Commissioned Oil Portraits
3rd Mar 2012Posted in: Blog 0
Commissioned Oil Portraits

Even though I had been drawing black and white charcoal and pencil portraits in college, I didn’t seriously move on to doing actual oil portraits until a couple of years after I had graduated.  I was already somewhat comfortable with oil paint and I began taking on small commissioned oil portraits, in the Chicago area, because I had read somewhere that painting the human face, especially in color, was a seriously good learning tool; the observational skills and color knowledge that portraiture develops are hard to  beat.


The planes and subtle shifts of color in the face, compounded with the task of actually making it look like the person, are a lot to handle for a beginning artist;  It reminds me of the time I tried to learn to play guitar on a twelve string, because learning on a twelve string, as opposed to a normal six, would make me that much better in the end (music buffs shake your heads now).  I sold the guitar after an awkward two weeks and stuck to art.  The oil portraits were a lot easier to undertake, in part because I already had so much art training and in part because it’s easier to learn something if you truly enjoy it.


While oil portraiture no longer commands the market it once did, due mainly to the improved print quality and lower cost of photography, it still holds it’s place as the Rolls Royce of portraiture.  A commissioned oil portrait will be around and looking great a hundred years from now (though you might not care – you’ll probably be dead).  Also, the vibrancy of the colors and texture in a painting simply outclass a photograph;  the inks used in photography cannot compare to the thickness and richness of the pigment in high grade oil paints.


There are existing oil paintings that go back five hundred years, when the medium was still new, and the color still looks fantastic; they just need to be cleaned once every hundred years or so.  A Rembrandt from the 1600’s still has the power to astonish the eye with it’s level of depth and color.  In contrast, we have all seen that photo prints fade after only a few years.  An oil portrait is a unique piece of artwork that will survive for generations – a photograph will slowly diminish.


Here are a couple of my favorite commissioned oil portraits.

The first one is of a Chicago area bank president.  In truth, it was my first real commissioned portrait.  I followed a a fairly safe composition and prioritized bringing out his personality.  It was really slow work at first but the real turning point for me was after watching a dvd of one of my favorite artists, Dan Gerhartz.  After watching the confident way Dan made decisions and applied paint, I remember going to my easel and just going for it.  The painting came together very quickly after that.

Chicago Bank President Oil Portrait

Bank President Oil Portrait


This is my most recent commission.  I really like it.  I painted it a couple of years ago and my projects have just veered me away from oil portraits since then.  I tried to make this as much a fine art piece as a portrait and that’s as it should be.

Chicago commissioned children's oil portrait

A commissioned oil portrait


I’ve been commissioned to paint a quadruple children’s portrait sometime this year.  I’m really looking forward to it as a lot has changed in the way in the way I approach painting.  I’ll be posting the progress on that when I start.

About Eulojio Ortega

Eulojio Ortega has painted hundreds of murals and commissioned artwork since 2003 and is available for travel anywhere. Connect with him on Google+

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