This spring, I used my iPad, and the app Procreate to develop some painting ideas for a commissioned beach-themed artwork. Painting digitally is helpful because you can work with the client to try out different ideas without actually applying paint to canvas. You can easily go back and remove the changes with just a click of a button. In this sketch, using the client’s comments, I lightened and softened the large areas on the right. Then I add more tan and reduced the darker areas. I thought you might like to see how the final painting turned out. To the left is the revised digital sketch.
The final painting “Nantucket Summer” is now happily hanging in my client’s home on Nantucket Island.
Figuring out exactly what type of painting a commission client wants is harder than you might think. I start with having them review my past work and telling me which elements appeal to them. Then I ask about size, color palette, mood, and more.
I’m just starting a new commission and I thought it would be fun to share the process. The client wants the painting for her bedroom in Nantucket. She likes my “wonky circles”, the botanical elements, and the texture of layering paint and collage elements in my other paintings. She needs a 30″ x 40″ canvas and is thinking of something with the ocean. Her color palette is blue, tan, cream, and orange.
I decided to paint some sample ideas to narrow down her preferences even more. I was traveling last week so I couldn’t whip out paints and canvas on the airplane. Instead, I tried out the painting app Procreate on my iPad. Here are three ideas I presented to her.
Study One – A soothing, soft painting to enhance the calmness desired in a bedroom. The painting loosely hints at plants living both under and along the shoreline of the ocean.
Study Two – A more graphic style with the energy of the crashing waves streaming through the tide pools
Study Three- A more abstract image with lots of layers of collage-paper and paint. It’s an underwater scene of a reef that teems with life. The surging currents sweep the elements back and forth with the tides.
What’s your favorite study and why? Next steps…to talk more about what she likes, changes to make, additions or subtractions, color tweaks, and more. Stay tuned!
One suggestion to working faster and looser is to on start multiple paintings at one time. I use the same paper size and color palette to work up four different versions. That way, I can just move from painting to painting, adding a little here and there, letting it evolve more naturally. Everything is a little less important or precious so I don’t get as frustrated when a painting isn’t working out. I just move on to the next one and come back later with a fresh perspective.
I work with a fantastic licensing company, Wild Apple. They recently gave me a concept idea they thought I might enjoy working on. It was to make an abstract jewel-colored forest that included loose and botanical marks. It was such a fun and whimsical project to work on. I’ve sent the two paintings to Wild Apple for their approval. Hopefully, this is what they had in mind.
Working with a “prompt” reminded me of working on my MFA. The teacher would give you guidelines but with enough freedom to make the artwork your own. I love working this way with the seed of an idea that I make blossom into a work of art. I’m looking forward to working on the next concept idea Wild Apple sends my way.
Have you ever wondered what is involved when commissioning a painting? Let me take you through the steps of how it works with me.
Step 1: It starts with a simple conversation about what the client is looking for in a painting. This includes the subject matter, size of work, color scheme, and general style and mood. I like for the clients to look through my current and past artwork to see if there are any particular paintings or color schemes that appeal to them. Price is also discussed.
I visit the location the painting is going to be in, notice the other artwork hanging near it, plus the color of furnishings in the room. While I don’t believe good art has to match the sofa, there’s no reason it shouldn’t if that’s important to the client.
Step 2: I show the client several thumbnail sketches of composition ideas to pick from. These simple visuals help the client discover if they like a dynamic or more soothing mood to their painting. We discuss and revise the composition as needed
Step 3: I work up a couple of different color schemes using the composition they picked. We discuss them and I take notes on changes to incorporate into the final painting.
By this point, we’ve determined a concept, composition, and color scheme. Hopefully, everyone is comfortable with the direction of the painting. This is when I ask them to sign a contract and make a 50% non-refundable deposit.
In the pictures below, the client liked a previously sold painting of mine but wanted one that was bigger and a different color scheme which included an array of pinks. I used Photoshop to mock up a couple versions to narrow down just how MUCH pink they wanted.
Step 4: About 70% of the way through, I’ll send an update with the image to the client inviting them to review and make comments and suggestions. At this point, it’s still easy to edit and make adjustments. I do this again at the 95% completion point to let them make any final changes.
Step 5: When the painting fully completed, I sign, photograph, and varnish it. Once dry, it is shipped to its new home with the final invoice.
Communication is key. I encourage it throughout the entire process. I choose to communicate via email because it gives the client time to review and live with the work without being put on the spot for an immediate response. I’ve also used FaceTime so we could view the painting in real time while making adjustments.
This past weekend, I attended a fantastic art workshop in Vermont taught by the artist Claire Desjardin. I have long admired her colorful, organic paintings and the loose, playful style of her work.
