portrait commission of two cats

A Creative Life, animals in art, art commission, art techniques, cat portrait, Cats in art, fine art, Fine Art Commission, handmade papers, visual story

This time of year most of my art commissions are gifts and are top secret. No blogging about them. Well this time a couple asked me to create a double portrait of their two cats and since it’s a gift to themselves they’ve let me blog about it! (Happy Holidays to all of us!) Here’s how it went:

In September Sue and Dean asked me via Caplan Art Designs, my Portland gallery, to create a double portrait of their two cats.  They were pretty sure they wanted it to be 12 inches by 18 inches and on handmade paper to be framed.

A time to meet to discuss the commission was arranged and my wife, Judy, and I went to dinner at Sue and Dean’s house.  I brought an example of the 100% cotton handmade paper that I’d use at the size they’d requested and a few other sizes just in case. I also brought my camera, a note pad and an extra pen.

After we’d been there a short while the cats came out. So did my camera. As the cats got used to me, and over the evening, I took over 41 photos of them. Here are two of the photos I took.

I asked questions of the humans about the cats favorite places, toys and habits. I asked questions about the humans favorite places, drinks and memories. On my note pad I wrote down the answers. Where possible I photographed the answers .  For example on of my questions was: “What drink do you reach for most often when you want to relax? And what kind of glass do you have it in?” Here was the answer:

Drink

Generally we just talked about one thing and another. You know, dinner party talk. I asked questions, kept my ears open, and my notepad ready for recording things that might be relevant to the commission. I like to include in any pet portrait elements from the humans’ lives: favorite objects, drinks, food, anything that sparks pleasant memories. Helpfully, Sue and Dean both volunteered lots of information about themselves such as a favorite artwork that was meaningful to them.

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They told of past travels that were particularly memorable. Famous people they’d met in Hawaii.  All kinds of things were talked about and without interrupting flow I asked  more questions  and made as many notes as I could. Without being too obvious I also looked around their house noting colors and patterns, writing those notes down too.  This is what I call the “data dump” phase of a commission. At this point I have no idea what information will be relevant for the final artwork.

We relaxed into the evening; just talking, having a very yummy dinner with a good wine. Slowly as Sue and Dean talked I began to get ideas…  The cats got comfortable too and began doing their “normal” behavior.

Ollie likes to sit in a basket that holds magazines. Tony likes to sit on the couch and watch Nature on television.  The cats behavior prompted me to ask which human had the magazine subscriptions (Sue did) and what magazines were favorites. Dean has worked in technological fields…so technological advances (including TV) were discussed..

Later in the evening I floated a general portrait concept: Ollie reading magazines and Tony watching TV…perhaps the basket Ollie likes so much could become a “table” in the artwork, perhaps…   They both seemed to like my concept direction. They verified the size of artwork they wanted. I said I’d send them, via the gallery, a sketch for their approval before I began the finished artwork. We enjoyed a bit more conversation (and wine) – I glanced at my notes and racked my brain to make sure I had all the data I needed – and then we said our good-nights.

In the driveway pulling away from their house about 9:30pm I texted the gallery owner with the gist of what size artwork Sue and Dean wanted etc. Then my wife, Judy, and I discussed the evening in the car as we drove home. I still had my note pad out and was writing notes in the moving car by flashlight. (Judy was driving.)

Occasionally it had happened during the evening that I was talking with Sue in one room while Judy was in another room talking with Dean. So Judy filled me in on what I’d missed.  At this point I am still in “data dump” mode. I have a rough direction for my design. But the details are very fuzzy. (Over the many years I’ve done special commissions this kind of uncertainty is normal and I trust it as a part of the process.)

The next day I went over my notes and began making 4 x 6 inch size thumbnail sketches.  Over several weeks I did this; going over my notes and photos, drawing possible poses of the cats, possible objects, considering composition and colors. I also showed my sketches to Judy discussing the possibilities. At one point Judy said that they had both talked of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Hawaii enough that she was sure that they were important. I agreed and adjusted my drawings so that a reference to those travels was emphasized. Slowly an idea began to come together in the small thumbnail size anyway.  What works visually at a small size doesn’t always work at a larger size but it’s a place to start.

