Friday, March 31, 2006

When is a Commission not a Commission?

One of the definitions of 'commission' is 'a task given to a person to perform' and for me, that simple statement is what puts me off doing pet portrait commissions.
To me, I see the task as giving the owner a portrait that is a permanent reminder of their pet, not just its physical appearance but something that encompases its personality, and that is where my difficulty lies. If I have never met the animal then how can I 'know' it well enough to include personality. I can get the physical appearance right from a good quality photograph and I can ask the owner about personality, but I still do not feel I am able to include that certain something that defines each individual animal. I have five sable and white Rough Collies that all look similar to strangers, but when I look at them, I see their personality in their eyes, in their movement, in the way they react to each other, and so on. An artist once painted one of my own dogs and while it was a very good study of a Rough Collie it was not my 'Saska'
So, I very rarely accept commissions, and for the ones I do, I like to meet the animal if at all possible. I take my own photographs watching the animal in its own surroundings reacting to the people it loves. When that happens I am confident I can embody the animal on canvas or paper and the commission is no longer a commission but becomes a journey of discovery for me as the portrait takes life.
Even when the above conditions are met I still only take on certain commissions as I am becoming increasingly busy producing my Limited edition prints.
However I have agreed to produce a head study of a delightful Black Labrador called 'Poppy', who I met and photographed.
The portrait is in pastel on a cream coloured ingres mountboard and so far I have transferred my drawing and started working on the undercoat. I have put one eye in as is usual with my work.
I will block in all the ear and then bring it to completion next.


Katherine said...

Gayle - what a wonderful explanation of your approach to commissions. Full of your integrity and concern for quality and absolutely nothing less than I'd expect from you.

Darla, Pencil Portrait Artist said...

It's true, not only does the dog's sparkle and personality matter, but also the personality that the OWNER THINKS their dog has! So I also ask the owner about the pets personalities....and I know they think it's a little odd that I ask that, but it gives me a better idea of the client's taste too. You are doing an excellent job of the black lab. I find black dogs are hard to draw, mainly because it's hard to be given a really good photograph to work with. I saw a black lab done on scratchboard that was excellent. I really want to give that a try.

Gayle Mason said...

Thank you Katherine and Darla
Darla, I'd love to see your dog on scratchboard if you decide to give it a try.