At the weekend I had the great pleasure of delivering two beautiful paintings to a beautiful home. It was the end of the commission process and I drove away feeling absolutely delighted with a job well done.
The story began a few months ago when my client spotted a painting in an exhibition at Waterstones. She went home and happily told her husband secretly hoping that perhaps he might invest in an original painting for her birthday. Little did she know that her husband also went to Waterstones, checked out the painting that she liked and made a decision to commission me for a bespoke piece.
The next stage of the process was him visiting my studio. He came armed with various photographs of his beautiful White Park cattle. I can't tell you how I felt when I saw those photos; they are such picturesque animals. Blue black ears and noses juxtaposed with their creamy white faces make them an incredible subject matter to paint.
The next stage was very exciting as I arranged to visit the farm meet the cows themselves!
I was shown in to the pen with the bull by the herdsman. My heart lept into my throat when he informed me "If I say run, run. I'm not mucking about"! The bull was actually very placid and calm and not bothered at all by me crawling around on the ground trying to get photos every conceivable angle. However I'm reliably informed that the calm bulls are the ones you have to watch out for, but that day was my lucky day and I escaped completely unharmed!
Next was selecting the most picturesque of the cows. I focused on three or four in particular. The cows were so friendly and curious whilst I was photographing one, another would rest her nose on my shoulder, while a third decided to lick my arm. It didn't bother me at all these are beautiful friendly beasts and besides if you're going to paint animals this is an occupational hazard!
The next stage is quite formal where I draw up a commission agreement. This is really important for both artist and client as it makes sure that absolutely everyone involved knows what's happening. The price quoted is the price paid no hidden extras here. Everything is agreed from the reference photographs to be used, the size of the painting, the frames, the canvas, and the style.
I began with a couple of really rough sketches, sometimes I like to do the sketches in situ in front of the animals. My rough sketches aren't clear enough to act as a true reference but they capture the character of the animal. I enjoyed the stage very much indeed.
The next stage is marking out the underpainting on my beautiful linen canvases. This is very formal and painstaking you have to get it right. With any commission piece I am no longer trying to capture the essence of a breed, I am capturing the beauty of a specific animal.
After this it's a question of balancing style with accuracy. I wanted a glint in the eye, and a beautiful shiny black nose but also to incorporate my characteristic colours. Though on these pieces the colours on not quite as strong as usual as the black-and-white had to be the main focus.
Once completed the paintings were framed and then delivered to a happy client.
I absolutely love these two, they were a joy to paint.
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