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Friday, August 9, 2013

Enjoy Doing Commissioned Paintings that Customers Snap Up

Any artist who has been creating art to sell for any length of time will, at one time or another, be asked to do a specific painting for a customer.  This can be both a blessing and a curse because done right, the painting is sure to sell, but the image requested might not be what the artist normally paints and can cause frustration for the artist.  How can the artist make the process enjoyable for both parties?
First of all, each party needs to be as specific as possible to avoid confusion and dissatisfaction.  I have a valued customer who wanted a big painting of a photograph he took himself.  I made sure we both understood what the finished size of the painting would be before we did anything else.  I also told the customer I would use acrylic paints.  I studied the photo and determined that it was strongly composed, had pleasing color harmony, and would not need to be changed much for a painting.   The subject was boats and water which is one of several subjects I paint on a regular basis.  We agreed on a price.  I also wanted to engage my customer (who lived in another part of the country) with the painting process so I sent him images of each step of the painting as they occurred.  This was fun for both of us.
Here is the customer's photo on the laptop set up next to my easel.   This was a much easier method than using a printed photo to see the subject as I could enlarge sections if need be.  Nice photo, huh?

I put a base coat of yellow ochre on and loosely sketched out the boats, rocks and deck with a mix of ultramarine blue and quinacridone magenta.  I used white to highlight some of the lightest areas to better judge the value scale of the entire painting.  I had warned my customer that the painting would go through several scary, messy stages before it looked right.  Paintings in process are always a series of corrections!

The painting progressed through multiple stages of corrections, especially the angled dock in the right corner.  You can see my palette on the right.  I used the following selection of colors:  white, cadmium yellow medium, cadmium red, naphthol crimson, quinacridone magenta, pink, ultramarine blue, phthalo turquoise, burnt sienna and black.

I worked all over the canvas for unity, but the background came together first.

The colors of blue, green, brown and orange were harmonious.  Mixtures of those colors made lovely grays for the rocks and dock.

I kept the shadows in the water towards the rocks lighter than they were in the photo.  I wanted the rocks to look like they were in the background and I wanted to show the beautiful color of the water.  

The boats needed to be tied to the dock, so the ropes were the last thing to add.  I liberally edited the multiple ropes in the photo for a more pleasing composition.  I also left out the oar that was sticking out of the background boat in the photo as I thought it would be distracting.  I wanted to make sure the ropes were aimed at the correct angle and rather than risk repainting a whole section if I got the ropes wrong, I took a long piece of string, draped it from the top of the painting, and held it at different angles near the edges of the boats until I figured out the best placement.  Then it only took one shot per rope to get that finishing touch! 

Mona Vivar, "Lahania Small Boat Harbor", 30 inches by 40 inches, acrylic on canvas
Private Collection
The painting is now being admired in its new home.   Every commission should be so enjoyable!

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