Commissions can be hard because you are dealing with trying to paint someone else's idea. Even if the clients are as easy going as mine were on these paintings, you worry if they will like what you come up with. You worry if they have an idea of what they want and you may not even come close. Do you have things that you ask or ways that you go about balancing the clients idea with your artistic integrity?
The request was to paint the local Episcopal Church, Saint Paul's. I must admit, it is not the most interesting church facade in town to paint. It is kind of an odd pink and the client did not really like pink. Aside from that, they left it to me as to size and composition.
To work out my ideas I started with several pencil studies. Just simple value plans trying to work up an interesting design.
From there, I took the one that I thought showed the most promise and did a small oil study to work out color and alter the composition just a bit. I was combining two photos to get the design I wanted. Sometimes combining two photos can be harder than just using one.
"Saint Paul's Study", 6" x 8" oil on board, Frank Gardner © 2008
Looking at the small study, I felt that the facade was too pink. The pink that the client did not care for, and that the whole thing needed to be warmed up a bit. My idea was to stick to cooler colors for a calming mood. so to warm it up I switched to a burnt sienna toned canvas.
By letting some of that show through, I could use the same cooler, calming colors, and achieve a warmer, more inviting result.
Thinking that some of you might be interested in how I went about this one I snapped a photo after I blocked in most of the shadow colors. There is only one light family color, the light green to the left through the branches. I tried to link most of these shadow colors into one big design with a center of interest around the doorway. There is a general mid value shadow color and a few darker accents.
"Saint Paul's" in progress, 14" x 18", Frank Gardner © 2008
Next, I cut the silhouette of the church, doorway, architectural details of the door frame, sunlit grass, sky holes in the tree, with the light family colors. I spent some time adjusting back and forth between shadow and light colors after that, but the main job was done. The tweaking was to soften edges, adjust colors, cover the tone of the canvas where it was distracting. With a canvas toned with such a strong color you have to be aware that those orange bits are going to draw attention. If they are too many left in the wrong places it can really mess you up. If you get too picky and cover too much, you've lost what you were trying to achieve by using it in the first place.
"Saint Paul's" , 14" x 18" oil on linen, Frank Gardner © 2008
Here is the finished painting.
I am happy with how this one looks along side "Good Company". They may or may not hang near each other, but they are the same size and the large trees and the way they are painted tie them together nicely.