After following her mother to DiDomizio’s old world art studio in Atlanta for an eight week drawing class that lasted five years, the ♥ & soul, show & tell storyteller, Katherine Schuber, was sold. She was sold on DiDomizio’s challenging ideas and her desire to draw facial expressions that she had always enjoyed.
Perhaps all portrait artists start out air brushing bears, or the Great Smoky Mountains, or funny faces on t-shirts at Dollywood, TN, or Six Flags over Georgia, since 80% of all portrait artists bud from the deep roots of fertile southern tradition. I once asked my art teacher, Chris DiDomizio, where the most skilled and talented artists come from. I offered up the hot desert of Arizona and the sunny sweet citrus of California. But, “No,” he said, “they’re from here.” My eyes opened in surprise, “Really, they’re from Atlanta?” He said, “No. The best artists are from this studio your now painting in!”
Portrait artist, Katherine Schuber, has been selling realism portraits for eight years, and since she was in the studio this week with a phenomenal portrait demo, I thought I would ask her a few questions about the portrait painting process.
Stacy: I see you brought your Atlanta Portrait Society, Honorable Mention, Award winning painting, “Kyiv Priest,” propped with weighty issues on the easel here in front of me. From my point of view, I see a serious, inner and moral representative portrayal of a gold cross. The cross draws my attention to our much needed glimmer of hope in the goodness of one man, while the outward appearance of soldiers disappear into the shadows. Can you tell us about the reality of it’s spiritual and political background?”
Katherine: I wasn’t trying to be overly political. It was personal for me. Ukraine has undergone a civil revolution in the past 2-3yrs with fire fights burning in the same street I walked 13 years ago. Pianists would play on the streets during the heat of war, in an effort to keep both people and police calm. My first thumbnail sketch was the key to the painting, where I emphasized certain features about the priest to convey the message I wanted to communicate in the painting. There is a heaviness and somber mood about the painting that I feel speaks to the mood in Ukraine during this time.
Stacy : What resources do you use to advertise your work to the public?
Katherine: Most clients find me by word of mouth, however, it is important to have an online presence that you can point clients towards. Having a Facebook business page is a great way to get started for free. A website is important and you can create a free wordpress page early on to direct potential clients to your work. You will look as good as you’re willing to pay for your webpage. My brother is a web page designer (www.myramp.co) and he crafted my third and current web page, http://katherineschuber.com/. It’s also a good idea to join professional organizations, like The Portrait Society of Atlanta.
Stacy: I’m tagging you right now, Katherine Schuber. How do you calculate pricing for single figure portraits?
Katherine: I try to find a happy medium where my enjoyment and time commitment meet. I try to make artwork affordable as I feel privileged to do what I love for a living. Pricing is hard to figure out when you are first getting started in the business. I started out with a price sheet that was comparable to ten other portrait artists that I felt shared a comparable skill level.
Stacy: Nice. What are some of the expectations you face with personal clients and how do you handle getting stuck on a piece of work?
Katherine: Time frame expectations are common, and I am a big advocate of talking through expectations on the front end. When I get frustrated with a painting I have found it is best to stop and take a break. I’ve ruined perfectly good portraits by pressing forward when I’m frustrated. Sometimes, I pull out art books and search through them for techniques and different ideas that may apply to my situation. When I feel like I am getting bogged down in the finer details and losing the mood, I will switch from a small sable brush to a larger bristle brush. I often step back to look at the whole painting. The best judge is a glance, always comparing back and forth to see what’s sticking out, what’s too bright, or what might need adjusting.
Stacy: Do you shoot your own photographs, and if you do, how do you photo edit?
Katherine: Yes, typically I shoot my own photographs. I like to have clients choose the location and my favorite time of day to shoot is late afternoon. Chris taught me how to use lightroom and I love using this program for photo editing. The images are reviewed together with the client, and we pick a photograph that the client loves for the painting. We then discuss at length the vision for the painting, and what the finished work will look like. My worst nightmare is to show up with the final portrait painting and have the client be unpleasantly surprised with the finished piece of work.
Stacy: How do you work up a >thumbnail sketch into a >>pencil drawing into a >>>painting?
Katherine: The > thumbnail sketch is my roadmap for the painting. I use it to exaggerate the themes I want to make sure to communicate in the finished painting. It’s important to work out as many issues as you can before you ever pick up a paint brush. The >>finished pencil drawing is based off of the thumbnail sketch, but goes into greater detail. The pencil drawing allows room for one to experience an emotion rather to take in every obsessive detail. I fight myself to remember the strategically sequenced message through the >>>whole portrait painting process. The drawing takes about a month to complete and requires client approval before the portrait painting begins. The client also has the option to purchase the pencil drawing, but it is not included in the portrait package price.
Stacy: Tell me a little more about other important considerations in the portrait painting cosmos.
Katherine: My goal is to create portraits that anyone would want to hang in their home. I paint in natural room lighting since most of my portraits will hang on walls in someone’s home. Getting started on a piece can be challenging as you search for the right colors as every single person’s skin tone is so different. The more you know about your client, the better. I am one of 11 siblings raised in Atlanta’s Vinings community. Being from such a large family nieces and nephews make great portrait subjects! Personal portraits are quite different than commissioned portraits that are meant to please the client.
Stacy: When do you feel like you’ve created art, and what areas of the canvas allow room for a personal, creative touch?
Katherine: When the viewer falls in love with a piece of art that’s not their child, then I feel like I made art!