On my easel I put the 12 x 18 inch handmade paper. Then I covered that with tracing paper and drew a grid (you can see it in the photo below). Then I put tracing paper over the grid and drew one of the thumbnail ideas to that scale.  Then another tracing paper was put over that and that drawing tweaked…. And so it went, with multiple tracing paper overlays and re-draws, for a week or more. Tweak, tweak, tweak, until I had something I felt good about.  The “good drawing” I sent to the gallery and to Sue and Dean for their approval. Here is what I sent:

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They approved the drawing! Yippee! I did a happy dance and then I got serious about colors.

Upon arriving home after the dinner with Sue and Dean I had gotten out one of my interior design color swatch books. Flipping through the pages I found a couple of color spreads that I felt had the “vibe” of Sue and Dean’s house. I showed the pages to Judy to get her input.  With those interior design book pages as a rough guide along with my photographs taken inside their house I began mixing colors and making color notes.  I used my thumbnail drawings to play with color schemes too, painting blobs of color here or there. Anyway, here’s a photo of the interior design book page as well as a few pages of my sketchbook color notes. I did 6 pages of color notes but this one photo will give you the idea.

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As I decided on the colors I made pencil notes on the approved to-scale drawing where the colors would go. You can see some of this in the photo above.

Then I began on the finished artwork.  The actual painting took about 10 days start to finish. As I say often – the sketching/drawing/planning is where the bulk of creation happens.  I transferred the approved sketch/drawing to the handmade paper I intended to use for the finished artwork.  Then I began to make tiny adjustments to the drawing directly onto the handmade paper in prep for painting. I also discovered gaps in my visual data base.

For example I realized that I didn’t know what the back of a vintage TV set looked like. Not well enough to paint it in detail anyway. Fortunately there are some vintage shops where I live – so a few visits downtown with my sketchbook and the problem was solved!

I also realized that I had an opportunity to make a portrait of Sue and Dean on the front cover of the “magazine” that Ollie, the cat, would be reading in the finished artwork. So I asked for, and got, a picture of the couple that I could use as a reference photo.  From the photo I did several pencil drawings on tracing paper to design the magazine cover and to get the humans to look like themselves. I drew until I had a cover design and human portrait that worked. Here it is:

MagCover

Once I had the magazine “cover” drawing ready (drawn to the scale needed in the artwork) I transferred it to the appropriate spot on the handmade paper.  At another point I realized that I could include the stain glass windows I’d seen in their house as part of the “back cover” of the magazine. But I hadn’t gotten photos of the window when we visited for dinner. And neither Judy nor I could remember the exact details of the windows. So I contacted Amy at the Caplan Art design gallery and she helped fill in the missing data! Whew!

Here’s what the finished artwork “Ollie and Tony” looks like. I’ve photographed it as it was on my easel when I finished it, so you can see the four deckled edges of the handmade paper.  I used acrylic, gouache, watercolor and ink.

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I sent the photo of the finished art to Amy the gallery owner to let her know it was done.  Then I spray varnished the piece with a removable varnish that has UV protection in it.

When that was dry I contacted Amy and arranged for a time to deliver it to the gallery.  The date was set and the varnish dry so I slipped the artwork into an archival plastic sleeve and into a cardboard portfolio to protect the artwork from being bent on its travels between my studio and the gallery or between the gallery and the framer.  (It rains in the Pacific Northwest – so artwork needs all the protection it can get.)

We delivered the artwork to the gallery and as a nice surprise Sue and Dean were there!  Here we all are looking at the artwork and talking about it:

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Amy will take the artwork to the professional framer the gallery works with and have the art floated on a neutral mat, with spacers so the artwork won’t touch the glass.  It will be given a simple black frame.

What a fun project!! I love getting to make highly personal and meaningful visual stories like this! Thank you!! And thank you, Sue and Dean, for letting me share it on my blog!

Happy Holidays Everyone!!

 

fine art commission Bailey At The Lake

A Creative Life, animals in art, art commissions, art gallery, art techniques, artistic inspirations, Dogs in Art

Creating “Bailey At The Lake” By Sue Clancy

(this art commission project was handled by the Downtown Art & Frame gallery in Oklahoma)

Almost 9 years ago I did an art exhibit and someone saw it. Almost 9 years later they remembered my artwork and contacted me wanting me to do a portrait of their dog! (Lucky me!)  After conversation and photos were exchanged I did 2 sketches and some color samples. They selected one of my sketches and they liked the color scheme so I got started on the art!

