Venetian market demo, continued

Today before I continue with my painting demo, I thought I would mention the colors I'm using on my palette. For many years I stuck with a fairly limited palette of about 5 or six colors (cad. yellow light, cadmium red, alizarin, ultramarine blue, pthalo green and white.) This was great for me as it really pushed me to learn how to mix color and not become reliant on pre-mixed colors from the tube. It also really helps lighten the load when I am packing my gear to take my studio outside and paint en plein air.

But these days in the studio, my time is more limited. I have a finite amount of hours each week to paint, blog, frame, ship, not to mention cook, eat, sleep, and care for my family. So I have allowed myself the luxury of an expanded palette to speed things along in certain areas. For instance, while I know how to mix secondary colors and some decent earth tones with a limited palette, things can move a bit faster if I have some premixed secondary colors (a.k.a. "convenience colors")  in my toolkit. So, for instance, red+yellow= orange., but cadmium orange is still a nice color to have both for it's purity and intensity and its convenience. In any case, whether I am using primaries or secondaries or pre-mixed earth colors, there is still plenty of color-mixing along the way, and  I don't ever use any color straight from the tube on my canvas.

Aside from the convenience, I am just enjoying playing with new colors. I've had less time to get out to doplein air painting, and I have missed it. So adding something new to experiment with in the studio keeps things fresh for me. On the palette I'm using right now I've introduced a few earth colors, plus some colors from Gamblin's radiant line. Aside from the colors listed with the asterisk *, I may not keep all of these colors out on my palette every time. But they have made an appearance in the studio often enough over the last few months that they are worth mentioning. All of these colors are Gamblin unless otherwise noted:

  • *Titanium white (Gamblin or Winsor Newton)
  • *Cadmium Yellow Light
  • Cadmium Yellow Deep
  • Indian Yellow (Winsor Newton)
  • *Cadmium Orange Deep
  • *Napthol Red
  • Radiant Red
  • *Quinacridone Violet
  • *Ultramarine Blue
  • Severes Blue-sometimes (Rembrandt)
  • *Radiant Turquoise
  • *Pthalo Green
  • Permanent Green Light
  • *Payne's Gray
  • *Brown Pink
  • Gold Ochre (Rembrandt)

 Now that I've gotten that bit of housekeeping out of the way, let's get back to painting! I spent my last post addressing the "shadow family" in this scene. In this picture you can see that much of the busy market scene is now at least suggested. But light is needed to delineate the forms and bring the scene alive.

venetianmarket_wip4_jenniferyoung

These images are a bit dark as I did not take the time to color correct the in-progress shots. But hopefully you can see that my approach has been to just focus on the general shapes of things without getting too bogged down in details. There are basically three large shapes of light spilling over this painting: the sky, the pavers, and the white awning, with lesser highlights on the figures.

Here is the final stage. I have kept things fairly loose because I wanted to keep the focus on the foreground figure, while still maintaining unity throughout the painting. Notice the difference in the color of the final piece below, taken under better lighting conditions to show the true nature of the colors in the painting.

"Il Mercato Veneziano", Oil on linen, 14x11" ©Jennifer E Young

"Il Mercato Veneziano", Oil on linen, 14x11" ©Jennifer E Young

Thanks for following along on my little painting journey to Venice! This piece is heading to City Art Gallery in Greenville, NC for their 30th Anniversary Celebration September 22nd. 30 years! Wow! Come join us for the party and see this painting (and yours truly)  in person! :-) 

More Plein Air to Studio

Last week I continued my quest to mine some of my favorite plein air paintings for larger studio pieces.  The inspiration piece was a little 9x12" Plein air painting I did in the spring down at Maymont Park in Richmond, VA:

"Spring Renewal", Oil on panel, 9x12" ©Jennifer E Young

"Spring Renewal", Oil on panel, 9x12" ©Jennifer E Young

I really wanted to keep the same freshness in the larger 24x30" painting, so aside from referencing my photos for some of the branch formations, I used my Plein air piece as my main reference. Here is my setup, with the large and small side by side: 

renewal_wip_jenniferyoung

If it appears that I'm using a toned canvas, it is because I am painting on one that was a false start for a painting that turned into a wiper. I will often reuse canvases as long as there is just a thin, non-textured base. Anything with too much of a texture is distracting to me and can sometimes create adhesion issues. There is a good deal of impasto (thick paint)  passages on this canvas. Here is a detail in progress:

renewal_detail_jenniferyoung

And finally, here is the completed studio painting:

"Renewal", Oil on linen, 24x30" ©Jennifer E Young

"Renewal", Oil on linen, 24x30" ©Jennifer E Young

Delphinium Walk

It is blazing (as in dangerously) hot outside, so as I value my health, I've been having a good time inside reinterpreting my outdoor paintings. 😄  Not every plein air painting I've done calls for expansion. Some of my local pieces are just right as charming vignettes. But this garden piece, painted at a beautiful estate off of River Road, commanded more study. 

