Changing spaces (again)

I mentioned in one of my recent posts that we are in the planning stages with a builder to build a new studio at our new residence. It's coming along-- I'm excited! 😃  But given that we are just in the permit stage, I know enough about building an art studio to know that it will be a while yet before that dream becomes a reality.  Meanwhile, it will be important to save some money to help pay for the new digs. Sooo, I'm giving up my rental space and yet again, moving my studio. 

This time I will attempt to work once more in the house. I feel like we have rearranged our house so many times in the year that we have lived here, that it's comical. So what's one or two times more, in the scheme of things? The room I've cleared out for my little temporary studio has been a catch-all room; a mud room, a temporary guest bedroom, and eventually it will be my office.  It has a door that leads to the back screened porch and faces the site of the future studio. It sits a bit away from the rest of the house, and is just down the hallway from the garage. So in some ways,  the location is ideal for a little painting space.  

What's not ideal though, at ALL, is the lighting. This room is very, very dark, which is why I never thought to use it previously for a home studio. What's changed since we moved to Ashland though,  is the easel light, shown below (installed on my Sorg easel, with an unfinished painting.) 

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The light is one by Revelite, which I learned of from seeing postings raving about it in several of my friends' Facebook feeds. Revelite makes traditional picture lights for lighting artwork, but also these work lights designed to work with artist's easels. They are slim profile, adjustable LED bulbs, with a high color rendering (CRI), purportedly, of over 90. 

I purchased the 36" light. I will admit I was sweating bullets when I ordered this thing because while I was "pretty sure" this light would work with my easel, I still harassed Revelite's customer service for a few weeks with a barrage of inquisitive emails.  It was, after all, a very expensive light. And it carried a hefty restocking fee in the event it needed to be returned.  Luckily, though, the light mounted to my easel without an issue, and I am really pleased with the quality of the light it provides to my painting surface. 

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Above is my new home-based  temporary studio! Although I still think I need more light for the room, at least I have lit the most important parts of my workspace in order to get the job done.  I've lit the palette area with a standing Ott-lite for now, but as you can see this is a very cold, bluish light compared to the warmer but still very clean easel light (which I prefer.) I am still working on a better solution to this problem, because putting different lighting on my painting and palette will likely be problematic. 

If this little space is looking quite neat, it's because the rest of my supplies (frames, equipment, paintings, etc) are stashed in a million different places throughout my house,  with even more still at the rental space. All of that stuff will need to be moved out and consolidated and organized by the end of August, so aside from painting and splashing in the water with the kiddo, you can guess how I will be spending a good part of the rest of my summer! 

Commissions, part III; wrapping it up!

In my last two posts, I took you through the proposal process of one of my recent commissions. If you wish to read this series from the beginning, start with Part I, followed by Part II. Today I'd like to share with you how the commissioned paintings turned out. I also have a few thoughts on commissions in general; both what to expect if you are a collector, and how to consider going about them, if you are an artist.

After having submitted my proposals for both of the paintings, I have now received the go-ahead to proceed. Here are the two completed paintings:

  "The Potted Garden II", Oil on linen, 16x12" (SOLD) © Jennifer E Young

"The Potted Garden II", Oil on linen, 16x12" (SOLD) ©Jennifer E Young

  "The Corner Shop, Roussillon", Oil on Linen, 16x12" (SOLD) © Jennifer E Young

"The Corner Shop, Roussillon", Oil on Linen, 16x12" (SOLD) ©Jennifer E Young

I’m very glad to say that the client expressed great satisfaction with the two paintings and they are now framed and in their new home.

Commissions are great experiences for artists because they push us to think about our art from a new perspective. Yes, as artists we all want our work to stand on its own. At the same time, nothing exists in a vacuum, and I am ok (and in fact, really flattered) with the knowledge that my paintings will coexist with other art in a collection, as well as other family heirlooms that will be important and valued by a family, possibly for generations.  So it’s a great honor to even be asked about commission work and I am always happy to discuss that possibility and to converse in-depth about not only the art but the environment where the art is intended to be placed. With this in mind, here are a few things to note that make commissioned work a special animal, worthy (apparently) of three blog posts!

