The Gift That Keeps On Giving

I'm happy to say I have painted two new pieces and a third is on the easel since a host of holiday commissions overran my studio in August. Yes, I started in August and officially delivered the last commission on December 15th. My clients don't know it, but each commission is a gift to me. I know the painting will be loved for at least the lifetime of the collector and most likely become a family heirloom that will be loved for generations. There is comfort in knowing those works will outlive me.

I'm particularly proud of this commission: "Aggie" 30x30. A grand daughter on her first birthday, to be given to the collector's daughter (Aggie's mom) as a Christmas gift. Given only a color copy of a photo to work from and the request that the piece be 30x30 inches square, it was a particular challenge to compose a design that would support the square format in a natural way. 

Everything seen in my work is on purpose. Easily 1/3 of the time I devote to a work is the planning stage. I started with quick thumbnail sketches to work out a simplified design and listed objects which could assist in accomplishing the design. For example, I felt I needed a strong horizontal element to balance out the vertical focal paint of Aggie. In the case where the work is a complete surprise, like this one, I have to be innovative about inventing an environment the subject will come to life in. The client had given me everything they had. I couldn't contact them and ask questions about what their furniture tastes were or what colors they have in their living room. They hadn't even specified they wanted an indoors setting. I request, and was given, full creative license. I had to derive everything from the image in hand and my own mind. 

Inspired by the child's elaborate outfit, I decided to create a plush world for her to live in. One which was sophisticated and refined but also simple and low key. I wanted Aggie to be the star of this piece and all other things to point to her. Even the direction of the leaves and flowers of the orchid, including their edges and level of saturation were purposefully applied to point, both figuratively and literally to Aggie. 

Even as I write this I'm feeling the same thrill I did when I was composing her piece. Ultimately, success of commissioned work is measured by the satisfaction of that special client, the collector. I was sure I had hit the mark when the collector relayed a short story to me: Having grown up in humble beginnings, with a father who worked very hard to make ends meet, with determination of his own, the collector was able to make a successful career. He said as he left with "Aggie, 30x30 Oil on cotton duck, "The best day of my life was the day I was finally was able to do something substantial for my father, to buy my dad a truck. Today feels just like that."  

I recognized then that this commission was not only a surprise Christmas gift, but a symbol of love and pride that will live on in their family, always.

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