Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to commission a painting?

From the completion of the reference shoot, the painting process generally takes about 12 weeks. This is due to the multiple layers (usually six or more) of oil that need to partially dry between applications. Also, your completed painting needs to dry enough to ensure safe shipping.

How does your process differ from that of a traditional painter?

We separate the process into three steps: reference image creation, painting, and framing. We use specialists at each step, to ensure the best possible result.

The reference image is created by a professional photographer, which yields a better result than that of a painter taking their own reference images.

The chosen reference image is then sent to Zhang Studio. There, it is hand painted by one of our four artists, each of whom are among the most skilled reproduction oil painters in the world. Even at this quality level, the cost structure in China is very different in that of the West. This is where we recognize our savings. Some of that cost savings is re-introduced into the fist step, image creation, which we feel optimizes the cost-to-quality ratio even further.

Finally, your painting is professionally framed locally in Clarksville, MD, using archival materials. This allows you the final choice as to which frame best accentuates your painting. Our framing allowance is sufficent for you to have several choices of framing material. Or, you can upgrade to a more ornate frame should you so choose.

Compared to the traditional process of commissioning a painting, our approach reduces the amount of time needed with the subject, reduces risk and provides higher quality at a much lower cost. More information, here.

How do I determine the painting size?

The minimum size of a painting is usually driven by subject matter. I.e., a head-and-shoulders portrait can take a smaller painting, whereas a full-length portrait (or group portrait) would need a bigger size. The maximum size of a painting is driven by other factors, such as cost or the size of the space in which it is to be displayed.

We can help you choose the best size for your painting.

Why do bigger paintings cost that much more?

Larger paintings take proportionally more time for the artist to produce. A 24x36" painting, for example, is more than twice as big as a 16x20" painting. And because of the size difference, the larger painting also will contain more detail. A larger painting also has a higher framing cost (and we include a larger framing allowance.)

Can I choose my artist?

Yes. Any of our four artists are available for a given project. I have spent time with each of them, and am familiar with their relative strengths. If you like, I will also be happy to help you choose.

Can I do a family portrait?

Yes. But we need to ensure that our composition and chosen painting size provide for a minimum face size of six inches on the vertical measurement. This is to ensure sufficient quality and detail.

Can I include a pet?

Yes. But the inclusion of multiple pets can lead to a surcharge as they place nearly as much demand on the artists' time as do additional people. Also, multiple animals in a photo can make it difficult to catch a moment where everyone looks great. If you have questions, please inquire. We can work with you.

What can I expect during the reference photography session?

We will have already have been communicating before the fact: particulars about the subject, general ideas for the photo, location info (and possibly snapshots or perhaps an in-person scouting session). So we will both be on the same page, come shoot day.

Expect a full, professional photo shoot. We'll bring lighting gear, cameras, backdrop (if needed) etc. You'll be responsible for your hair, makeup and clothing. (We will also have discussed this beforehand.)

The lighting and photography will be done with an eye to the desired final result — a classic oil painting. That continuity of purpose is an important part of our process.

How much time will the photo session take?

We like to plan for an hour to ensure the luxury of several good choices. To that, add about 30 minutes each for setup and teardown. So ideally, plan for two hours onsite for us, of which we'll need you for about one hour in the middle.

Can I use my own photo?

Yes, if the photo is well-suited for a painting (we can advise you) or if a desired subject is not available to be photographed for the painting. But we must have written permission from the copyright holder of the photo to reproduce it as a painting.

Can I keep the photos afterward?

We will be happy to send you a high-resolution file of the final, edited image if you like. If you want to get prints made, you may do so. But please understand that our main purpose onsite will be to create a specific photo for the final painted version. So we can't dilute that goal by shooting add-on photos, and/or images other than for the painting. This is to ensure you get the best final result. Thank you for understanding.

Why do you include a framing allowance?

We want the quoted price to be inclusive of the final product, ready to display. So we build in a framing allowance through Art Partners, Inc., in Clarksville, MD. We feel they are the best framers of oil paintings in the area and we want to ensure a quality final step in the process.

The allowance, which varies with different size paintings, will cover basic framing choices. And of course you can apply the allowance to a more upscale choice of frame if you like.

Can I see examples of finished work?

Yes. One of our paintings hangs in Art Partners, and you may see it any time they are open. You are also welcome to see a painting I had commissioned of my own children, which is hanging in my home in Ellicott City.

How do I care for the my painting?

Care is minimal, and mostly involves protecting your painting from the things that can hurt it.

Avoid direct sunlight, for instance. Prolonged exposure to UV light can degrade oils. Other potential dangers are fast-changing temperatures, (i.e., next to a heating/AC vent) which lead to repeated expansion/contraction cycles. You should also avoid areas of high amounts of particulate, which can build up on a painting. So for multiple reasons, you would want to avoid hanging your painting over a wood-burning fireplace.

You will also get care instructions along with a note from your artist upon deilvery of your painting.

How long will the painting last?

It is common for a oil painting to last for hundreds of years. So with proper care, you can expect your painting to last a very, very long time. The environment in which a painting is displayed will have the greatest factor on its longevity.

Your painting won't even be completely dry until it is about 400 years old.

Do you do corporate and institutional portraits?

Yes. And through Zhang Studio we also can coordinate multi-city and international projects.

Baltimore-Washington Oil is the Mid-Atlantic U.S. presence for Zhang Studio, but they also work with photographers around the world.