1) The Conversation

The conversation ( usually more than one) is probably the single most important element of any commission. This is the artist’s opportunity to gather all of the relevant information about size, environment, and (very important) color preferences. Color, in fact, is the one topic that comes up rather emphatically in nearly every conversation I have with prospective commission clients. It’s understandable, as color elicits so many varying emotions.

Ideally these conversations would be done face-to-face, but that is usually either not possible or practical. Most of my commissions have actually been negotiated, in fact, via email and phone. In these cases, Photoshop is definitely my friend!

2) The Proposal:

This is where I do my best to incorporate the ideas and desires of the client into a work of art. Sometimes, as in the examples I’ve provided in these last couple of posts, I have studies or compositions already worked out. In these cases, I just use my old buddy Photoshop.  More often, though, I am creating something from scratch. In these cases I will submit asketch with color notes, as well as a few of my photo references that I will use to incorporate some elements into the composition. The more visual examples given at this stage, the better.

3) The Approval:

The next step is to await the feedback of the client, or, if things go really smoothly, await the client’s approval to proceed.

3) The Deposit:

This topic is often one that people don’t like to talk about, but it’s an essential part of many artists’ working methods, so I am going to throw this horse right on out there on the middle of the dining room table. As artists, we need to decide for ourselves our best practices so that we feel good about the work we are doing.

Earlier in my career, I did not ask for a deposit for most of my commissions. As long as I felt like I was able to sell the work in a gallery if needed and that it didn’t stray too far from the rest of my body of work,  I felt okay about working on speculation. Times change though and though the vast majority of my experiences were excellent, an odd one or two “hiccups”, as well as certain life experiences (like having a child)  helped to shape my perspective on the boundaries I should set for myself and my work.

Nowadays, with few exceptions I require a deposit to proceed. This would occur once my proposal has been approved by the client.  The amount is either 1/2 down, or, if it is a very large and involved commission, 1/3 down, 1/3 at approval half-way, and 1/3 prior to delivery. Most collectors are okay with this arrangement and understand the whole working -for-compensation thing. I also think they appreciate that that it is to everyone’s advantage that there is a commitment made to secure the agreement.

A deposit doesn’t just cover an artist’s materials, by the way. It also covers her time. Keep in mind that a proposal already commands a good deal of time and effort to prepare. Time is the most precious commodity I have. It is up to each individual to determine how they wish to work and what they want to spend their time working on.

4) Art Direction

Some artists are more ok with art direction than others. Having had a taste of the heavy-handed variety, I can most definitely state that I am not in favor.  [;-)]  This is not to say that I am adverse to hearing client’s preferences and feedback!  This is the whole point of “The Conversation”, and I do welcome it if a minor adjustment is desired. However, I can’t start over with a new concept, (which would mean a new painting) make profuse alterations, or do anything that I feel would greatly compromise the integrity of the painting.

Most clients understand, and I do my best to clarify in advance,  that any painting I make is going to be unique,  nota copy–either of my own work or anyone else’s . Beyond preference in color and subject, a collector commissions an artist because the artist has his or her own voice, and it’s up to the artist, ultimately, to determine the best expression of their idea. In other words
.Nobody puts Baby in a corner!

All joking aside, most people are really very happy to let the artist do her thing.  In fact, “that thing she does” is the whole reason the client was attracted to her work to begin with. Nevertheless, it’s good policy, and indeed it’s the artist’s responsibility to clarify all of that with the client so that expectations are managed. Of course, every commission is unique and there are definitely nuances thatcan vary my approach to a certain degree. The key is to keep communication lines open and to be open to honest feedback.

This just about wraps up my commission process, or at least the highlights. If there is anything I have missed, or if you have any questions, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. If you are an artist, feel free to share how you handle your own commissions. I would most especiallywelcome the thoughts of collectors (or potential collectors) also. Have you ever commissioned an artist? What was your experience? Let me hear from you!

