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.
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.
I’ve been thinking about the importance of play in art.
I feel pulled in many different ways on a daily basis. There’s so much to get done – writing and organizing social media posts, updating my websites, applying for exhibitions and grants, nevermind painting. And what about family, bills, exercise, and a balanced life?
I noticed one of the first things to go in my art practice was the action of play, as in anything I do simply for the joy of doing rather than a means to an end. It rarely feels like ‘play’ when I’m trying to create a successful piece. I worry about messing up when time is so valuable, and I want the final product to be great. Yet I know that failure is a good thing. Some of my best works have come from creating something new when things didn’t work out.
I needed to get out of my studio and away from distractions to truly immerse myself in ‘playtime”. So last week I took a collage and paper-making class with Suzanne Siegel and Jane Davies. I set a goal NOT make a finished piece of art. The idea was to try as many new techniques as possible and to start a lot of work without trying to complete any of them. It was a success, and I’ve come home with piles of messy, weird, and uniquely printed papers and painting starts. Will I continue working on them? Perhaps a few, but mainly the purpose was to explore and have fun. Now I just have to bring that into my daily art practice.
What have you done recently for yourself that qualifies as ‘playtime’?
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?
Some paintings come easy, while others require a lot of work until I’m happy with them (or I throw them out). My painting Rock Garden was one of my more difficult pieces. On my first try, I ended up with this version. It had the elements of a strong composition with a clear focal point but I just didn’t like it. It sat in my studio for the last three years but I couldn’t determine a way to “fix it”.
In the meantime, I finished another painting River Rock that I needed a companion piece to hang with it in an upcoming show. The only panel I had in the same size was this failed painting.
I needed both paintings to share the same color scheme, so I created some new collage papers to better match the companion painting’s colors. I like to add lots of elements at first and then simplify the final painting by painting over of some of the areas. At left is the next phase of the painting/collaging process. At this point, it’s complete chaos and is going to require a lot of editing.
The colors still didn’t match the other painting that well and I needed to get rid of the red, the bright yellow and the ultramarine blue. I dug up some more papers and collaged them over these colors. Next, I picked the areas to keep and those to cover up. I needed a strong focal point and more areas of calm. There was a lot of overpainting to do and still more collage papers to add. The work also needed greater contrast so I add in the light yellow and dark gray areas to expand the value range. Below are the two final paintings, Rock Garden and River Rock. Can you find the areas from the original painting that still shows in the finished work? It’s a little like “Finding Waldo”!
After developing some small paintings, I needed to figure out how to expand these ideas to fit onto bigger canvases. I initially thought it would be as simple as copying the idea onto a bigger surface. But I’ve found that doesn’t really work. The artwork seems flat without the original energy and inspiration that created the original small artwork and the work is too simplistic once slavishly enlarged.
While pondering this problem, I stumbled across a Robert Burridge YouTube painting video, one of his “BobBlasts”, titled “Making a small painting BIGGER!”. He had some excellent advice including:
• Scaling up my painting materials. Using larger brushes, bigger buckets of water, and larger sheets of collage materials.
• Standing up and using my whole body when I paint, not just my arms.
• Not trying to copy the small artwork, just using it as a compositional guide. Feeling free to add new elements and colors as I went along.
• Stopping to take stock of where the painting was at and determining what areas need to be simplified and reined in to maintain the integrity of my original composition.
I took Bob’s advice and created the painting “Construction Site”. It was fun and messy to make, and I manage to get paint all over myself and my studio. I did have to go back in and calm things down a bit at the end, but I love the energy and spontaneity of the final artwork.
I’ve been wanting to start a new collection of larger canvases for a solo show I have scheduled in April. But before jumping willy-nilly into it, I thought it would be helpful to decide the conceptual direction of the work.
Here, I created small paint sketches with slightly different ideas. I’ve got three different themes on this paper alone (a circle look, a looser abstract style, and a tighter organic look). Which direction do you think I should go?