What a sweet family!  This is the latest painting I’ve been working on, and working on, and working…

Commissioned works are wonderful because they are actual proof that someone will pay for your work.  Commissioned works are the most difficult because they must be accurate enough to be recognized by the subjects themselves and those who commissioned the work while being realistic and flattering, yet still retaining some of the artist’s style that attracted the client in the first place.  And then there is the matter of the reference photo.  Not all artists cling desperately to the details in the reference photo, but for better or worse, I do.  I’m working on it, ok?

This portrait was challenging for a number of reasons: the reference photo was actually two photos combined to get everyone looking their best in one shot.  The photo was dark and while it was clear they were laying in dappled sunlight under an early summer tree… it proved difficult to translate that into a painting.

The painting was commissioned by the mother as a surprise Christmas present for the father, then a month or so before Christmas the father asked me to do a secret portrait of the kids for the mother as a gift.  I was at a loss about what to do.  I couldn’t say, “Well I would, but I have to paint one of your kids for you”.  After some consulting with the grandmother, I decided to tell the father I wouldn’t be able to fit it into my schedule, but could he please send the reference photo so I could start a sketch?   (While secretly using his photo to do the painting instead of the photo the mom had given me- I figured if this is his favorite photo of his family, it should be the one I use.)

Also, I love these people.  That, I think, is what made it most challenging.  I didn’t want to disappoint.  I see their faces several times a week.  The pressure of me wanting it to look like the most fabulous family portrait that ever existed made it impossible to paint well.  Even my friend, famous Asheville muralist, Ian Wilkinson‘s adage, “You have to paint it wrong the first time” was of little comfort since that first time turned into a second and third…

Luckily, they are patient and forgiving people.  With the deadline up, I had to hand it over.  I was terribly unsatisfied with it.  After Christmas, I asked if I could take it back to work on it a little more.  They graciously agreed and the above result is the end product.  I think it turned out well, but it’s hard for me to look at it and not see all the ‘shortfalls’ I believe it contains.  The family is happy with it so I am, too.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Stacey says:

    The painting is beautiful. It seems you may be a bit of a perfectionist, which is a double edged sword for sure, but hopefully you take comfort in seeing that others find your work flawless. Keep it up!

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