Now that this painting, Cloak #2
(commissioned through my Santa Fe gallery, Darnell Fine Art
, for the MD Anderson Cancer Center
in Houston, Texas) has been received by the hospital, and the word is that they love it, I feel free to discuss the process and personal story in more detail than I have up until now (I've put a photo or two on Facebook in the past couple of weeks, but have not written much.)
A commission of this size (it measures 5 ft. x 8 ft.) is a huge honor, and it was exciting and challenging (in a good way) to create...but it's also been, frankly, a bit nerve-wracking and I am now exhaling in relief after hearing of its safe arrival and positive reception in Texas. Helping to load it into the truck from the packaging company in late May, I imagined several disasters that could befall it. And even though I'd sent photos and had followed all the specified requirements (this one is based on an earlier painting, made to a specific size and horizontal orientation) I was still eager to hear that the client was pleased when it arrived.
Actually, the painting process went very smoothly from the first day I worked on the piece--my concerns were mostly logistical. Would the custom built panels arrive on time (travel plans already in place when I heard about the commission made studio time with the piece less than ideal)...and would they fit together correctly when bolted? How would I handle the painting physically since it is so large, and how would I handle any transportation needs of the finished work? Happily, all of these issues resolved in positive ways. The panels were a few days late, but because the process itself went so well, I ended up with plenty of time, and the guy who does my bolting was very pleased with how well they fit together (there are 9 separate panels in the piece.) My husband helped me each time the painting had to be moved in my studio, once it was bolted together and became awkward to manipulate. As for transporting it, I was able to get the piece to and from the woodshop in my Subaru wagon, by partially unbolting it, and the final aspects of transport to Texas were handled completely by my gallery. All I had to do was paint the painting, and by arrangement, the rest was taken over by the packing and shipping pros.
I have a few photos that illustrate the painting process. This first shot is the painting that the client chose as the basis for the painting, Cloak
from 2006. I was pleased with this choice--it's a painting I really like, and I enjoyed revisiting the color choices in the main panel, which I had not used for several years. This photo is fairly degraded (it's from back when I did not understand digital photography at all!) but I had a fresh print-out to reference from the gallery. The colors in the main panel are actually very close to the way they turned out in the commissioned painting.
This is the very beginning, when I planned out how to arrange the panels. Because the proportions of color areas would be different from the original painting, when made larger, and the visual weight changed when it was viewed horizontally, I decided to break up the surrounding panels to add more visual interest.
This one was taken on the first day that the panels arrived, and I got everything covered with a layer or two of paint.
In this photo, all of the color areas have been established and somewhat developed, but it is far from done.
The process of making Cloak #2
was very different from my usual search and discover method of painting. I was rather surprised to find that my experience with layering color allowed me to successfully predict and carry out the underlying layers in a fairly logical and step by step manner. This was a bit of an eye-opener for me, because I do not choose to work this way normally and past commissions have not demanded this level of complexity. In this case, the expected end result was fairly clear, and I seemed to know how to get there. Because of the scale, and because I have learned a lot since painting the first Cloak
, the surfaces of the new painting are far more intricate--which gave me a place to try new things, experiment and not simply copy my old work. This last photo is a close-up shot of an area in the lower white panels.
I definitely engaged emotionally with this commission, as I was constantly aware of where it would be hung. My father died of cancer eleven years ago, and numerous others in my life have been affected at one time or another. Currently, a dear friend is struggling along with Stage 4 cancer in various parts of her body. Above all I wanted to make a beautiful painting that would pull the viewer into a meditative state. A friend of mine, who saw the finished painting before it shipped out, commented that it made her feel happy to look at. I guess I could not ask for more.