 

My 24x20" painting, alongside the 9x12" plein air

My 24x20" painting, alongside the 9x12" plein air

These are the delphiniums at Redesdale, which I had the great pleasure of painting in very changeable weather this past spring. I started out attempting a more literal translation, but given that the new piece was enlarged, and scaled slightly differently, I felt as if the composition need some alteration. The painting seemed to want more breathing room, so I scraped down much of the sky around the upper right quadrant and pushed the trees on that side further into the distance. Here is the final:  

 

"Delphinium Walk", Oil on linen, 24x20"  ©Jennifer E Young

"Delphinium Walk", Oil on linen, 24x20"  ©Jennifer E Young

Spring in my step

What a difference a week makes. Last week the earth was still pretty brown and bare in our neck of the woods, but this week heralded in some lovely warm springlike weather. And with that came the flowers. Cherry blossoms and spring blooming magnolias seemed to open up over night, along with the daffodils and forsythia. I always feel such a great sense of hope and renewal in the springtime.

Tuesday is one of my two "long days" that I have to work, so I readied myself Monday night for my plein air outing. I decided that since this was my first plein air painting in a while, I should kick off with a known quantity. So I paid a visit to Maymont Park. This would prevent me from wasting time driving around looking for the perfect spot, as I had visited the week prior with my daughter and knew exactly where I wanted to set up. 

"Spring Renewal", Oil on Panel, 9x12" ©Jennifer E Young

"Spring Renewal", Oil on Panel, 9x12" ©Jennifer E Young

Just one week earlier, I had brought my daughter to this beautiful park, and at the blooms were still pretty new. I was hoping against hope they would endure, and luckily I wasn't disappointed. Here's a shot of my work setting for the morning. Not a bad way to punch the time card, eh?

My plein air painting in process

My plein air painting in process

I retired the Soltek last summer after a trip to the beach kind of did it in. These days I'm really enjoying my Coulter Easel. It's fast, easy and sturdy. Here's my setup:

image.jpg

I've had a piece of Plexiglas cut to fit in the palette area. The brush holder is an envelope style with a little loop on the top, allowing me to loop it over the handle of my tripod and tuck into the back of the palette. The little jars are holding my oil and solvent free medium. You can't really see it in this picture, but those two clips on the left wing of the palette hold a mesh basket that I picked up in the $1 - $3 bin at Target. It has pockets around the perimeter suitable for holding the tubes of paint I reach for most often. I prefer this basket over a plastic bag for my dirty paper towels because it stays open. Also, it doesn't blow around in the wind. 

I've only had this easel since the fall and it's already smeared with paint. I'm a slob; it's a problem. In any event, I look forward to smearing it up even more this spring!

Commissions, part III; wrapping it up!

In my last two posts, I took you through the proposal process of one of my recent commissions. If you wish to read this series from the beginning, start with Part I, followed by Part II. Today I'd like to share with you how the commissioned paintings turned out. I also have a few thoughts on commissions in general; both what to expect if you are a collector, and how to consider going about them, if you are an artist.

After having submitted my proposals for both of the paintings, I have now received the go-ahead to proceed. Here are the two completed paintings:

"The Potted Garden II", Oil on linen, 16x12" (SOLD) © Jennifer E Young

"The Potted Garden II", Oil on linen, 16x12" (SOLD) ©Jennifer E Young

"The Corner Shop, Roussillon", Oil on Linen, 16x12" (SOLD) © Jennifer E Young

"The Corner Shop, Roussillon", Oil on Linen, 16x12" (SOLD) ©Jennifer E Young

I’m very glad to say that the client expressed great satisfaction with the two paintings and they are now framed and in their new home.

