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Making Art Just For You

Have you ever thought about commissioning your own piece of art?

Before I became an artist, I used to imagine that this was an intimidating process and one reserved only for the really wealthy. My preconceptions now seem hilarious, and I have no idea where I came up with them. Maybe that’s why I set up my commission process to be as simple and collaborative as possible.

Even though I have pages on my site that outline my commission service, I realize that I haven’t really posted about the process. So I’m going to use my most recent commission (with the clients’ permission) to tell you a bit about it and to introduce this newly commissioned piece, my largest to date at 16″ x 9″.

Choosing A Subject:

The first step is to choose a subject for your piece, and that means emailing me a few photos that you’d like to see as an ink and watercolour piece and an approximate size of piece you’d like. I will review your photos to see first if the ink and watercolour medium will work with these images, because on rare occasions the medium won’t do justice to the image. Usually though, I will play with the various photos, trying to get the best compositions and determine the best sizes for these compositions.

I will spend back the edited photos with size recommendations, along with a price quote for each. I’ll also provide shipping options for the pieces if necessary. I will also provide a date range for starting the piece. (I take on commissions all year long, but only create them in the months between October and March, when my outdoor shows are over.)

With my most recent clients, we settled quickly on a large and narrow composition of their home, one that would showcase not only their beautiful house but also some of its lovely landscaping.

Arranging Payment and A Start Date:

With the subject and a timeline agreed upon, we will also arrange the transfer of payment for the piece in full. I start the work only after payment has been received.

For this new work, I started with the drawing in mid-February of this year.

Checking In With The Client:

My first task is to draw the piece. I will often draw with the ink pen, but some parts may be drawn in pencil first. When I’m drawing, I decide which details I will leave to be painted in, rather than inked in. The drawing tends to be more of an outline, and I will always make the watercolour the star medium of the piece. After the drawing is done, I will take a photo or scan of the piece, and send it to the client to ensure all is still okay before the time-consuming work of painting begins.

I sent this commission’s drawing to the clients, and as no changes were needed, I proceeded to painting. Here’s a portion of the drawing:

Section of the Commission – Drawing Stage

The Painting:

As I stated, the painting of a piece is the longest stage of this process. I will make a loose plan of how I’ll paint the piece – the order, techniques for certain parts of the piece. I am very flexible with plans though, as I may eventually paint out of order or change the technique. Adapt, adapt!

For this piece, my initial plan was to paint the sky and all the greenery first. I did start with the sky but much of the greenery was painted towards the end. I also determined that I would paint every brick, but suggest roof shingles. I decided on the fly to use negative painting for the Japanese maple bush under the window – a technique where layers are painted on from light to dark, each layer outlining leaves at various depths of the bush. This took me a full day of painting!

On the last day of painting this commission, I added some light lines to the patterned concrete driveway. And then after almost a month, the piece was done.

2019 Commission, posted with the clients’ permission; 16″ x 9″ ink and watercolour on cold-pressed watercolour paper

The Hand-Off:

Once a piece is done, I will email the client about delivery timing or arrangements (if not already set).

For this piece, the clients lived about 30 minutes away so I delivered it. As I pulled into the driveway, I felt like I was returning “home” since I had spent a very intense month with this house.

I always have a little nervousness when presenting a completed commission to the clients for the first time. I hope that it will have captured not only the physicality of the subject but also its spirit… and that the clients will approve. In this case, the clients were very happy and said that they didn’t realize the house looked that good in summer!

Going Forward:

Hopefully I’ve taken some of the mystery and intimidation out of commissioning a piece of work. If so, you can find more detailed information on having an ink and watercolour commission done at the “Making Art Just For You” pages, and the “What You Have To Say” page for client feedback.

It’s been a joy working with my clients on commissions, and learning of the stories and emotions behind their commission choices!


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