixed media may also be used. Oil paintings are not framed with glass, but all other mediums require it for protection. Additionally, portraits most often portray head and shoulders, three-quarter length, or full length images, though some artists offer a half-figure composition. Naturally, the price increases more of the figure on the canvas, and if you’re thinking of one portrait with all three kids in it (let them battle it out over who gets to keep it when you’re gone!), you’ll be paying for the figures, not just the canvas.


Choosing an artist is a very personal endeavor, and for the price, you want to be certain you’ve selected the right artist. Two routes exist for commissioning an artist, and the good news is that they cost exactly the same. You can do your research and find your artist by word of mouth or Google. Or, you have the option of working with a broker, who is paid by the artist to bring in work that he or she otherwise wouldn’t find. Again, pricing is the same; however, you get the benefit of a more comprehensive catalogue of artist’s work to review in addition to the industry experience of someone who has worked with the artists before and know a little about their consistency and prior client satisfaction. Additionally, brokers assist clients with deciding on medium, composition, timing, the portrait sitting, delivery, and framing, and they also act as an advocate for clients during the process. Don’t love the way your baby girl’s nose is turning out but not sure how to tell Michelangelo? Let the broker handle that conversation!


The most common age for children to have their portrait painted is between the ages of four and six, with the idea being that you want them to still have their childlike “sweetness” (ha, ha) but still resemble their future selves. Already missed your window of opportunity? No worries. Many artists can work from photographs.

Once an artist is commissioned (either by you directly or through a broker), the artist comes to your home or the location of the portrait and puts your photo mania to shame (think rolls and rolls of film, when we used rolls). Since most work with a digital camera, you can select the reference photo on the same day as the photo shoot. After that, it’s off to the studio for the artist and back to being a non-celebrity for your kiddo. The time from sitting to delivery varies by artist, but the average delivery time is between six months and one year. Thinking of gifting a portrait to yourself or a loved one this holiday season? Most brokers offer gift certificates, and are just the right size for a stocking!


Prices can vary drastically from artist to artist, but if you opt to work with a broker you have the ability to select your favorite artists from their directory and then compare prices. If none are in your price range, the broker might be able to recommend another artist with similar style that is closer to your price point. On average, portraits can range from $1,000 to well over $10,000, and since oil is the most difficult medium for an artist to work with, it is the most expensive. Charcoal is generally the least expensive, but one artist’s charcoal might be more expensive than another’s oil.


Like everything else in Atlanta, there are an abundance of talented portrait artists to be found by word-of-mouth or good ol’ Google. However, for a guided tour through the process of selecting an artist, commissioning a work, and reviewing the delivered portrait, look to the following artist brokers for help:

Ann Richards at Portraits, Inc., 404-352-3267,

Elizabeth Pitts or Elizabeth Dixon at Portrait Associates, 919-696-6440,

Have you had a portrait made of your child? Tell us about it below!

—Shelley Massey

All images courtesy of Portraits, Inc.

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