Taking a workshop is a great way to grow as an artist. But like learning any new skill, it can also be accompanied by frustration and disappointment. The key to enjoying your workshop experience is to go in with a creative spirit. A workshop is a great place to experiment with new ideas and make new artist friends. It is NOT a place where you can expect to do your best work or come home with finished masterpieces after having mastered the latest techniques. You will likely feel as if you are struggling. That’s because you are. It’s important to just dive in, take risks, and push on with this new approach. Pushing through the struggle rather than succumbing and resuming old practices that are comfortable is the whole reason that you took the workshop.
Another great benefit is that you get to spend concentrated artistic time with like-minded peers. How special is it to have protected time to create; time where you are freed from the concerns of everyday living. Traveling away from home to attend a workshop gets you away from ringing phones, laundry, bill paying, and other distractions. Set aside this opportunity and protected it on your calendar. Attending a creative retreat will help to nourish and replenish your creative soul.
What a great response I got last month for showing how I created the painting Women’s March (yes, I finally named it). I thought I would give you another peek at the process of creating a recent painting titled Communities. My concept was to illustrate the importance of the communities in our lives.
All of us are part of not one, but many communities. These communities might include our workmates, church group, country of origin, weekend soccer team, or book club friends. We often share common interests, goals, or beliefs. No one person has the same community as another, yet we each rely on and are strengthened by our bonds with our communities. Imagine what could be accomplished if we brought all our communities together to work for a common goal that benefitted all?
Step 1: I started by incorporating some of the poured acrylic work that I’ve been exploring for the last six months. I poured a half a dozen puddles of paint with a few drops of silicone mixed in onto a large canvas. I tipped or spread (using a cake spatula) these poured paint mixtures. When dry, I carved out ring and circle shapes by painting over these puddles with an acidic, olive color.
Step 2: I printed coordinating papers using my Gelli Plate. I stamped and stenciled patterns on some of them and then cut out more ring and circle shapes. I collaged them onto the canvas.
Step 3: I added the large white areas by using a squeeze bottle of titanium white paint with Floetrol (a paint additive that helps paint flow more easily), creating these looping circles and large white areas. I eliminated the orange ring as it was too distracting.
Step 4: The painting lacked a full range of values, and the shapes just seemed to float on the canvas. So I added a darker green color to provide contrast and give the artwork a bit of weight at the bottom.
Step 5: Needing more edginess, I flipped the painting 180º putting the most substantial area at the top. This change created tension because the top elements now feel as though they might succumb to gravity at any moment. I repeated the dark green color in other areas for balance and movement. I added a very subtle dot pattern to the plain green background to break up this open space, then signed it. C’est fini!
I thought it would be fun to show you a step-by-step process of how I created one of my new artworks that will be hanging in my upcoming the show.
Step 1: I usually start with an idea. In this case, it was illustrating the 3 R’s – reading, writing, and arithmetic. Next, I start by drawing some little thumbnails (small, loose pencil sketches around 3″ x 3″ each), and picked one to use as a compositional reference.
I liked this sketch because I wanted to make a painting with lots of open space. I’m working on adding more neutral areas in my work to give the viewers’ eyes places to rest among the chaos!
Step 1: Thumbnail sketch
Step 2: Beginning with three R’s, I added grids of rectangles, collaged in papers from my old textbook “Applied Mechanics for Engineers”, and scribbled on some formulas to the canvas for the math part. The reading and writing parts were represented by font alphabets.
The concept was to place most of the activity at the top third of the canvas, leaving the bottom two-thirds much calmer. As I started blocking in the major areas of color, I already knew that I wasn’t comfortable with all that open space. I felt the whole thing looked too simplistic.
It was time to rethink my design.
Step 2: Block in shapes
Step 3: First, I turned the painting 90˚ counter-clockwise and divided the large empty space into thirds. I gave the top and bottom sections a light background and the middle section a darker background.
Step 3: Fill in the empty space
Step 4: I added organic shapes to soften the hard geometric lines gridding the painting and fill all that empty space. I reversed the values of the “blobs” every time they crossed from one gridded section to another. I accidentally created a shape that spelled “Hi” in the upper right corner. It was distracting, so I revamped it.
I gave up on the whole three R’s concept and just let the painting guide me to what it needed.
Step 4: Paint the “blobs”
Step 5: And then I stopped. It wasn’t done but I was unsure what else it needed. So I just stared at it and stared at it. For three weeks!
Step 6: Finally, I got the idea to add some dots to give the painting some interesting movement and the focal point it was missing. I turned the painting 90˚ again, painted a zillion dots, and finally, the painting was finished.
I usually have a name in mind before I start a painting, but this one has eluded me. Does anyone have a good idea for a title for this 3′ x 3′ painting?