Trevor Southey
Portfolio Biography the book Pricing & Inquiries
Why bother to commission an artist to create a portrait when the camera stands ever ready to give a person multiple images from which to choose? I have seen innumerable photographic portraits that are haunting and powerful and would consider commissioning one of myself if I suddenly had the urge. But if I found a painter or sculptor whose work I admired, I would prefer to add the “hands on” quality to the experience. I would be aware that this work would not simply be the moment of a shutter opening, the recording of just that moment. No matter how painfully sensitive to light, environment or nuance the photographer would be, and they can be brilliant, the camera and darkroom cannot replace the painted or sculpted portrait, although that line does become increasingly blurred.

Mary Anna
48x48 | oil on canvas
The hand wrought work brings to the table things that multiply strength in a way that no mechanical process can duplicate. There is an extended chemical/spiritual interaction between artist and sitter, an exchange that can be transferred, almost mystically, to the work. No wonder in some cultures the making of an image of another is forbidden as if there are implications of alchemy. There are also the accumulated experience of an artist, the layering of expression over a period of time, and even the circumstances under which the very act of painting or drawing occurs which can bring a rare quality to the work. Even if, as I do, an artist uses photographs, the subtle mingling of one such source, with a slight modification of light from another, plus sometimes preparatory drawing, create a blending of many resources that is unique. This generates a power known for aeons to compel and it still does so to this very day.

Between artist and subject a strange mysterious bond can be drawn which is the core of truly fine art, an ingredient as mysterious as the human response to beauty, to falling in love, or as the patterns of the spirit. Therein lies the art, the poetry, born of the subconscious. Skill to render, to represent that is an intellectual factor and relatively easy to achieve.
One caveat; and this applies to all commissioned work: the ratio between the subject/commissioner intervention while expressing his or her concerns or expectations, and the freedom of the artist to explore, tends to suggest the potential for success. It is worth repeating that the crucial ingredient in art is subconscious (poetry) and any intervention on the part of patron or artist that is premature thrusting the experience into the realm of the intellect, will, clearly in my experience, devalue the quality of the work. It can easily be reduced to a reflection of the patron’s usually vague idea or expectations and will likely be a lesser work by the artist. In other words, the artist merely becomes a vehicle to visualize the notions of the client. I might add, that even in a piece of work which I conceive on my own with no outside input, if I set myself up to create a “masterpiece” I set my self up to do just the opposite. A masterpiece presents itself during the process of labor. It cannot be ordered. If that were true, the output of a Leonardo or Picasso would always be even, always brilliant and of course that is not the case.

So dear patron, if you choose to honor me with the possibility of working for you upon commission, I do hope that you and I will allow the fruit of our association to dictate as much as possible. Though clear guidelines must be discussed, such as physical aspects of the project, creative direction should be approached with great caution, almost a form of reverence because it is a kind of unknown. It is a delicate path we tread together.
view more portrait samples back to top