Tuesday, December 29, 2015

keeping the energy for painting commissions

compositional sketch along with color palette ideas
Luckily I am not on a deadline for the two commissions I accepted last month, which is a good thing. Woowhee! Christmas was a whirlwind; full of family and visiting which I absolutely loved.  But now that the dust has settled I'm back in the studio and trying to keep energy fresh on the work that I need to complete. 

Commissioned work can be difficult, because there is not a lot of room for play or experimentation which is what artists thrive on...but I have a few tricks that seem to work for me in keeping things fresh. 
two of my watercolors on show in the restaurant
at The Cove Inn, Westport, ON
Firstly, I work in segments.  The first is the composition sketches which I  fire off to the client to approve the design, once that is settled, then I put the sketch away for a while in a colored file folder marked with the clients name, and several photo references of the subject. 

The second segment, I spend time thinking about color and light; how it should  fall/read within the painting, which actually IS still about composition, but less about placement. I know that light can be the extra quality, catapulting a rendering from ho-hum to entertaining, so I really like to find a way to include it somehow, although often the information I'm given to work from doesn't possess it.  So sometimes I invent it. Often I troll the internet looking at works by masters, and get ideas from them about color and mood, and might even print some of them to include in my folder, to stimulate my interest. 

1 of my watercolors on the wall in the cafe
at The Cove Inn, Westport, ON
There is also a segment where I dont look at this collection of sketches, resource photo material or inspiration for a few days while I percolate it.  Yes this is actually an important part of the process.  It is the NOT LOOKING that seems to keep it fresh for me.  Knowing that I have a pile of resource material  in my folder as back up is comforting, but it is the time in between gathering it and using it that really seems to help me stay energized about getting started on painting the commission. After a few days or sometimes even weeks when I decide to make a start, I'm looking at it all with fresh eyes,  and often cant wait to get started.


  1. Hi Sally,

    What a great description. For a recent show I was in I went back to work that was finished, and suddenly saw so many ways to change them. The space between the first run at painting them, and then not thinking about them, allowed me to see them fresh, and freshen them up. Beautiful work as always. Wishing you a Joyous New Year.


  2. hey Barbara, great that you were able to enliven the 'finished' works making them new again in your eyes, and also for your show. ox


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