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Commission An Oil Painter To Immortalize Your Photo For You Or Clients

By Kishore Sawh on December 30th 2015


Growing up my household had somewhat an appreciation for a good painting, sculpture, and portrait. It became clearly obvious from early on that one doesn’t find an artist of repute who resonates with you by simply looking in a phone book (at the time) to find the artist with the biggest ad. Then, it was certainly more a matter of being in that sort of circle, and having patience. I recall with the vividness of a Technicolor picture driving for long hours to go to the workspaces and homes of particular artists from whom we were considering having a piece from for the dining room, and then again for a portrait to be done of my mother, and again for one to be done of me. It’s work. A labor of love maybe, with a wonderful result, but work. But having a nice portrait done from a photo is a wonderful way to pay homage to the shot, the person who took it, the person in it, or even an occasion. David Hobby of Strobist seems to feel the same but has made the process of getting a quality portrait done quite a bit different.

Hobby has launched The Photographer’s Oil Collective which is a service that allows you to select an image of your choosing and having it recreated on canvas by hand-selected and talented oil painters from Xiamen, China. Apparently Xiamen is home to a dense population of such artists and Hobby himself spent time there seeking the best fit for his project, selecting 4 of what he calls, “four of the best reproduction oil painters in the world.”



As anyone with any sort of Art History 101 background can tell you, there tends to be a style associated and reflected through the work of any artist from the particular area of the world from which they either hail or were trained. Part of the challenge for Hobby was to ensure little of this bias came through, suggesting the artists stick more to a Western aesthetic that would stay truer to the photograph. However, as if the other side of the same coin, Hobby has created an informative PDF to educate photographers on the painter’s perspective – their challenges and boundaries etcetera.

At the Photographer’s Oil Collective, we have taught our painters to understand the visual tools of photographers—our palette, saturation levels, tonal density, how we use depth of field. All of those things are different for oil than they are for pixels. To make a photograph that will translate into the best possible painting, it is also necessary to understand the process from the painter’s point of view.

The biggest factor in the outcome of your painting will be the quality of the reference photo. This section will help you to make photos that will result in beautiful paintings.


Of course, like anything that requires such amount of skill and time, there is a cost associated with it, though probably less than you might imagine; from the smallest size which is 16X20 costing $750 USD, and up to 36X48 at a cost of $1,200. Each painting includes 2 subjects with additional pricing per added subject. It’s good to keep in mind too, that Hobby insists these are not quick paintings but quality expressions that take months to create and dry and so forth. But that amount of time is hardly unreasonable for something like this and at that cost.


It is clear that this is primarily geared to the photographer to offer to clients, as art buyers in my experience like to be able to have personal contact and information about the artist, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. You can check it out for more details here.

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Anjeanette Illustration

    Love it! I am an artist in the traditional, digital, and photographic senses- so I would love to offer my own artwork to clients as add on/ala catre paintings!

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  2. Armands Sprogis

    Now this is cool. I have seen painting style raising in baby photography. I think there is definitely big market for that locally here as well. Nice article.

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  3. Bill Bentley

    I acknowledge the skill involved to do this, but couldn’t the same be done with a skilled PS artist and printed onto canvas for about 1/3 the cost?

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    • Stephen Jennings

      Have you ever walked through a museum and observed classical paintings and thought “gee, not impressive, I could do this in photoshop…” .. I hope not.

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    • Anjeanette Illustration

      That is a god question! As a digital painter AND a traditional acrylic and oil painter- you can get wonderful fine art results both ways, and I genuinely like both. However, IMO you could still tell the difference. And while arguably faster and possibly less expensive a digital artist still draw and paint from scratch, on a tablet, not ‘tracing’ or manipulating existing photos. The photos are for reference and constantly checked. You did say a skilled artist- what I run into a lot is folks who feel they are skilled and I can def tell when someone decides to save some money and use a faux oil paint app. :)

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    • Anjeanette Illustration

      *good question! Ops:)

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  4. Andy & Amii Kauth

    Just went through the business pack; he definitely put some thought into it. Agree w/ Hannes’ comment above.

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  5. Hannes Nitzsche

    Bloody great idea! Hats-off to the artists, these paintings look great! Hope they receive a fair remuneration for their skill, as Chinese workers (and artists for that matter) are being underpaid way too often…
    If they do, and everyone can walk away happily from the transaction, then I salute the project and Mr Hobby!

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  6. Fisnik Islami

    looks like painted

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