Monday, 16 September 2013

The Trials of Painting Commissions and day 16

This piece is a commission which I have struggled with and have actually done 4 times!!

This was the reference

The lady who commissioned this has bought paintings from me before, in fact is my best customer so I really wanted to make sure it was right for her. She wanted this for her friend in Canada who has just lost the cat but I know that she likes my more colourful work and try as I might I was stuck in the palette I used for this. The more I paint the more I "see" what colours I might choose for a painting particularly of an animal and this was no exception but I wasn't sure it was what she might want as well!!!

Anyway my plan was to do a couple of trial paintings for her to have a look at and test the water

Here was the first... no drawing just a very quick sketch

The colours were

Transparent orange
Burnt sienna
May green and a touch of Green Gold and Turq for the eyes

I decided I wanted a bit more drama and needed some more darks so I decided to use some Violet as well and I also zoomed in a bit to concentrate more on the eyes... so again more of a sketch but another practice to try out the colours

I thought I was getting nearer with this one and decided to have a go at a "proper" one so did another smaller version but this time paid a bit more attention and reined my wayward brush in a bit!!

Forgotten the whiskers on this one!!

So these were the three I sent to view and it was the larger version the client liked (she really liked the eyes) so I then set to work on the final piece. I so wanted to get this right for her but was very unsure as to whether I was going in the right direction... I know she likes something more whimsical than this but the photo literally told me the colours I needed to use and I couldn't get away from the idea... the image was quite "in your face" and he seems to have such a dominant personality with those piercing green eyes that in the end I couldn't paint it any other way.

Here is the finished piece

I feel I have captured the "essence" of him and am really quite pleased with this though was on pins before the final viewing!! Doing watercolour commissions is probably the most difficult area for me.... painting like I do is not easy if I am trying to capture a likeness, as each stroke can potentially take me further away from what I am trying to achieve. At the same time I have to stay true to the style I am developing (I actually don't know how to paint any other way!!), and so it is a balance between producing something which will be acceptable for someone whose beloved pet I am trying to capture and the way I seem to haphazardly apply the paint to the paper, am often amazed myself that I get there in the end when I start, sometimes I have to look at something over a few days to understand what, if anything else it needs and that is an area that I know I need to improve upon but I am thrilled that I am seeing more all the time!!

Doing commissions means an added dimension to our work.... I normally paint what I like to paint with very few restrictions... when I say that I might decide to do a series of paintings around a subject , so I may concentrate on animals or flowers etc but always a broad enough subject to give me plenty of choice before I start.... with a commission you obviously paint what you are given with the added pressure of not only having to please yourself but someone else too, while achieving a likeness which will also be acceptable.. so why do them? Well, I have really enjoyed this, it has been a challenge to say the least but I have risen to that, I have enjoyed thinking about it, how to go about it, so although I have constantly fretted about whether it will turn out or not, the bonus is I am rather pleased by the outcome.

So... did she like?  Well am delighted to report, she loved it, especially the eyes which to me is what the painting was all about. I do think that if you get the eyes looking good, in the right position compared to the shape of the head and nose area, with the right shape and highlights you are a very good part of the way there, in fact I think the eyes and nose define the whole painting, so although a lot of prep and hard work went into this one, it was all worth it to know that she is so pleased with this final piece. She will be taking it to Canada for her friend this xmas so the next nail biter will be does the owner of the cat like!!!


  1. Judith, it was quite a journey you just took me on, the first was good, the second better the last the best. It is undeniable how much you have progressed since you (ahem, retired) It is always a joy to watch you progressing ----
    I "Knew Her When" Love it girl!
    XXOO Susan

    1. It is always so uplifting to hear from you Susan am delighted you like and yes even I can see progress!!! That is and always has been my first priority... as long as I am moving on I am happy.... so lovely to hear you confirm it!!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Terry... I have another couple of commissions to do soon so watch this space!!

  3. i love them all too but the final piece is superb! I'm not surprised your client is thrilled with the result!

  4. Oh felt your pain... your finished work is exceptional. I would be thrilled with it too. I know how you feel when you have to curb your wish to let it go and just follow a requested path. Judith that is a beautiful finished piece. Congratulations.

  5. I've only sold two items and both to the same person but, oh how I hear you on this. I have all but given up trying to grow my nails!

    All of these are beautiful but your finished piece is just gorgeous -
    I predict many tears, happy tears, when this reaches it's new home.

  6. I admire you for your practice painting of the same subject but can see how this would be so important for a commission to get it right. Each one is lovely

  7. Your final painting came out fantastic and the thumbnail on Leslie's page grabbed my eye immediately!

  8. You certainly captured the essence of this feline. Your patience at doing several studies is admirable and not easy to do.

  9. Thank you all for your wonderful comments.... I am pleased with this and the hard work was worthwhile!! Doing something like this does make you step outside the comfort zone and is definitely testing but the amount you learn with something like this is considerable and I was very motivated to get it right... the studies were important to do to point me in the right direction and had it needed a fifth go I would have done it!!


Would like to thank you all for taking the time to visit my blog, why not leave me a message then I know you've popped by!! If you have any enquiries please send me an e-mail to