I dyed handmade papers –  first for the color samples and then I dyed still more handmade papers for the “nuances” of color papers that would be cut up make up each element within the artwork.

Here’s a photo of me dying paper. Each handmade paper starts out white – the colors and patterns you’ll see I put onto the white paper using various processes. This paper dying process was repeated with many different colors using several different paper-dying techniques.  Only one photo of this process is here so I can keep this document brief.

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Below is the “basic” color scheme that was approved.  Then I set about making dyed papers that were the same colors but shades lighter or darker than each of these.  So about 26 papers got dyed. (and a few extra)

Each paper was much larger than the area I intended to use it for because I layer multiple pieces on top of each other to build up the color.

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When all of the dyed papers were dry I cut out the overall basic shapes from each “local color”

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DSC_0002 (4)I glued each of those cut paper shapes to each other – and generally began the layering process….

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Some paper layers go on top, others interlock with each other, some go behind and others on top of what’s on top – basically I design for both 2D and 3D space. To create this art work, I use an Xacto knife to cut out the shapes I need – sometimes scissors.  A tin tray holds the cut pieces – and I use a miniature spatula and several kinds of tweezers to position the paper shapes in the correct position…. Lots of archival glue and glue brushes are used… then a roller to roll it all flat.

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Then I glue the basic cut paper shapes onto the board – layering what goes behind first and slowly building up.

Lake1on

OnBoard

When all of the “base papers” are on the board it is allowed to dry for several days.  Then I begin to layer more cut dyed paper shapes on top of what is dry on the board.  This next photo is of me starting that layering process – adding the cut paper “nuances” of color and shape.

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And so it goes for quite some time… I’m skipping ahead now and the following photo shows how it looked when I had gotten it to a stage where it had to dry a few days before I could do more detail work.  And yes, in this photo below you can see the sketch that got approved – and some of the many photos of the real-life dog that the client sent to me for reference.

DryingStage

Once the above stage was dry – I cut and layered in more cut paper shapes.  While working I looked a lot like I did in the earlier photo: tweezers and cut paper in one hand a glue-y glue brush in the other.  I would cut the shapes I needed out of the correctly colored paper using an Xacto knife, lay those cut paper pieces in a tin tray, step to my easel use the tweezers to pick up the cut paper piece, load my brush with glue and apply … and so it went. But I’m keeping this document brief… so please repeat in your mind, a gajillion times, that earlier photo of me with tweezers and glue.

In the photos below you can see that I’ve layered on many more nuances and details since those photos above.

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As you can see my dyed cut paper shapes go around all 4 edges of the board.

The above stages have to dry a while before I can do any finishing touches.

Well, I got so excited when things were dry that I got right to work and finished the artwork without taking any more progress photos. Ah well.

Here it is finished:

“Bailey At The Lake”  By Sue Clancy

6 x 6 inches – Hand dyed paper, handmade paper, handmade paste paper and acrylic on cradled board.

BaileyAtTheLake72

 

 

the art commission Innocent

A Creative Life, animals in art, art commissions, art gallery, art techniques, artistic inspirations, collage, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, fine art

A couple of clients have a Schnauzer and a Labrador retriever – they asked me (via the Caplan Art Designs gallery www.caplanartdesigns.com) to do a dual portrait while also reflecting the owners work/personal life! I have a series of questions I ask (about color preferences etc. details) – I also request photos of the dogs. I was lucky enough to actually meet these dogs in person. Earlier in this blog you got to see my “practice” sketches for the dog breeds in this commission.  After receiving the answers to my questions and photos of the dogs I created 2 pencil drawings to the scale of the proposed finished work.  I also created a number of hand dyed paper swatches to show the proposed color scheme.

Here’s a photo of me dying some paper blue.  I did several layers of this blue color on the paper in order to build up the “proper blue” that best matched the client’s preference.

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To keep this document brief I’ll not show photos of me creating the 20 base colors I created for the “swatch sampler” – so multiply the above photo 19 times at least.

