What will it cost?

The cost of a portrait will depend upon the medium you choose, with oil being the most expensive and charcoal or pencil being the least costly with pastel and watercolor bridging the distance between. And also, on the quality, experience and reputation of the artist you select (it’s worth noting that a charcoal drawing by the very top artists in the profession would likely cost more than an oil by someone at the lower end of the scale).

If the artist you are looking at has painted a large number of people you recognize – presidents, premiers, congressmen and so on – he or she is likely near the top of the profession and their fees will reflect this.

An artist at the beginning of their career will likely have a smaller portfolio of previous commissions. They may be very nicely done and the artist may have a great career ahead of them, but if you are finding them early, they should be more affordable. The important thing to look for is consistency – is all the work of the artist you are considering of the same quality? As I have said before, anyone can get lucky, but consistency is the mark of professionalism and experience.

Go through the small ads in your local paper and you can find a car for $500, it won’t be a Rolls Royce but it might just work. Buying paintings is the same.

Some artists post price lists on their websites, all will be happy to tell you their prices should you enquire. It’s worth noting that the average price of a portrait in the USA in 2012 was around $10,000. Like any average it includes everything from the very least expensive to the most. You can pay anything from $2,000 to $200,000 for an oil portrait. This is a challenging and demanding business. Painting portraits is a hard-won skill and takes time and dedication. The best portraitists are also good landscape, interior and still-life painters, and must have a strong sense of design and composition. This takes a lifetime to learn and develop – just as being a good lawyer or doctor does. The fees professional portrait painters charge reflects this.

Including a horse, dog or other furry friend


Pets are part of the family, horses an essential part of any equestrian portrait, and it can be nice to include them in a portrait. Ensure your artist has experience painting the type of animal you have in mind. Most artists are happy to include animals for a small extra charge.