#12 in the series “Thoughtful Thursdays”
Commissions are one of the most necessary pieces of the art career patchwork quilt. Not every artist is willing to draw or paint to a customer’s specifications. Some believe it is too commercial or compromising. Of course it is commercial – this is how I earn my living! Compromising can mean the acceptance of standards that are lower than is desirable, but I believe the artist still has control over the piece and doesn’t have to make work that discredits a professional reputation.
The process begins as do all custom undertakings – with a conversation. Clear communication is essential for happy customers. I listen to the potential client explain his idea or vision. I listen to his description of the subject and recommend the medium based on my experience.
If the customer wants a picture of his house, I almost always advise pencil because such a high level of detail can be achieved. If the subject is scenery and color is the reason for the request, oil is the obvious choice. In portraiture, I recommend pencil because it provides the best chance to capture a likeness. Portraiture is tricky – I can get all the features in place and accidentally draw the guy’s cousin! If it is a view of someone from the back, oil paint works well to capture the stance and the light.
To become familiar with the subject and avoid copyright problems, I take my own photos. The customer often provides snapshots or emails digital photos to me. Occasionally I have been known to say that I need to visit the place and see it with my own eyes. No one has actually offered air fare to Cape Cod, Montana or even South Africa, but it hasn’t been for lack of effort on my part!
After taking the photos, I narrow the selection down to two or three choices. If the customer has asked for a collage, I provide several sketches. Occasionally the customer will say the magic words, “You’re the professional” which means I get to choose the design I like best.
Some customers enjoy seeing the piece in progress; others prefer to just see the finished work. This is another area that should be discussed and decided at the beginning of the project.
Deadlines are also very important to establish. I’ve been asked to do things on impossibly short notice and also on possibly short notice. Either way, I am honest and don’t promise things that I can’t deliver. Unfortunately there is a terrible reputation for flakiness in my profession, so I make it a point to finish on time or earlier.
Accepting commissions is a way to establish collectors and credibility. The artist has been selected for the job because of a consistent style and a reputation for reliability. Best of all, commissions are rewarding because there is an eager customer waiting at the end of the project.
What I really mean is will it be finished in time for the show at the Tulare History Museum, opening May 5. My good friend DJ and I love to discuss business. I asked her to look at the paintings I have for the show to see if she thought it was a good mix. She said it could use one large central point, a grab-’em-and-pull-’em-in kind of painting. We tried on several ideas. The mail came, and there was a large envelope from Kodak. I opened it, showed DJ some of my photos, and she said “THAT’S IT!” She pointed to a pair of photos, asked if I could paint the two together for a large picture. After dithering a bit, I asked Michael if he minded being painted for a show. He liked the idea, so here we go!
This is HUGE for me. 36×24″ is MASSIVE. It feels bigger than a mural, because with oil I layer and layer and layer, and use as much detail as I can manage. Murals use acrylic, and sloppier strokes look tight and careful on a giant scale. Murals are fast compared to this size of oil. Oh-oh, I’m shutting up now or I will talk myself out of trying to finish this! If it is finished, I will tell you but not show it. I want you to come to the show! The opening: Tulare Historical Museum, May 5, 5:30-7:00
And, just in case you may have forgotten, this is a painting of a man fishing in a stream in the Sierra Nevada, in Sequoia National Park, in California. I am a California artist!
Remember the painting accident a few weeks ago? (Oops, on February 16) I’m trying to salvage things. Here are 3 items that I am getting as a result:
- I’m using the canvas frame and some canvas from Mr. Stroben to stretch a new canvas. So far it has involved carefully removing the ruined canvas, finding the piece of new canvas, ironing it flat, laying the ruined canvas on the new and cutting a pattern. Next I have to find the staple gun.
- A blog reader named Michelle sent me to a site that had a beautiful tote-bag made of a painting. Hmmmm, I just tossed 2 ragged and stained tote bags. Perhaps it is time to sew a new one using the semi-finished painting of my favorite bridge! I seriously dislike sewing. Knitting is an entirely different process and much more rewarding. But to sew a new tote bag would definitely would be making lemonade out of lemons.
- The ruination of the painting caused me to begin a new painting of the bridge. Will it be better? That’s not a question that can be answered, because the first one will never be finished.
If I knew how to draw on a blog entry, I’d make a red arrow and a circle to show you where the rip is. It is a vertical thing in the lower portion, providentially leaving the bridge itself available to be reborn as a tote bag. I asked my very gifted older sister, She-Who-Can-Sew-Anything if she had a pattern for a tote bag. Instead of jumping in with an offer to sew one for me (I am an eternal optimist!), she told me to look on the Web. Sigh.
If you are a follower of my blog or just know me, you are aware that I have a bit of a knitting hobby. Hmmm, that may be a bit understated. I have a bit of a knitting obsession. I am not just a knitter, I am a Knitter. Today was one of the most fun I’ve had with a paintbrush in a while. Painting yarn is the best way I know to combine 2 of my favorite activities (although i suppose I could knit with paintbrushes instead of needles).
One more to go – I think it will have a combo of 3 new colors of yarn. They have to dry so I can sign them and then take official portfolio photographs. Ahem. This is a serious art/business endeavor, you know!
