portrait guild


Frequently Asked Questions

Here's a selection of frequently asked questions we get asked at the Portrait Guild...

General FAQs

What is a portrait?

The traditional definition for a portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture or other artistic representation of a person. However in more modern times, portraiture now includes subjects such as animals, domestic or otherwise and inanimate objects such houses, cars or indeed any subject singled out as the main focus for the creative piece.


How long does it take?

In painting, the length of time an artwork takes to produce is governed by many factors such as the size of the artwork, materials used and the complexity of the composition.

If oil paints are the chosen medium, then drying time becomes an issue as they can take some time to dry naturally. They can take several days or even weeks with some colours. Drying mediums can be added to the paint which speeds up the chemical process, but some colours still dry slower than others. The build up of layers is a slow process with oil paints, so the drying time of oils has to be considered when deadlines are involved with commissioned work.

Acrylic paint however, dries very fast and can also be assisted in the drying process with the aid of a hairdryer. These paints are water-based and dry by evaporation so the drying time is not an issue. Layers can be quickly achieved, but the blending of colours is where the time is taken up with acrylic painting. Because of the quick drying nature of acrylic paint, care has to be taken when blending areas in the painting such as skin tones. This would add some time to the production of the artwork, but generally not as much as in oil painting.

A painting could take from a couple of weeks, to several weeks to produce. If the subject is complex then there would be more drawing involved, so adding to the time the artist would take before he or she started painting.

Single colour drawings either in graphite, charcoal or Conte, could take from a few days to well over a week, depending on the size and general complexity of the design. The total amount of detail required in the artwork will also affect the time spent on producing the drawing.

Sculpture FAQs

Do you carve in stone or wood?

Sculpture is created in one of two ways; by adding material to build up a form or by carving away material to reveal a form.

In the first clay is built up on a framework and shaped until the sculpt is complete. A mould is taken from the clay and the final piece is then cast in bronze or bronze resin.

In the second stone or wood is cut away with a hammer and chisels until the sculpt is complete. This is the final piece and doesn’t need moulding or casting.

What reference do you use?

Good photographs, for a portrait sculpt, and sometimes drawings.

What is an armature?

An armature is a supporting skeleton which holds the clay in place while it is being shaped. Clay is too soft to hold itself up.

What tools do you use?

Hands and fingers plus wooden or metal modelling tools. Also wooden scrapers and soft sponges to smooth the surface.

Why does the clay have to be destroyed?

Clay is a malleable material that is used to form the original sculpt. This is converted into a permanent material by moulding and casting.


Welcome to The Portrait Guild. Your first stop for portraits!

mona lisa

david hockney