1. Consultation - Over a cuppa and a chat, we'll explore your aims and hopes for creative style and overall feel, and a few practicals such as size and dates. We chat by phone, Skype, email, or if you're local, a visit to the studio. It's quite useful if you've already explored your thoughts using our simple guide to commissioning a portrait.


2. Sitting Sketch - Next it's the sitting, and I sketch a few quick roughs for structure and expression, so you'll need to give me around half an hour for this. We'll be looking to get the pose, props, light and background just right right for this, as per your aims.


3. Sitting Photos - Also at the sitting, I shoot loads of reference photos, so I have good closeups of your eyes, mouth, nose, ears, hair, skin tones and much more. This is mainly to save you the hassle of sitting still for 4 days in my studio. I shoot and chat at the same time, and as most people don't really like being photographed, I take a very relaxed approach to this step.


4. Model - Now the real work starts - I create a cluster of shots and reference material which I pop onto my wall and use as if you were sitting in the studio with me. Often I cut up multiple photos to make a composite. Essentially this is my model, and it shapes the painting as it emerges from the pencil sketches.


5. Painting the Ground - The first step in the painting is to lay in the ground. I paint over the sketches in layers, and the rich features of computers start to come into play here. I paint using digital oils, watercolours and acrylics, and digital brushes which behave just like real physical brushes (see my digital painting video). The brushes let me lay in basic colour and textures, and I like to use the effects of gravity and wind on my wet surfaces - I use software tools for these, some of which I've built myself.


6. Structure - The next step is to build in the facial structure. This is where digital paint really starts to outperform physical paint - for instance inverted paint adds contrast, fractal paint builds clarity and texture, paint sensitive to underlying luminance, saturation or colour intensity add chromatic depth, variable filtering and blending paints provide contrast - and none of these are available in the physical world. I believe this is really a new kind of aesthetic.


7. Detail - The last main painting step is to add in the detail. Here, I'm more likely to use conventional digital paint - solid colours, dilutions, wet layers, masks and fine brushwork. Usually I finish the detailing here on the eyes, lips and hair. I then email you a pretty large watermarked image (usually about 1,000 pixels square) for your comment.


8. Finessing - Finally, I add in the tweaks you've asked for. Perhaps an eyebrow up, or a shadow reduced. And again, I email you a large watermarked version for your blessing.


9. Approval - Finally, only when you're completely happy, do you formally approve the work. That's when I remove the pre-approval watermarks and sign the work and commit it to archival-quality materials - Giclee or Kodak Metallic output as you wish. Optionally I can explore portrait framing at this stage.