The Difference


"Price is what you pay. Value is what you get." ~ Warren Buffet 

Quality materials
I use professional materials, from the pencils to the paper.  Before you hire a portrait artist, always ask what type of paper an artist will use for the portrait they will create for you. There is a big difference between multipurpose copy paper and Strathmore 400 & 500 Smooth Bristol 2 ply art papers. I use Strathmore 500 Smooth paper whenever I can, because not only is it acid free like Strathmore 400, but it's also 100% cotton. The combination of acid free and cotton means that over the course of years, the paper will resist yellowing and becoming brittle when properly cared for.
Yes, some artists actually use plain old all-purpose copier or printer paper for their portraits. This may mean a lower price for you, but in the long run -- would you say you got a good deal?
Why am I such a paper quality nerd?
I'm dedicated to providing quality artwork that can be handed down to future generations of your family. An artist should be proud of the materials he or she uses to create your portrait drawing. I strongly believe that the Strathmore paper I use is the best on the market for what I do. When and if a better product comes out, I will consider changing.
For most sizes of pencil portraits, I also use clear art sleeves to protect the art when it's completed. The art sleeves I use are acid and lignen free, so even if you don't get the artwork matted and framed right away, it will be preserved well.
What about pencils?  Isn't a pencil just a pencil?
It does seem that any pencil is the same as another, but they are not. Some pencils have a higher concentration of graphite, which means it's a smoother pencil with more intensity and better longevity on the paper. Cheap, ordinary school pencils or mechanical pencils on typing paper make a nice short term sketch - okay for a rough draft, but it's not the same as the Staedtler or Tombow Mono Homograph pencils I use for a fine art graphite pencil portrait.
I don't draw just what's in your photo...
I draw from your photos by hand. I work to try to make the pencil drawing an improvement on the photo.
For example, most photos taken using a flash create a reflection spot right in the middle of each pupil. I will often move the reflection spot, so your portrait will look more like classic portrait art - and less like it was drawn from a photo.
I can draw things in or leave things out. I've been known to invent pillows and beautiful rugs underneath pets. I can combine people and pets from separate photos. I don't have to draw electrical power poles and lines in house portraits. I don't have to draw your teenager's orthodontia or your great-grandmother's character lines. I can downplay wrinkles, remove moles, and I don't have to show the line on the lens of bifocal eyeglasses.
I like the best photos I can get, but I can sometimes work around imperfect photos.
Your photos do not have to be professional and "perfect," I just need them large enough and clear enough.
It seems to be "Murphy's Law" that if there is a wonderful photo of a child, there's always a pile of toys or laundry in the background. I know this, because I'm a mom and those are the kind of photos I have too!  If there is stuff you don't want in the background of the subject of your portrait, I don't draw that.
What constitutes "large enough and clear enough"?  Feel free to send me your photo files to my email, and I can let you know if they will work. Generally a photo that's 800k or above is good, but it depends on the photo. I will know better when I see it. No pressure, no worries about it - let's see what we can figure out together. 
If I don't think I will be able to do a quality portrait from your photos, I won't take your money.
I think the client and the artist should be able to communicate freely with each other. We can talk by phone or email to make sure I get the portrait the way you want it.  I consider my clients as friends. My goal is for you to be so happy, you will hire me again and again. That's job security for me!  It's the highest compliment when I hear from clients again or when clients recommend me to their friends.
In conclusion...
So now you know a little bit more about me, the materials I use to create pencil portraits, and what I can do to help you. I'll be glad to answer any questions you have about my art!

Darla Dixon, Artist

Darla Dixon Portrait Art & Illustration

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