A while back, I commissioned one of my favorite artists, Raoul Vitale, to do a painting for my Wife.

Raoul does wonderfully detailed oil paintings, which I find strongly reminiscent of the Pre-Raphaelites in his painstaking attention to even the smallest of elements. Rich with mood, and possessing a strong sense of realism, his works are little gems of technical perfection.

As an artist myself, there is little I enjoy more than an unexpected solution. So when we commissioned Raoul, we left the subject of the painting very open to enterpretation. The only thing we specifically requested was that the painting depict a woman and a dragon. The rest was up to him.

We then went through Raoul’s portfolio, picking a few of our favorite pieces of his. This helped give Raoul a rough idea of our tastes, without us having to art direct the specifics.

A few weeks later, Raoul presented us with two fantastic sketches to choose from. We picked our favorite, with no revisions, and Raoul went about refining the chosen sketch further.

From here on out, Raoul did not share any progress shots with me during the process.  (Which is a great rule of thumb when working with any client, btw!) Instead, with confidence in his vision, we eagerly awaited the final painting. Needless to say, we couldn’t be happier with the result!

Afterwards, I asked Raoul to tell us a little about his process. Here is what he had to say:

“This is the first time Iʼve ever taken in-progress shots of my work – and probably for obvious reasons! First, the photos are not that good. And second, I really donʼt have a technique.

I never do preliminaries and I usually go from a small rough to the final tracing. In this case, the tracing is way more detailed than normal since I wanted Dan to see what I was planning.

The only thing I consistently do is work from the background to the foreground – without underpainting. For the mottled lighting, I will lay down some basic values to establish light and shadow patterns, and then refine until it looks right.

For this particular piece, I kept the palette somewhat limited – just Thalo green, Alizarin Crimson and Yellow Ochre – with the addition of white and black for glazing. The deep purple robe the girl is lying on is the only exception.

I have a bad habit of putting too much in my compositions and Iʼve been trying to remedy that. Some of the most pleasing and powerful compositions, in my opinion, have been fairly simple with a few well-defined values. A lesson I really need to put in to practice!”

‘Safe’, by Raoul Vitale. 18 x 24 inches, oils on masonite. (2012)

Be sure to check out Raoul’s website and his blog, where you can see some amazing works, buy prints, or maybe contact him for a commission of your own!