Commissions are great experiences for artists because they push us to think about our art from a new perspective. Yes, as artists we all want our work to stand on its own. At the same time, nothing exists in a vacuum, and I am ok (and in fact, really flattered) with the knowledge that my paintings will coexist with other art in a collection, as well as other family heirlooms that will be important and valued by a family, possibly for generations.  So it’s a great honor to even be asked about commission work and I am always happy to discuss that possibility and to converse in-depth about not only the art but the environment where the art is intended to be placed. With this in mind, here are a few things to note that make commissioned work a special animal, worthy (apparently) of three blog posts!

1) The Conversation

The conversation ( usually more than one) is probably the single most important element of any commission. This is the artist’s opportunity to gather all of the relevant information about size, environment, and (very important) color preferences. Color, in fact, is the one topic that comes up rather emphatically in nearly every conversation I have with prospective commission clients. It’s understandable, as color elicits so many varying emotions.

Ideally these conversations would be done face-to-face, but that is usually either not possible or practical. Most of my commissions have actually been negotiated, in fact, via email and phone. In these cases, Photoshop is definitely my friend!

2) The Proposal:

This is where I do my best to incorporate the ideas and desires of the client into a work of art. Sometimes, as in the examples I’ve provided in these last couple of posts, I have studies or compositions already worked out. In these cases, I just use my old buddy Photoshop.  More often, though, I am creating something from scratch. In these cases I will submit asketch with color notes, as well as a few of my photo references that I will use to incorporate some elements into the composition. The more visual examples given at this stage, the better.

3) The Approval:

The next step is to await the feedback of the client, or, if things go really smoothly, await the client’s approval to proceed.

3) The Deposit:

This topic is often one that people don’t like to talk about, but it’s an essential part of many artists’ working methods, so I am going to throw this horse right on out there on the middle of the dining room table. As artists, we need to decide for ourselves our best practices so that we feel good about the work we are doing.

Earlier in my career, I did not ask for a deposit for most of my commissions. As long as I felt like I was able to sell the work in a gallery if needed and that it didn’t stray too far from the rest of my body of work,  I felt okay about working on speculation. Times change though and though the vast majority of my experiences were excellent, an odd one or two “hiccups”, as well as certain life experiences (like having a child)  helped to shape my perspective on the boundaries I should set for myself and my work.

Nowadays, with few exceptions I require a deposit to proceed. This would occur once my proposal has been approved by the client.  The amount is either 1/2 down, or, if it is a very large and involved commission, 1/3 down, 1/3 at approval half-way, and 1/3 prior to delivery. Most collectors are okay with this arrangement and understand the whole working -for-compensation thing. I also think they appreciate that that it is to everyone’s advantage that there is a commitment made to secure the agreement.

A deposit doesn’t just cover an artist’s materials, by the way. It also covers her time. Keep in mind that a proposal already commands a good deal of time and effort to prepare. Time is the most precious commodity I have. It is up to each individual to determine how they wish to work and what they want to spend their time working on.

4) Art Direction

Some artists are more ok with art direction than others. Having had a taste of the heavy-handed variety, I can most definitely state that I am not in favor.  [;-)]  This is not to say that I am adverse to hearing client’s preferences and feedback!  This is the whole point of “The Conversation”, and I do welcome it if a minor adjustment is desired. However, I can’t start over with a new concept, (which would mean a new painting) make profuse alterations, or do anything that I feel would greatly compromise the integrity of the painting.

Most clients understand, and I do my best to clarify in advance,  that any painting I make is going to be unique,  nota copy–either of my own work or anyone else’s . Beyond preference in color and subject, a collector commissions an artist because the artist has his or her own voice, and it’s up to the artist, ultimately, to determine the best expression of their idea. In other words….Nobody puts Baby in a corner!

All joking aside, most people are really very happy to let the artist do her thing.  In fact, “that thing she does” is the whole reason the client was attracted to her work to begin with. Nevertheless, it’s good policy, and indeed it’s the artist’s responsibility to clarify all of that with the client so that expectations are managed. Of course, every commission is unique and there are definitely nuances thatcan vary my approach to a certain degree. The key is to keep communication lines open and to be open to honest feedback.

This just about wraps up my commission process, or at least the highlights. If there is anything I have missed, or if you have any questions, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. If you are an artist, feel free to share how you handle your own commissions. I would most especiallywelcome the thoughts of collectors (or potential collectors) also. Have you ever commissioned an artist? What was your experience? Let me hear from you!