Learning from Challenges

Dec 20, 2018

The last few months have been dedicated to a balance of working on two commissioned paintings intertwined with creating additional pieces I could do to keep me fresh, inspired and feeling free. I’ve learned a lot about myself while doing these 2 commissions. I’m sure many artists would be able to relate to some of the things I mention here. 

My first and foremost desire is to make something beautiful that stands out by far. My journey working on these paintings has shown me how several things in my art practice are important to me, like experimentation, play, intuition, to name a few.  Equally strong is my desire to create a piece that I hope the client will love. Hope being the operative word. More on that in a moment. 

I’ve worked two careers in my past where my work was based on what clients wanted. Now, as an abstract painter, my focus is different. What do I want to paint? I make all the rules up now, write up the project briefs for myself. These commissions are a challenge I’ve set myself to blend my previous skills of working for the client with the new ones of working for myself. 

The directions given for these two commissions were fairly loose, with colours being the main specification, and some sort of horizon line or implied horizon, giving the piece the feel of an abstract landscape. Sounds fairly straight forward, yes? 

Not really. The longer I paint, the more I explore and create, the greater the options are for me. And being curious by nature I’m often so eager to try new things. Having work that is based on preciously created pieces, a couple years ago, well, there’s a bit of a dilemma involved.  I need to recapture the curiosity I embraced from one or two years ago? Because that is what’s going to be necessary for this to be an exciting piece for me. And ultimately for the collector. Furthermore, can I remember the new techniques that I stumbled upon during my adventurous explorations back then? Each week there is always something new I am trying.  

My conversations with each client also remain in my mind as I consider composition, colours, layout out, techniques, emotional expression, marks, shapes. And questions pepper and sometimes interrupt my mind flow. What did they like about those pieces they referred to when pointing out my paintings they’d liked. Was it the texture, feeling, shapes, colours, closeness to reality, distance from the recognizable? They were that specific. All these questions are good to ask and yet, didn’t the client commission me to do a painting. For them? My painting but intended for them. They already like my work. Right?

Finding the balance of my painting. Their painting. That’s, a painting I would do for me, but for them.

Back to hope. How much of hope was hope and how much was worry? Hope. Was that me balancing my people pleasing skills with my “follow my intuition” skills? Another good question. One worth answering before proceeding too far along.

For many people commissioning a painting is, “do something for me in your style that I like”.

For others it’s, “I love your work, make me a painting, whatever you think and I’ll buy it”. A painting for you, for me.

This is the trickiest balancing act I’ve ever had to orchestrate. A little of you, a little of me. Some of what I think you want, some of what I know I want. All under the umbrella of wanting to create something for you that you are so thrilled to call your own.

No tall order there. Yes, a tall order. But totally up for the challenge.

I’m sure commissions can be done a plethora of ways. I needed to do mine my way. Based on who I am, what I want and what I believe my journey involves. This could only thrive if I checked the questions listed before and once I answered whether I was getting caught in people pleasing or was I following intuition, was I listening to myself or questioning myself, was I allowing my good design sense to reign or was I allowing client suggestions to rule, was I being considerate of what the client was drawn to or was I letting that run my thoughts,…

It was only after really stopping the work in the studio and beginning the sound work that everything really started to flow. The trust was there. So was the usual angst that comes Crome creating something out of nothing and making it beautiful. But it came. Such an exceptional learning experience for me that I am so grateful to have had it.

If you’ve done commissions and this resonated I. Any way with you I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

PJC Studio Notes: