I’ve only done about 5 or 6 since ’99 and I recall how on the very first one I learned a lot of lessons. It’s as if I fell into all the little pitfalls possible, so by the time I came to do this piece—Hovea Gully—in 2009, it was such an enjoyable process and looking back at it now I still enjoy it as a painting. Stepping into this new commission, the first one since then, I’m reminding myself of how and why it went well.
From the get-go with this new one, I have been really clear with the commissioner about my need to just paint as if I’m painting for myself, and then at the end of it all if they love the piece then all is good. If it’s not right, then they don’t have to take it. No money will change hands until this point, no deposit. And, even with all these measures, of course in the back of my mind is the little voice saying ‘this is a painting for someone’. Not just to send to a gallery, or lay in my storage shelf, but for a known ‘buyer’. So, naturally the process of the art making is already changed.
But I’m okay with that, running up to a show I also have a voice of sorts in the back of the mind (yes, sometimes in the front of the mind) yelling “keep working, keep working, exhibition deadline!” The art making must surely be changed by that too.
In the end I will just have to keep going back to my process, visit the site, do lots of sketching and scribbling, start painting. And it’s all about Spotted Gums, Corymbia maculata, and so I know I have a blissful couple of months ahead surrounded by photos and images of these amazing trees, not to mention the ones just down the hill.
The stretcher frames are ordered, 2 panels at 110cm high x 95cm wide, a lovely big thing to get stuck into. And the commissioner walked me around his trees and expressed his love of the place. I guess we are usually commissioned by people who love our work, who feel an empathy with our work, who love supporting artists.
Some artists are happy to accept commissions and be directed by the commissioners, personally I wouldn’t work well this way and would politely decline as I know both parties would end up disappointed with the result. So, there is a real risk for the commissioner with my approach, and it’s good to appreciate what a leap of faith it is. And it’s exciting! Which I always try to convey – this is art making, it’s exciting!
And on a strictly practical note, it’s some income. I have to buy a canvas roll soon, another tub of gesso, substantial spending hey? Watch this space… there may be more blogs about commission angst, but hopefully mostly about being grateful to be asked to paint something I lurv, something big and textured! Mmmmmm.
Reeds in the Brook, 2000mm wide, oil on canvas – commissioned piece