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Behind the Brush: Commission Paintings


I love doing commissions. I take inspiration from whatever the clients have in mind for a piece. I have enjoyed every one of my commissions because the paintings usually contain subjects I would not have done. Commissions push me out of my comfort zone so that I get to deal with a whole new set of parameters and subject matter. 

I do love the collaborative aspect of commissions. I get to know my clients by what they want in art; I often see where they live, and we talk about what they want and why. I really get a sense of what their vision is. These conversations are quite enlightening and fun. I also enjoy the process of working on the composition and color scheme with my clients because they often have unique takes on the subject of the commission. I have learned much.

People who commission me have seen my work and know how I treat shadow, light, and color. I can give them a choice of surface texture, linen or canvas, and paint thickness. My style typically ranges from impressionistic to slightly more realistic or monochromatic. I like to draw several compositions, and I take quite a few reference photos. I combine these to make a living, breathing work of art. 

We go step by step together discussing composition, and after choosing one of my drawings, we discuss color, surface, and the overall tone of the painting. We discuss the time of day, weather conditions, light source and shadow. This is true of portraits, landscapes, seascapes, or house and/or garden portraits. These are team efforts and are as participatory as the clients want. Some clients like being involved in all aspects of a painting; others let me know what they want and trust me to do it. It always seems to work out. 

I have had many difficult and challenging commissions. One client wanted a not-very-interesting newspaper photograph reproduced in a special way. I had a commission of a local area, but they wanted the ‘feel more’ than a biologically geologically correct rendering. We moved things around and ‘pushed’ certain colors. One commission was of a garden in Spring, but I had to add later blooming flowers. I really enjoyed the process and ended up with pieces that I never dreamed would or could do. 

The biggest misconceptions about commission paintings are the cost—no more than a regular painting of equal size I have in my studio—and the difficulty of working together for a unified vision. I believe I am very good at eliciting a vision for a piece from clients in a way that makes these paintings unique and will give much pleasure for a lifetime.


Read Behind the Brush: Greek Life Series

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