Commissions part II

This post is a continuation of a prior post I've written on my commission process. If you missed it you can find that post here. Having secured the final approval for the first commission I wrote about yesterday, I needed to do it again for the second painting.  During my image archives search for a complementary composition I came across this 20x16" painting, done some years ago from my own photo references and sketches done on site. I felt this composition was similar enough in feel to relate to the first painting, and yet different enough to add some visual interest:

 "Little Shop on the Corner" (SOLD) ©Jennifer E Young

"Little Shop on the Corner" (SOLD) ©Jennifer E Young

Because I wanted the  two little commissioned paintings to "talk to each other", I reversed the above painting, and scaled the image to 16x12". Like the first painting, this one also scaled really nicely to the new format:

grayscaleprovencepainting_jenniferyoung

Using my photo-shopped mock-ups, I provided a this shot below to show how the two paintings would look side by side:

 Vibrant paintings of French and Italian villages ©Jennifer E Young

Vibrant paintings of French and Italian villages ©Jennifer E Young

There were a few color notes to keep in mind. The client wanted these to pieces to go in a room with an open floor plan where other artwork was already present. There was one painting in particular, a large pastoral with a red barn, that I needed to be cognizant of when creating my pieces. I didn't need to "match" the red, but I needed to be aware of it so as not to clash. This painting had a mid-to-cool temperature red focal area, so I'd steer away from anything too orangey. There were also some lovely aubergine and turquoise accents  in the shadows of the large painting that I noted and would attempt to riff off of in the paintings I was about to create.

My collector gave a big thumbs up to the ideas I had proposed. Whew! Awesome! Now for the fun/hard part of creating them! In my next post I'll show you how everything came together in the final paintings, and provide some thoughts to keep in mind about commissions in general, which I think will be of interest to the collector and artist alike.

The making of a commission

It's hard to believe summer is almost over. The move of my home and business, along with family matters, tended to completely monopolize my spring and summer, and yet there is still so much to do.   While we are slowly settling into the house, it will be some time before I have a studio. So I have "made do" with either painting outside in the blazing summer heat, or setting up a temporary studio with drop cloths in my poorly lit living room. For those reasons, my painting production has been down and it's been driving me a little crazy. Nevertheless, opportunity waits for no one, and commissions are a special kind of opportunity. Time to pull out the drop cloths and shop lights again! :-)  I have been painting for 20 years, and in that time, I've had a variety of commissions. Some are more "challenging", and some are pure delight. Of course, the latter are more pleasurable, but all commissions have been, to me, opportunities for growth as an artist.

My latest commission, in spite of my less than ideal work environment,  fell distinctly in the realm of the delightful. I met the client during a painting demonstration at the Little Gallery where my work was being featured in June. He happened to love one of my paintings in that show, called "The Potted Garden, Pienza":

 "The Potted Garden", Oil on canvas, 12x12" ©Jennifer E Young

"The Potted Garden", Oil on canvas, 12x12" ©Jennifer E Young

The only issue was that the format (square) wasn't quite right. He was looking for a slightly larger, more vertical painting, and a companion piece of the same size to complement it in an adjacent spot.

I loved this little scene and I was happy to explore it again with a different format. So my first task was to convert my square composition to a vertical piece. Luckily, the architectural subject matter leant itself to the task naturally, and I was able to use Photoshop to render a "sketch" for a proposal in much faster time than I would have been able to do free-hand:

italianvillagemockup_jenniferyoung

As you can see, I didn't labor over rendering the upper portion. The purpose was just to continue it upward to demonstrate how it would look. (Photoshop is a very expensive program, but nothing beats it for working out compositional options for paintings!)

In all honesty, because the location of the focal point was in the right position for both the original 12x12"  and the commissioned 16x12" format,  I didn't have to do much to the composition of the original painting beyond extending it. That's not always the case, believe me, but this time things worked out really well. But because I was losing a window on the upper left, I did suggest that I replace the two flower pots under the window for a larger, single hanging basket, as this would give this area more unity.

Once I received the client's approval for my proposal of the first painting, I set to work finding a second composition that I would create as a companion piece. I'll cover that in the next installment. Stay tuned!

Come on Spring!

Okay, enough of winter already. I don't know about you but my winter was totally nuts. Not that spring will be less nuts but at least they will be warm ;-). Family matters have kept me from doing much painting, but here and there I have worked on this 14x18" piece, revisiting a familiar theme and experimenting with brushwork and soft edges:

  "Papaveri, Val d'Orcia" Oil on linen, 14x18" ©  Jennifer E Young

"Papaveri, Val d'Orcia" Oil on linen, 14x18" © Jennifer E Young