Saturday, October 6, 2007

About Commissions

Commissions can be both a painter's dream and nightmare. Always a source of welcome income, they also can be a source of unwelcome trouble. Having a patron buy a painting that's already completed and hanging on a gallery wall is one thing, but having him tell you what he wants painted and how and when is another. Suddenly, you're no longer an independent craftsman working for your own pleasure, but a hired man working for someone else's.

The patron may ask that things not be painted exactly as they are. A lake that has been drained by a long drought should be filled to the brim; monotonous, August greens should be charged with the electric reds and oranges of autumn; a mountain should be moved or diminished to improve the view. The plein air artist may be requested to perform magic usually done only by master illusionists and Photoshop experts.

But a successful commission can also be immensely fulfilling. A good patron will listen to your advice, and in the end, he will truly enjoy your accomplishment and appreciate your wizardry. And you will enjoy having done the near-impossible -- and not just to your own satisfaction but to someone else's, too.

I recently had the opportunity to create a series of three paintings for one of my long-term patrons. My patron is one of the best kinds, since she values an artist's opinion highly. Originally, she wanted a traditional triptych, but when I went out to her proposed location, I discovered there was no place from which I could create a traditional triptych. (A traditional triptych consists of three paintings that form a panorama, with each image capable of standing on its own as a complete painting.) We agreed that I would simply do three paintings and incorporate as much of her subject matter as possible. To ensure a consistent look among the paintings so they would make a good grouping, I used the same palette for each and painted each in the late afternoon.

Here they are, all 8x10 oils painted en plein air. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

By the way, I've been on the road a bit -- workshops on Grand Manan Island and in Acadia National Park -- and I have a couple of more events to attend, including the Sedona Plein Air Festival. You can look forward to more regular posts from me in the future!

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