Canine Commission #1

Untitled (Commission). Acrylic on canvas. 8" x 10"
Untitled (Commission). Acrylic on canvas. 8″ x 10″
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).
Terrier Study

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

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