Catherine Prescott

About Me

Working Method

I have been painting portraits since high school, but my first commissioned portrait was painted in 1975. At that time I worked only from life. As the paintings became larger, more detailed, and more complicated, I learned to work from photographs. Almost all of my portraits are done from photographs now, except self-portraits.

When I receive a commission I usually spend some time getting to know the person or family. I play with the children or talk with the adults, either at their homes or in my studio. I find it helpful to work with people in their own environment and am happy to travel to their home or office in order to see the subject in a more personal setting and photograph background material. Then I begin photographing and take 50 to 100 shots, with the subject in different light, poses, and types of space.

When I return to my studio I draw from the photographs, working out the composition in a sketchbook. I may also do several detailed studies before deciding how to proceed with the painting. The photographs are documents which offer me choices as to which hand, which drape of a shirt, which turn of a head I will then combine for the finished work. I may invent an element for the background, alter a color, or remove something that doesn't fit. Usually the painting does not look like any one photograph. The client may have a preference regarding the background, the pose, how formal it should be, etc., but if not, I can make suggestions. Once the painting has been started, it is up to me, with no previews by the client until it is finished.

A portrait painter needs to be discerning without being intrusive and my reputation is based on my ability to see more than a superficial expression of personality. I like working with all ages. My preferred medium is oil on canvas although I have done a number of commissions in watercolor, pastel, charcoal and pencil on paper. Generally, my larger paintings require two to three months of working time, but a head and shoulders can take as little as two weeks. I can photograph the subject at almost any time, even if there is a waiting list for doing the actual painting.