Recently, two different people contacted me and asked to commission a custom piece of artwork. This post will talk about 1) the process of one of the commissions and 2) some of my thoughts on the experience.
One friend asked to commission a painting of a particular house in the Blue Ridge mountains. We started with some photos of the house and surrounding area for inspiration.
They said it wouldn’t be complete without the two beagles in the front yard and included an extra photo of the dogs.
I especially loved the sunrise photo and wanted to make that heart of this painting. The next step would be to arrange the composition so that it looked good on paper. How much space should the house take up? Which trees do I use to frame the edges of the painting? How much could I reduce the tree line to fit in a beautiful sunrise sky?
And the dogs, where should they go? What position should they be in? I had no idea how to paint a dog, so I spent a lot of time practicing that.
Once I felt I knew enough about how the painting would eventually look, I did four mock-ups. I mainly wanted to try out different color palettes and combinations, but also I wanted to test a few ideas in composition and gather early feedback. If I was missing the mark, I wanted to course-correct before I painted the final.
We exchanged a few emails, I took notes and made changes, and I painted this final copy.
I remember when someone first asked to buy my art. I was floored that someone would want what I made, what I saw as amateur and imperfect. It took a lot of getting used to. I'm very happy and fortunate to have sold several paintings over the past year, but to be honest, I still get butterflies every time someone asks to buy my art.
Then someone asked me if I’d do a commission! Someone who I knew from a few years back, someone who loved my style, had an idea for a painting and thought I could bring it to life. I was equally exhilarated and nervous. I thought I was completely unqualified to paint what they had dreamt, I had no idea even where to start, but I said yes anyways. It was difficult, and even though I felt like quitting many times, I managed somehow. I finished the painting, and my friend was thrilled.
As I reflect on the last few months since I wrote a mid-year goals audit (link to that post), I’ve noticed a trend. I keep trying things I have no idea how to do, assuming I’ll figure it out along the way. I said yes to painting a commission. I taught an art class for the first time. I painted a portrait for my grandparents (link to that Instagram post) after just last month, I painted my first portrait ever. I keep saying yes to things that I don’t know how to do, but what's so cool is that it's making me a better painter. I was looking through old photos the other day and realizing just how much I've improved.
I also was reflecting on how art has brought me to connect with so many unexpected people. I’ve re-engaged with old friends from college. I now have social media followers from Israel and Ukraine who regularly view my art. I’ve had friends-of-friends reach out to say they admire my work, even though we scarcely know each other. I’ve even sold art to one of my high school teachers! Social media is a funny thing how it reaches so many people in so many corners of our lives, and I’ve been so surprised at who emerged from the masses.
This part has, without a doubt, been the most gratifying part of diving headfirst into the world of watercolor. I've learned how it doesn’t take much to make a connection with someone - just be genuine and people appreciate that. A part of that is sharing both my bad art and my good art, and I keep writing this silly blog even though I don't have to. I keep putting myself out there, because as far as I can tell, genuine is what sticks these days, and that's the person I'm trying to be.