Picture Perfect

Commissioning a drawing or oil painting

Artist Olga Sweet

Commissioning a drawing or oil painting is a time-honored tradition. “It makes a statement about the importance of the subject,” says artist Olga Sweet of New Canaan, who reports a growing interest in this art form today. Sweet, who grew up in Moscow and came to the U.S. to study, has painted President Jimmy Carter, presenting his portrait in person last year. A passionate polo fan, she has also captured international star Ignacio Figueras for posterity. When the Sweets moved to New Canaan five years ago, the artist received commissions from local friends who had seen her work. She's now working on a painting for the former president of a prestigious liberal arts college. She says she feels a sense of responsibility to honor her subjects, to capture the sitter’s personality and essence. “I have two eyes, while a camera has just one,” says Sweet, explaining why face-to-face sittings and pencil studies are essential. She also has advice for those seeking to commission an artist for portrait work. A good portrait, she says, takes time—up to a year for a life-sized likeness— so selecting the right artist is key. “Find someone whose work surprises and pleases you,” says Sweet. “A portrait is not just a selfie. It’s a statement of your life and your taste. Find an artist you trust to make your portrait. It is very real, and something that will endure far into the future.”

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