Monday, March 26, 2012

A Challenging Commission and a Bum Knee

For the last month, I've been working on a commission for a Ukrainian Priest! It's an involved project and at times I'm wishing that I had never agreed to do it at all. The Father came to my studio in December, loved my Spirit Art and bought an original watercolor. At that time, we talked about his ideas for a commissioned piece. He said, no rush, he just wanted it by Easter. So I didn't think much about it in January and February. Then all of a sudden, we were half way through Lent!

Sketch #1

His idea is to portray the soul (my interpretation here) ascending, with an angel holding a flaming sword in battle with the grim reaper or death (his interpretation). It is going to be big  (20-24" to 24 x30"). He's been thinking about this painting for a very long time and has many ideas. In Sketch # 1, I was thinking very loose and symbolic. Mostly monotone on the angel and reaper with minimal detail. The soul is the star here so it would be in bright yellow, orange and golds with a touch of blue for the eye and soul center. We agreed that the emphasis would be on the soul. Father O. liked the soul very much but thought the figures looked too cartoonish. It was tough understanding him over the phone with his thick accent, but I wrote down all the changes he wanted. In the meantime, I recruited the assistance of my friend, Judy, who had sent Father O. to me from her church. Judy owns a large collection of my work and that is where he first saw my paintings.

Sketch #2
Here is a color rendition of my second submission with all the requested revisions. It was done on tracing paper, Zeroxed and then colored in with pencil to give him an idea of the colors I had in mind. 

Sketch #3

Via Judy, Father O. wanted more changes, which I executed in sketch #3. Changes included flipping the image and multiple alterations to the angel and reaper.

Sketch #4

This is the last sketch I am doing, although Father hasn't seen it yet. It is full size. I have decided to do 3 small painting studies (soul, angel, reaper) so I can figure this out before I go large. I've only been doing small paintings lately and am afraid I'm rusty at working big. A painting of this size, done in transparent watercolor, with all the components involved, takes methodical planning and confident execution.

When I'm working on an illustration like this, I often use tracing paper, then resize elements on my copier and play around with the placement and scale. These are working drawings. They aren't pretty and don't photograph well. I was reluctant to even show them at all, but had time to kill and  thought maybe someone would be interested in seeing the process here.

I am writing this post on my laptop. My knee is on ice, propped up with pillows on the blow-up bed in the studio. Yesterday, I stepped off of the second rung of a tall ladder thinking it was the last step. Twisted my knee, leg, hip and ankle. Yes, it's a doozy and the clock is ticking on this commission. It's another lesson learned the hard way. When am I going to start  paying attention to what I am doing? Sometimes I feel like such a klutz! Do you think it is in my genes? If so, there is a possibility I get it from my dad.

Stay safe and unlike me, pay attention to what you are doing. Comments, feedback and suggestions are always appreciated here, my friends, thanks!


  1. First of all, from the Queen of Klutzes, me, I feel your pain. One gets so caught up that we forget the most basic rule: Safety First. Healing wishes are heading your way! Obviously, with this commission, you must have felt it was time for a challenge. It seems daunting, especially having to keep making changes, which I assume is a standard practice. I do appreciate your sharing this process. Not being an artist, I think it looks fantastic. I am standing here on the sidelines, cheering you on! Hopefully there are followers who are experienced artists that can offer more useful help!!

  2. Sketches #2 and #3 are my favorites. Don't you love when clients, who know nothing about art, try to control and direct you after all your study and experience. Sorry, had to get that out, I remember this from all my freelance years.

    Really nice prep work. I appreciate seeing your process.
    It's great to have all the details worked out and to finally sit and just paint. I hope you are at that point now and enjoying your day!:)

    Hope your knee is healing well. I had a friend who broke her ankle getting out of bed and getting caught up in the blankets. Lots of pain, surgery and therapy after. I always remember that when I get up and start moving too fast and now I'll remember to be careful up on ladders!

    Look forward to see the finish on your project.

  3. Hey Robin - Thanks so much for cheering me on! You are a GEM!! And Carmella, I REALLY appreciate your thoughts on this. It never hurts to hear reinforcement that you may be on the right path. Yes, it's hard to deal with clients sometimes. It takes a ton of patience and fortitude! Thanks so much for taking the time to post your feelings here, ladies! Without you, I would wonder if anyone even read this or gave a hoot at all. Thanks again. :-D I am really grateful.


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