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Commissioning a Full Figure Watercolor "Portrait Sketch"

One of the most popular commission requests I receive is a watercolor painting of people full figure. I'm not sure myself what to call these, as they are not really a portrait (more typically head, or head and shoulders only). It's not really an illustration either, as I still try to get as close as possible to a facial likeness even when the face is only about 1" tall. " Full Figure Watercolor Portrait Sketch" is a mouth full, so I'm going to call it a "Portrait Sketch".

The smallest size I offer is 9" x 12". In this size the painting will be vertical, and people fill most of the vertical space. I've attached a photo below of a 9" x 12" Portrait Sketch of a bride and groom. You can see they fill most of the page with just a bit of room for the church behind them. I've placed this sketch on top of the different sizes of paper I typically work on so you can see with each increase in size there is room for more of the background, or to paint the people larger and with more detail.

Standard Watercolor Paper sizes

The Portrait sketch below is 12" x 18". As you can see there is room for more of the landscape beside, and above the couple. The actual size of the couple is also an inch or so taller than in the 9" x 12" sketch above. Allowing room for a little more detail in faces, clothing etc.

Below is a 9" x 12" Portrait Sketch which I've placed on top of the larger 12" x 16" size watercolor paper placed horizontally. The painting was exactly as they wanted, but you can see if they chose to have more of the city scene in the watercolor there is room on either side of the couple with the larger 12" x 16" size. This 12" x 16" size is the smallest that can accommodate a horizontal full figure portrait sketch.

9" x 12" painting placed on top of 12" x 16" paper

The watercolor of couple with the horses below is 12" x 18" horizontal format, so as to include the horses and the beautiful Sun Valley landscape beside of them in the scene. Even in this largest size I adjusted the scene from the reference photo to bring the couple forward in the painting. Can you spot the changes from the photo?

Reference photo for a Sun Valley Wedding Painting

I hope this explains how full figure people fit into a painting, and helps you choose what you'd like to include in a custom commission of a "Watercolor Portrait Sketch".

Until next time!


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