Saturday, August 29, 2015

Caribbean Diptych - A Commission

Studio Commission –
I have been immersed in the studio working on a couple of commission pieces the last few months, so I thought it a good topic for this blog. First off I have to say I recognize this type of assignment is not for everyone and have even spoken with artists who cringe at the thought. The whole thing about giving up their artistic freedom for monetary gain comes up. I get it, but at this point I start to hear a song running through my head, .. The times are a changing.. Yes do you hear the music? Anyway I know commissions are taxing and can really force you out of your comfort zone.

But this may not be a bad thing. 

Breaking Wave oil on canvas 24 x 36 inches

Detail - Breaking Wave
Many of the great artists through history worked on a commissioned basis, just think of those prestigious large historical and religious paintings hanging in the museum, the big narrative stories of Titian, Rembrandt’s, The Night Watch or  Gainsborough's Blue Boy, Mark Rothko’s Seagram Murals, or Nelson Shank’s infamous Bill Clinton portrait. Point being this type of patronage is not new, it just may not be as common as in Titian's day. But as artists use the web and social media to build relationships with collectors directly, and nurture the dialogue between, I feel this type of patronage growing and becoming a necessary and welcomed part of an artist’s revenue stream.

Breaking Wave Sky Detail
After years of working with art directors and advertising agencies, I may have a thicker skin than most. And may have a little insight into how to deal with the clients or in this case the collector. The idea that someone wants commission work from you for their home is a great honor and compliment, so roll with that idea. They already like your work. So work out what it is they are interested in, what attracted them to your work and what they think they would like to see and live with. This is the sticky part of the commission concept, attempting to visualize someone else’s vision.

Sketches and Color Studies

In this case I had several plein air sketches from Mexico painted along the Caribbean Sea that they were interested in. With these we were able to dial into what imagery and the best subject matter they wanted, but in a larger format. This would actually be a commission for two paintings which would be displayed together. Using these pieces as a departure point I created several pencil and gouache sketches, employing them to reinforce the design idea and to let the studies evolve into original pieces in their own right.

Caribbean Dawn oil on canvas 24 x 36 

Caribbean Dawn Sky Detail
I presented the sketches, we talked about them and did a coffee table critic on what they liked and did not. This is important - Listen Carefully. I learned the hard way many years back doing advertising art, listen carefully to what the client or art director is saying and you will do fewer revisions. From those sketches I produced a series of small 5 x 7 inch oil color studies on panel. In these I worked out the color harmonies and imagery in a more comprehensive way. My goal was to paint from the sketches and studies and not resort to photos.

As a artist I am most concerned with developing a visual vocabulary through observational painting, having a genuine dialogue with the subject and showing my honest responses to it. I feel this is the only path to developing one’s own artistic voice. And from my experience photos get in-between all of that.

Caribbean Dawn Detail
I also feel if you work diligently at painting and drawing from life, you have created a storehouse of knowledge and memory to fall back on. And the need for photographic sources is a sterile alternative. That the art which inspires me relies on the balance of observation and memory, balancing the real with the invented, the abstract with the literal, and is more about the poetic statement rather than a journalistic rendering of the subject.

As far as commissions go, I have always stated - never take a job just for the money. Even back in the day when I was doing commercial and advertising art, if nothing in the project interests you, it will not turn out well. Besides there are easier ways out there to make money.

A commission is about good communication, sketches, thumbnails, patience and being upfront about expectations. Most of all, open minded and wonderful patrons who support the arts and your efforts. 

Explore - Question - Learn - - Enjoy, Jim 

Website - 
Studio Blog - 
Landscape Blog - Pochade Box Paintings