David Goatley
Contemporary Portraiture
from north america: +1 250 882 6725
from europe: +11 250 882 6725
email: studio@davidgoatley.com

"You are clearly the preeminent portrait artist in Canada."
John Howard Sanden

We may not all make History, but each of us makes his story or her story, your story, my story and ultimately - our story - the ongoing story of humanity.

We all matter to those we love and who love us. Within the circle of family, friends, work and career we each make a unique contribution and no one who connects with us is untouched by that connection. We all make a difference. Each of us matters and we all have a story that deserves to told. So much of that story is in our faces, to be read now and down the generation to come.

This is what portraits seek to capture and that is why I paint them.


His Highness The Maharaja of Jaipur

A selection from David's commissioned portraits and other paintings.

Portrait Process

Portrait in progress

About the Artist and how he works.

Musings from the Studio

David Goatley in the National Gallery London

A collection of thoughts on art, painting and life - a blog

Short Biography

David Goatley is considered one of North America’s foremost portrait painters. .

He was born in London, England in 1954 and emigrated to Canada’s west coast in 1992.

Goatley studied painting at London’s Camberwell School of Art before embarking on a successful 16 year advertising career. Whilst advertising did not prove creatively satisfying (the need to paint was never far away) it did give him a taste for hard work, imaginative solutions, and the strong sense of design that has helped make his paintings immediately recognizable. Each of his portraits is as distinct as the individuals in them, capturing the personality and life in his subjects with real feeling. To stand in front of one his portraits is to experience meeting the subject.

It is a skill that has led to almost 400 commissions thus far, across Canada, the UK and 24 states of the USA as well as in Israel, Panama, Spain and India. His subjects have included Princes, a Peer, a Prime Minister, Provincial Premiers, five Lt. Governors, First Nations Chiefs and Elders, a Bishop and leaders in Business, Academia, the Arts and the Law as well as numerous families. His work is included in 2 Royal Collections as well as the collections of governments, museums, corporations, institutions and in hundreds of private homes.

David is also a noted muralist and paints the people and places he encounters on his travels for exhibition and sale when his busy schedule of commissions allows.

David currently resides in the Pacific Northwest from where he travels widely to fulfil commissions.

Self Portrait - So Many Selves at 60
Self Portrait
"So Many Selves at 60"

Painting the Maharaja

If you are interested in seeing a bit of the process of painting the official portrait of the Maharja of Jaipur this video will give you an idea of what the city of Jaipur is like - the chaos and colour - as well as a brief view of City Palace and the painting in progress.


“Knowing the portrait was to hang in The House of Commons for generations to come, I wanted a painting that would give a strong impression of who I am, so that someone looking at it could feel they had met me, rather than a remote political figure. I feel David met that objective perfectly.”

The Right Hon. Kim Campbell, 19th Prime Minister of Canada

“Thank you for the magnificent portrait you did of me. It is even higher praise when my daughters concur with my assessment... and they do!”

The Right Hon. Gilbert Parent,
33rd Speaker of the House of Commons

“On behalf of His Highness the Maharajah of Jaipur, I would like to congratulate Mr. Goatley for the excellent portrait he has painted. His eye for detail is truly phenomenal and to reproduce it so intricately calls for an extraordinary talent. His delicate brush strokes and the use of chiaroscuro is positively praiseworthy. It is certainly a portrait painted with feeling.”

Kumar Chatterjee Personal Secretary to the Maharaja of Jaipur
Office of the Royal Family of Jaipur, City Palace

The Portrait Process

I like to paint people in their own environments, their homes or offices, giving the subject a setting that best tells their story, though I am happy to use a more simple, abstract, background where this is preferred, when this increases the dramatic impact of the figure and lets the sitter's own presence speak for itself.

A portrait is a celebration, of love, of life, or of achievement. Nobody is too unimportant or ordinary to be celebrated,  for we are all valued by those who care for us. To own a portrait is not to be vain, but to acknowledge that the subject matters to those who care for them, whether in a family context or in business.

Working in the subject's own environment often involves travel - I have worked all across North America, Europe and Asia - and  airfare is included in my fee (accomodation, shipping and framing are not). I always allow time before an initial sitting to meet the client and get to know them a little and develop a sense of how they see themselves and what we are trying to achieve in the portrait.  If I am travelling to fulfil a commission I always allow for at least two full days at the location, even if the portrait is to be completed from photographs - longer when it is to be executed from life.

Any portrait is a dialogue between artist and sitter, a true collaboration, so each of us lays out our ideas and develops a concept together. At this point we discuss costume, setting, possible background  and props to include, pose and lighting. A photographic shoot then gives us a chance to play with options, try different approaches and narrow our focus to to the concept that is immerging as strongest.

If I am painting from life - which is always enjoyable, when a sitter's schedule, preferrence and age allows - I will then begin to block in the agreed  concept or make a head study in oil if the portrait is to be completed back in my studio.

If, as is often the case with today's hectic schedules, or where travel is involved and a long stay is not practical, I am going to be working entirely from my photographs, I will take these back to the studio and make a small compositional study or sketch for the clients approval. I sometimes offer a choice of two concepts in sketch form, if more than one possibility suggests itself.  Any major changes to the composition can be made at this point. Once the sketch is agreed, both client and artist know where the picture is going and there should be no surprises at the end!

Now the painting can begin in earnest.

When the portrait feels complete an image is sent to the client for input and approval. At this point any final small adjustments can be made and the painting can be finished and shipped.

No portrait is complete until both client and artist are completely happy. I guarantee my work. Nobody receives a portrait they are not thrilled with.

And that is a promise.

Self Portrait - So Many Selves at 60

Self Portrait - So Many Selves at 60

Self Portrait - So Many Selves at 60 Hanif Kureishi, CBE
British playright, screenwriter, filmmaker and novelist.
Portrait in progress.