Thursday, May 26, 2011

Commissions? No thanks.

I was having a friendly email exchange with Samantha's Studio a fellow artist and blogger from Enfield, North London. (Please take a look and follow Samantha's blog.  It's still in the early stages of development but I know there is some stunning artwork to come later).

However, we got onto the subject of commissions and how we were puzzled by people who send an old black and white snap of Aunt Doris who is standing in a field, 100 yards from the camera and expect us to create a portrait from that minuscule amount of information.

I was checking through my library of images (looking for inspiration) when I came across this 'artistic extravaganza' which was a commission which I should have turned down flat but being the sort of person that doesn't like to say no, I half heartedly agreed to take it on. Originally, they just wanted a simple colour field of lilac and green to go with some curtains or furnishings but having accepted the commission, the client then went bonkers and decided that she wanted it to represent virtually her whole life history. Gulp!

Here are some of the things she wanted it to portray. To the left are her supporting parents who are propping up a horseshoe shaped motif. Yes that one escaped me too. Her husband had a repetitive job in an office where he had to wear a tie and was miserable. A representation of a praying Buddha would be nice with her Mum and Dad naked in the woods in the background in the moonlight. Just to the right of the Buddha is the client in a foetal position, because that's the way she liked to sleep and the bubbles above are her night-time thoughts. Top left is a total eclipse of the sun which just happened to be occurring at that time. Yeah! Why not, just chuck it in. Her favourite flower was the lily and it would be really, really nice to use that as a basis to show her and her husband as a loving couple cradling their little baby. Yeah right. Below them is the loving couple just melting in one anothers arms with passion. I really can't remember what the road leading into the distance was all about except it was probably my escape route, and as for the red 'thing', I can't recall, but it may have been that I had blood on my mind. It seems so out of place, why on earth red, there? Big mistake on my part.

All that and I had to keep lilac and green as the dominant colours. Why the hell did I agree to do that and furthermore how did I do it at all? I must have been as mad as the client at the time.

I used pastels on a half sheet of Ingres paper for this and just in case you are reading this Mrs Sutherland, I don't normally allow people to go five years without paying, so any time you're passing a cheque would be nice. Oh well, I put it down to experience, the painting probably ended up in a jumble sale or charity shop anyway. Be interesting to see who has it now, and what they think it's all about. I can't even remember the title of this painting now. Maybe 'Exasperation'?

Commissions? No thanks.


  1. John I feel your pain! Still, you did a cracking job. I still do commissions but can be selective and I most definately ask for money up front, non refundable, to cover at least the cost of materials. I wonder if Picasso did many pet portraits..?

  2. Hi John
    I hope you are well.
    This painting is somewhat different to your present work, which of course I much prefer. I read your previous blog too and can relate to the numbness in fingers some days when trying to compose. It is lovely to see your recognisable styled waterolours. Seago would indeed be proud of you.
    All the best

  3. @Samantha, you've discovered my achilles heel, business and me are strangers. I am absolutely hopeless when it comes to business matters. I know more about what happens inside a quasar than I do business. It is something I should address I know but it scares me.

    You bought up an interesting point about Picasso and pets. I was trying to think if I had seen any pets in his paintings and yes I do recall cats but I don't recall seeing a dog.

    @Trevor, Thank you. I could never imagine you struggling over a painting composition. It's comforting to know that it can also happen to the best. Looking forward to your next blog post.

  4. I have seen a Dali commissioned portrait; a plain old ordinary picture of a man and his dog, which made a nice change.

    Having completed a few music commissions I know what you mean. Some clients give you more freedom than others though. I'm about to paint something for a friend and the slight change he wanted has turned into something like your "add everything!" request!

    I like your painting though, it's quite amazing. That's the benefit; you are forced to do something you wouldn't normally do. Not getting paid is awful though.

  5. Hi Mark, I couldn't imagine dali doing an ordinary painting. Weird.

  6. I've only done one or two commissions so far (another has been in the pipeline for 3 years now - the client is slow in telling me exactly what she wants), but as you know, a recent commission proved quite profitable for me and led me to do work which I wouldn't have considered and with which I'm very pleased.

    Your example here, however, is a whole other thing. An exacting brief indeed, but I feel the end product is actually rather interesting.

  7. Thanks Harry. It was good of you to spend some time on my blog.

  8. John, I will occasionally accept a commission, but almost always regret doing so. I can certainly understand your pain and negative feelings about this one- you were used - not a pleasant memory. In spite of it all - considering all the requirments, you did a great job. I much prefer your work now.


Thankyou for taking time to comment on my blog. It's good to get feedback, I really do appreciate it.