Monday, January 13th, 2014

The Why and How of Commissions

It’s an honor for any artist to be asked to do commissioned work. I love them, and find great satisfaction in working with collectors on pieces painted to various parameters they suggest. More than a few artist friends make a practice of never doing commissions. I guess they don’t like being told what to do.

My approach to them is fairly unique, and those with whom I work, tend to find the process as creative and fun as I do. It’s a collaboration…no one tells anyone what to do, the piece is the outcome of an equally creative process between buyer and me.

Because I have three commissions currently underway, and several completed in the past few months, I thought the topic a good one for a post…

The sketch below is a current commission, underway for a highly creative and successful Boston architect, who spent hours poring over my work to find elements he and his wife like best about various pieces.


I met the couple at one of my galleries and discussed their notes… preferred color palette, compositional elements, overall feel, etc. It was a great exchange. And it’s exciting to approach a painting knowing the finished piece will be the outcome of multiple aesthetics, melded into one. And if it doesn’t appeal to the buyer, but is a theme and is painted they way I would paint it anyway, I try again.

Another commissioned piece, below, was done for a buyer in NYC who had seen several pieces he liked but had hoped to find one of this composition with this color palette. Since my approach to color is often dramatically deviated from the palette of the actual scene, working up a composition along such guidelines is a natural extension of the painting process.


Another architect-commissioned work, below, deviates a little from this process, but simply because the venue was so unique. Done a couple years ago, this piece was painted at the request of the architect who had designed this beautiful new building for a local college in Boston’s North Shore. The architect designed the wide, expansive bank of windows to provide a view into this student-centric building, and was bothered that the wall seen through the windows would be blank. Because the school’ logo is a lighthouse beacon, I suggested a lighthouse theme, in a long horizontal format. It both tied in with the school’s logo, as well as the coastal scenery of that part of the North Shore (though the lighthouse was inspired by one I’m very familiar with on the Vineyard.)

The top lighthouse image below was the piece, as I originally painted. Because I rarely, if ever, include figures in my work, this piece contained elements I often include…open space, solitary trees, light.


But because this was a unique collaboration for a very specific location, it was important to the architect and client school, that the painting contain figures, to represent the students at the college, so a rework was done, and the piece below was chosen as the final work.


The finished painting was photographed professionally, and turned into digitized panels, 8-feet by 4-feet wise, assembled on the wall to create a mural effect.


Once installed, this nightime photograph was shot to show the new installation, and how a viewer on the outside would not be drawn to the space by something more than a blank wall seen through the windows. Fun project!


Quite a few artist friends refuse to do commissions. I’ve done a few in the past that didn’t work out, for both the buyer and me, and I’ve learned this was because the desired piece was more about a scene the buyer wished to turn into a painting (in one case, a wedding venue, and in a more recent request, a favorite trumpet player). I’d rather pass on a commission, than to not deliver what the buyer envisioned. The best way to assure this–for me, anyway–is to invite the buyer to be an equal part of the creative process. When that happens the collaboration, and it’s resulting outcome, is a success for all.

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