A Family of Four

When commissioning portraits of siblings, some parents choose to paint each child at the same age and others prefer to paint them all at the same moment in time. There is no right or wrong. Painting them all individually at the same age, say 7 years old, is certainly less hard on the pocket and has its own magic as each child is considered in their own right.

When painting them all at the same time, say January 2021, rather than just treat them all individually in their own ‘bubble’, the artist also needs to consider where they all fit within the family group – in age as well as personality.

Another key factor is scale – it is important that, as far as possible, the portraits of the smaller children (where the physical scale of the child is smaller) can stand up in strength and size against those of their older siblings. This means trying to make sure that the portrait has equal weight, importance and footprint whilst also choosing poses that suit the individual. Obviously, a bit of artistic license is important here. It is helpful to know whether the portraits will be hung together, in pairs or individually, as this all needs to be borne in mind when composing.

The Family

In Ros, the mother, I had the ideal client. She knew that she wanted all of her children done at the same moment in time and in oils. But beyond that she was happy to be totally guided by me and I am always of the opinion is that the best approach is organic – we’ll work it out as we go along. To have too firm an idea of what you want often gets in the way of the creative process.

Since they lived locally, I was able to visit the family first, to meet them all, put faces to names and work out where the portraits might hang, therefore how big the portraits needed to be to sit comfortably within the rooms. We discussed poses, outfits and props as a group – the opinions and input from the individual children is every bit as important as those from the parent and from me. And I left a couple of hours later with us all feeling a little less nervous about the actual sitting and the beginnings of ideas as to how to approach each portrait.

The Sitting

Continuing her reputation as the perfect client, when I turned up at 9.30am on the Monday morning, Ros had not only assembled 4 children in the outfits they had chosen to wear, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but had cleared the kitchen and laid on a potential podium should we need it (we had discussed poses sitting on the floor which would mean needing to raise the ‘floor’ so eye-level was right.

Over the course of the next several hours, all four children obligingly entered into the spirit of the day, weaving in and out, trying various poses, sometimes being recalled to change a previously agreed pose in order that the 4 portraits worked together as well as a group.

The Portraits

And here they are eldest to youngest:

  1. Polly – 12 years old and on the cusp of adolescence. Tall and colt-like with incredibly long limbs. Arrestingly striking with huge green eyes. 

 

Jenna – 10 years old, very self-contained and happy in her skin. Despite having been the most resistant to the idea of having her portrait painted, she was very at ease and we found her pose almost immediately.

 

Stanley – aged 8. Incredibly obliging and good-natured. Very sporty but also has a quiet air of self-confidence that belies his years.

Billy – aged 6. Small, wiry and absolutely bursting with energy.

 

And here they are all together:

See more examples of my portraits of children here

If you would like to find out about commissioning a portrait, please contact me

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