Just in case you were wondering, I am continuing to produce oil paintings for my upcoming solo show at the Tulare Historical Museum. The opening will be May 5, a Thursday. May sounds far away, but there are really only about 5 weeks left for painting. Instead of showing you paintings as I complete them, I will just give you hints of what will be in the show. Ooh, is that fair? Is it causing you to get out your calendars? Good! 😎
There will be poppies. 4 paintings, each 8×8″, $75. Just sayin’, as the popular cliche goes. I think it means that I am making sure you have the information, but what you do with it is up to you, no pressure. OF COURSE there will be poppies – I am a California artist!
#11 in the series “Thoughtful Thursdays”
Several months ago, I showed a few of my paintings to a gallery owner. For the first time in my five year and three weeks painting career, I was told that my paintings don’t have enough detail, that they look as if done plein air. That is French for “on site”, which also translates into “I’m painting as fast as possible because the light won’t hold still and I can’t possibly be careful at this crazy pace”.
This description shocked me, because I love detail! Pencil and the detail possible with that humble instrument have held my attention since 6th grade. I’ve even been accused of “drawing” with a paintbrush. How could someone possibly think my paintings are lacking in detail?
I strive for accuracy in my paintings. My favorite way to paint is to add layer after layer until every last blade of grass is visible. This degree of thoroughness is virtually impossible to attain, both with my emerging (a polite way of saying novice) skills and the need to finish a painting in a timely manner.
The most commonly known and identifiable styles of art are abstract, realism, surrealism, impressionism, primitive. Abstract does not show recognizable objects and is also called “non-objective” art. (Thank you, Captain Obvious!) On the opposite end is realism, which shows things as they appear in real life. Surrealism presents strange subjects as if they were real. Impressionism is lacking in detail because it is all about color and light: I remember how to identify this style because it looks as if the painter didn’t have time to truly study his subject but needed to leave the right impression. Primitive art is childlike with no visible understanding of perspective or proportion.
In addition to level of detail and texture of paint, style is also defined by subject matter and the use of light and color. A Vermeer is recognizable by the subject of a woman at a task near a window using primary colors and a certain quality of light. Monet was known for his water lilies, Van Gogh was known for his irises and sunflowers, and Botkin is known for her oranges!
One of the reasons it is important to establish a style is to receive commissions. This happens when one’s style is recognizable and consistent. If an artist is tinkering with many styles, a potential customer won’t know if a technique can be duplicated or if it was a fluke.
As I achieve greater proficiency with paint, brushes, and canvas, I’m hoping that my true style emerges. I’m hoping for the detail of Rockwell with the light of Vermeer and the brilliance of Bierstadt! When my paintings are as consistently recognizable as my pencil drawings, I will know that my style has been established.
Call me “Butter” – I’m on a roll! Here is more information about being a California artist. (Are you tired of this subject yet??)
Michael and I took a walk a few days ago. It was a gorgeous spring day, although it was still technically winter. Here are some photos to show you what inspires me, as an artist in California, forsooth, a California artist!! 😎
We may be the “Golden State”, but in March, California is very very green.
We have more oak trees in Three Rivers than I can seem to learn. And the Kaweah River is a continual source of inspiration.
Look! The California state flower, right in my territory, just waiting for me to capture it on film and later paint it. I AM A CALIFORNIA ARTIST!
Okay, I will try to give this a rest. Thank you for your understanding, support, and agreement. (Are you listening, Google??)
This is Mineral King, Sequoia National Park, in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It is in Tulare County, California. I paint this. I paint this frequently. In fact, this might be my most popular subject to paint. That makes me a California artist, right?
This is a Sequoia Gigantea, AKA redwood. They grow in Sequoia National Park. I paint these trees. Frequently. Sequoias grow exclusively in California. I paint these trees and have lived in California my entire life. That must mean I am a California artist! (Plus, I graduated from Redwood High School and our newspaper was called the Gigantea. In addition I have an art degree from College of the Sequoias!) Are we convinced yet that I am a California artist?
Just in case there might be any doubt, I thought I’d continue to prove my case that I am indeed a California artist. I am an artist, I live in California, and this is my regular subject matter:
We grow oranges in California, particularly in Tulare County. I paint oranges, oh yes!
And, I’ve been drawing oranges for years and years!
The Sierra Nevada mountain range is in California. I paint this, hence, I am a California artist. Much of it happens to be in Tulare County, and that also makes me a Tulare County artist.
See? The Sierra Nevada has been the subject matter of this California artist for years! Why did I think I could only use that title if I drew Yosemite??
The California Poppy is one of my favorite subjects – doesn’t this qualify me as a California artist? They grow in my own yard, for Pete’s sake! (Who is this Pete, anyway? Is he a Californian?)
A poppy in pencil isn’t any less a poppy, is it? It is still the California state flower, and I drew it. Therefore, I am a California artist!
Do I believe it yet? Maybe. Maybe I have to do one more entry to convince myself (and Google!)
That’s me. All these years I have considered myself a Tulare County artist. Google agrees with me on this. But, more people search for California artist than for Tulare County artist. Silly me, I thought if I were to call myself a California artist that I would have to portray the Golden Gate bridge, Yosemite, and Malibu. But look at what I have been drawing and painting for years:
Sequoia trees – those only grow in California!
Navel Oranges – hello, California!
The state flower of California is the California Poppy!
In conclusion, I have decided that I am a California Artist. What do you all think??