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Recent Portrait Commissions: From Sketch to Completion


Well, folks, I’m still in immigration limbo. I’m supposed to be teaching over in the U.A.E. already, but there is some kind of hold up. I don’t know what. I’m still waiting to hear, as are my colleagues over there. So far as I know, I’m still going. I just don’t know when.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on things for my part time job at Les Cheaneaux Press, updating our Etsy store with lots of new work, and, thankfully, I’ve been asked to do several commissions by some very kind people.

Below are a few images showing the process for the image you see at the top of this post. I always take a lot of photographs while I’m working on something. It helps me to pinpoint problem areas early on by seeing the image smaller and removed through the process of photography. I also like to keep a record because sometimes I go too far and need to bring something back, and I can learn from my own mistakes and successes by looking back through the images. I also like to see other peoples’ working processes, so I figured I’d share my own with you, too.

Portrait Commissions

Laying out important angles, negative spaces and shadows. Oops! I made his glasses too big. Fixed that.

Portrait Commissions

Starting in with ink pen starting from the focal points that I feel I have worked out the best, and working my way out to other crucial plane changes on the faces.

Portrait Commissions

More ink, then laying in a a basic warm-ish neutral undertone with watercolor.

Portrait Commissions

More warms in watercolor washes. Then, below, I go in with some cool tones: blues and purples to lay undertones into the shadow areas. I keep going in with more ink, as well.

Portrait Commissions

As a printmaker by training, I’m always blocking out my borders with tape to make sure they stay a crisp white. And as an instructor of 2-D Design, I’m well aware of the power within and relationship between what’s going on in the picture plane and the picture frame, so I know that sometimes you’ve got to break through that barrier and reach right out for the edge to bring tension and attention to the right places.

Portrait Commissions

What’s that other little piece of squiggles painting with the paper? While I work on watercolors, I always have a little “scratch sheet” where I test out colors, clean my brush, practice a difficult line a few times before going into the piece, and so on. I often end up liking the way they look with the final piece, side by side, so I document them along with the work. I think it was my friend Kelly M. that said they look like the DNA of the painting and that I should do a series of these. My mom was always fond of them, too. She has used my scratch sheets in the past to make little cards.

The above was the second painting I did for the Kirbys. It was supposed to be a surprise for the Mr., but Monica said she gave in and showed it to him already, so that’s how I get to share it with you all! I also painted the below picture for them, which wasn’t meant as a surprise. I really enjoyed abstracting all of the textures and patterns in the image. My favorite part is the wrinkles across the front of her dress.

Portrait Commissions

How could one not enjoy drawing this cute little kid with such intense eyes? Whenever I draw, I tend to subconsciously draw attention to the eyes even more than is naturally occurring. I think this comes from my years of drawing anthropomorphized animals in my work–emphasizing the eyes and bringing a human element to them always allowed for a greater connection between viewer and subject in my work. But with this kid and her already mystical gaze, my slight eye emphasis starts to snatch your heart out.

Portrait Commissions

Where did these commissions come from? Well, Mrs. Eisel requested hers after I drew her a page of portraits for my Facebook Profile Pictures Drawing project. Monica also requested the portraits of her little one after I drew one of their Facebook updates with an adorable photo of baby Pip with a vampire binky.  More proof that sometimes you should just follow your instincts. I couldn’t resist drawing those things, so I did, and I am thankful that some very enjoyable work came as a result of it.

Portrait Commissions


Here’s the one I did for Mrs. Eisel recently:

You can see the process for the above piece on my earlier post, Portrait Commission: The Lady Eisel.

Before that, it’d been a while since I’d been commissioned to do any sort of watercolor portrait. Mrs. Roche had me do this work a little over a year ago for her daughter-in-law (and my friend!) Sarah for Christmas. I did Sarah and Will’s (her husband) portraits as representational animals in front of the first house they lived in after their marriage.


I always think of Sarah as an otter. I don’t remember why. Did she tell me that was her animal at some point? I did some research for Will’s animal and came up with a type of marsh bird known as a Limpkin. He’s in med school right now, hence the stethoscope.

I attempted to put Will’s and Sarah’s eyes onto the creatures. Not sure how well I succeeded, but they do look intense.


Please let me know if you are interested in ordering your own custom portrait. My rates are very reasonable, and I work in a variety of sizes that fit well into standard frames you can get anywhere from thrift to discount stores on a budget. You can leave a comment here, send an email to hannah.march.sanders AT gmail DOT com, or you can put in a custom order request in our Etsy Shop. I can also do pet portraits! You can see some of my recent dog drawings as an example here: My First Zine: “Dear Google, What is the Cutest Puppy Ever?” And Other Drawings

In other news, I’m still drawing Facebook profile pictures–slowly. I have a couple more pages done. I won’t reach my original deadline at this point, but I’m going to keep chugging along. I also have a couple of DIY posts in the works on book binding and framing works on paper. I’ll post an update on those fronts soon.

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