Starting off my pet portrait commissions journey with this fun small-format piece for my boss. I think it’s supposed to be a Jack Russel terrier, and maybe the pooch has some other genetic factors going on.
My boss has pink walls – as bold a palette as pastel can go, to make sure this fits in with her space. As with the cat portrait I started, I began with a heavy under-painting in bold magenta to ensure that color reverberates throughout the composition. Then, layer by layer, I built the other middle tones on top, expanding the palette and adding painterly heft! Last to layer on are the “darkest darks” and the “lightest lights,” as I always recall my high school art teacher saying (it’s interesting what random morsels of advice manage to stick with you through the years).
I’m happy with how the colors emerged – the tones seem to mesh well, the canvas is vibrant, not static. Because I rarely make a solid plan for what colors I will use, I risk ending up with a boggy amalgamation of pigment, which is difficult to clean up without re-priming and starting from square one. I think in this case, the stark under-painting worked by guiding the introduction of new colors and integrating them into the resulting full spectrum. Often I’m just mixing up color on my palette and throwing it down – sans testing – to see how it works, a technique I could dub “color-flailing.” This practice keeps me on the edge of spontaneity. Spontanaeity risks degradation in an organized/planned commission piece like this.
Finally, the subject of commission.. What changes when the art work is not for you? The subject is purely representational? And there is a price involved? There are material formalities to acknowledge, such as the color of the client’s walls, their home, their light, and their style. Obviously, time is a question, though not with the same conceptual gravity I sometimes give “time.” This is more about, “how long have I physically spent working on this piece?” and “how long do I have to complete this work?” and “what is fair to charge for my time?”
Another question: does spending time on lighthearted commissions betray peripheral, more serious work? Nope. Who has time for peripheral serious work? Give me all the animals