I am going to attempt to talk through my creative process when it comes to creating commissions. Each painting is different though, so I can't say there is a specific formula I stick to. I am not saying the way I do things is right, but over the years this is what I've found works for me!
All of my paintings are created by hand using Winsor and Newton Gouache paint. For those that don't know, Gouache (pronounced gwash) is most similar to watercolour but is not as transparent. It can be mixed with water and it dries matt so gives a flat, block effect. Because of this, I prefer working on a smooth surface, as opposed to stretched canvas and I think it works better with my style.
After an order has been placed I get in contact with my new customer for some images to work from. I love when I get sent lots of great photographs - it makes me super excited to get started, especially when they have fun ideas for backgrounds or are happy for me to choose! I usually settle on using one photo to work from that I think captures their personality and is the best choice for composition. Multiple photos are really helpful though as I use them for cross reference, that way I get a really clear understanding of their colouring.
Once I've got an idea of how I want the composition to look I roughly sketch it out in pencil before I start painting. It's much easier to rectify any problems with scale at this stage. When I am happy with it, I block in any obvious darker areas and start painting in the eyes and nose. Everything else seems to fall into place once I have got those just right - they say the eyes are the window to the soul after all! I mix all my background colours myself, so I have to make more than I think I'll need just in case I need to tidy up anything at the end. It's near impossible to get the identical shade otherwise.
I like to include a high level of detail in my paintings. I use an angled shader brush for the base layer, which I then work back into using a very fine brush to pick out the individual hairs. This takes a lot of time as it requires multiple layers before I am happy with the result.
Working for hours on one piece of work alone can be tedious and a bit frustrating so I tend to work on multiple pieces at the same time to keep me motivated and to stop it from becoming stale and overworked. It's really helpful to see whats missing or wrong in a painting when you step away from it. I often get asked a lot how long an artwork takes to create. This isn't a straight forward to answer, as each piece is different and really depends on how big or complex is it. I also don't sit rigidly at my desk or easel, timing how long it takes - where's the fun in that?!
I LOVE listening to podcasts when I work, especially anything true crime related! My favourites are Last Podcast on the Left, The Dollop, My Favorite Murder and This Paranormal Life. I have also been really enjoying How to Curate Your Life by Lizzie Evans which interviews Women who run creative businesses about how they juggle their work/life balance. She's had some amazing women on it and I'm looking forward to the next series already!