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The Commissions Process: An Illustration for the President!

This past winter I had the privilege to create a custom commission for the president of Clark University, Mr. David Fithian. With the current increased demand for commissions, it seems like the perfect time to share a bit about what the commissions process looks like!

I first got in touch with him in December 2022. I had heard that he owned beautiful Friesian horses, and after looking up pictures (you should too!), I knew I had to draw them. I sent President Fithian a long email introducing myself and asking if he'd be interested in a custom portrait. What was there to lose? I waited nervously for a reply, second-guessing every word choice in the fateful email I had just launched. I didn't hear back for a few days. Shoot, I should've said "all the best", not "thanks very much". What was I thinking?! But then, a notification popped up on my phone. "Email from David Fithian".

Step 1. Picking a Size

President Fithian expressed his interest in a portrait and asked for the 20 x 24" size in the signature white on black style. Perfect! I responded asking for a number of reference photos of the horses showing different angles and lighting possibilities.

Step 2. Reference Photos

He responded soon after with ten photos, each labeled with the names of the horses and listed in order of his preference. Each photo had strong lighting and was high-resolution, two key traits of a good reference photo. Given the highly detailed nature of my work, it's important to be able to zoom closely into the photo and still have some information. His top three photos are shown below.

I'll highlight an important point here: you know your pet much better than I do. The photos you send are often my only way of getting to know your beloved pet. The photos should show all the little intricacies that make your pet unique! When possible, I prefer to meet the pet and take additional photos prior to beginning the portrait.

Step 3: Portrait Creation (the fun part)!

My response to President Fithian provided a general timeline of the commission and let him know that I'd use the first image he attached (his top preference) as the main reference photo. In the month that followed I created the illustration!

I use professional-grade artist materials for all commissions to ensure longevity. The main materials are Faber-Castell Pitt Pastel pencils and Prismacolor colored pencils on Strathmore 400 Series paper.

Step 4: Payment and Hand-off

I sent President Fithian an email when I finished the illustration in January. We agreed on a time and place to meet up and hand off the drawing. He had told me he would get the drawing professionally framed, so I had to be careful in constructing a way to transport the drawing without having any adhesives on the paper itself. I ended up cutting two pieces of matboard to 22 x 26" to give one inch of wiggle room on either side. The drawing was held in place using mounting squares that stick to the matboard and then act as pockets (no adhesive) for each corner of the paper. The other piece of matboard was taped using a simple T-hinge to form a sandwich over the finished piece, making presentation and transportation easy!

If an in-person hand-off is not possible, I ship the illustration in a thick tube with tracking. The illustration generally flattens after a few days of being at its new home. I currently only ship to the continental U.S.

As for payment, I accept cash, check, card, Venmo, and Zelle. I do NOT currently accept CashApp or Paypal. Half of the price of a commission is due upon ordering, and the other half is accepted upon completion. If the drawing is being shipped, the buyer is expected to pay any shipping cost. You can find a general guide of sizes and prices in the commissions brochure on my the "shop" page of the site. All prices and sizes are for the white on black style. Other sizes and materials are possible upon request, just ask!

Step 5: Displaying your Artwork!

I spray Winsor & Newton Professional Fine Art Fixative on the finished illustration to prevent any fading or smudging. It is up to you how you permanently display your illustration! Unless otherwise specified, the illustration will not be framed when I hand it off to you. If you are planning to display the artwork unframed (which I do not recommend), I can mount the drawing on heavy matboard for an additional cost. Once you receive the drawing, it is up to you to protect it! I cannot reimburse you for any damage that happens to the drawing once it is in your hands. If you need suggestions about affordable, professional framers, I happy to help you find one in your area!

Phew, that's all! If you're interested in learning more about the commission process, please see the commissions brochure, linked below.

If you'd like to order your own commission, shoot me an email at or fill out the Commissions Order Form.

Thank you all for the support so far. I'm honored to be creating illustrated portraits of so many beautiful and beloved animals. Cheers!


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