Once the papers were dry – we met and the clients chose one of the two pencil sketches. Small adjustments were made in the color scheme and the drawings. And additional research was done. For example, I studied what vest collars are like, what wing-tip shoes look like, where cuff-links are on a cuff and gold pocket watches how they sit in a pocket and how the chain drapes.  I asked about and investigated what a “bar” in court looks like. I researched how the sleeve of a judges’ robe hangs.

I also “filled in” the other colors of hand dyed paper I’d need to produce the finished painting.  Where a section in a painting will read as “blue” there may be as many as 5 different shades of blue papers which are collaged/layered together.  Where a paper may read as “blond wood grain” there may be multiple layers of color applied to each paper that forms the various tones within the shape.  Yes, it’s complicated and takes a lot of pre-planning and research.

Once all of the papers are done and dry (there are now over 50 pieces of hand dyed paper) I begin cutting out shapes. Here I have cut out the overall shape of the Schnauzer’s head and paw out of a greyish-blue dyed paper. A light pencil marks the future placements of other pieces of darker grey paper and or lighter white-grey paper.

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At this point I’m cutting and gluing together all of the various shapes from the various “base” papers to form the overall characters and aspects of scenery.  With an Xacto knife I cut the needed shape positioning it using tweezers. Then I would adjust the position – often several times – before gluing it together. Then I would press the glued papers flat and let them dry.

As I constructed the Schnauzer character I got excited and focused – and I forgot to take photos of the steps of construction.  As I worked kept laughing, imagining the Schnauzer lawyer saying “My client is innocent, I tell you, innocent. My client, the Great Dane you see before you, could not have possibly reached down to such a low table to eat the 4 hams, 5 chickens and the pot roast which is alleged to have been on that table. It was beneath him to have…”

There is a lot of “back and forth” work to get the shapes and positions correct – to adjust the colors and layers. Here is a succession of photos to give you an idea of the test-adjust-test routine.

In the photos below you’ll see my original pencil drawing – which I’m using as a guide.

The Judge’s glasses are made of two pieces of paper: I cut the glasses frames out of a “gold” paper and glued them onto a white paper which acts as the “lenses”.  All elements within the artwork are cut hand dyed papers which interlock.

And so it goes – back and forth – building up each element in both 3 dimensional space as well as 2 dimensional. For example, the watch in the Schnauzer’s pocket is a complete watch – with numbers on it – even if you don’t see all of it in the finished artwork. Behind the suit coat lapels is the entire vest… the tie actually fits under the white shirt collar. The flag is several different colors of paper pieced together and actually hanging from a pole (a cut piece of gold paper).  If you could tell the Schnauzer to move over you’d see the entire “bar” he is standing in front of and behind those is the entire “bench” on which the Labrador judge sits.

Once the “base papers” have been assembled into each element needed for the overall artwork I glue them onto the cradled board.

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I pre-planned for how the various shapes “wrap around” the 4 edges of the board. This way the judges bench actually looks/feels like a 3D bench. All we don’t see are the witness boxes. The flag extends to the side and top edges of the painting. The judge’s arm continues on one edge. As you can see in the photo the floor extends over the bottom edge.

When these base papers are glued on they are pressed flat – and left to dry several days under weight.

Then the excess paper hanging off the edges is trimmed away with my Xacto knife and the now blocked-in painting is put on my easel. There many more cut pieces of paper layered on at my easel – many of them are very tiny pieces of paper, the size of a fingernail or smaller, others are tissue paper thin allowing the underlayment to show through – these papers are cut with my Xacto knife carried to the easel then glued into place.  More building up of paper layers until each element within the artwork has more tonal ranges and dimension. For example, the Judges glasses got more highlights and shadows glued onto them – they went from being made out of 2 pieces of paper to being made out of 6.  The Schnauzer’s eyebrows and whiskers are layered on. And so it goes…

Once again – even though it took quite a bit of time – I got so focused and excited about what I was doing that I forgot to photograph the various steps I did between the above photo and the finished artwork pictured below. (The finished artwork is protected by varnish.)

So here is the finished piece (details of size and media below the photo).

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 “Innocent, I tell you….”

By Clancy

Size 10 x 10 x 2 inches

Media: Hand dyed paper, handmade paste paper, book cloth and acrylic on cradled board

more schnauzer art practice

A Creative Life, animals in art, art commissions, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, fine art, Sue Draws Dogs

Here’s more schnauzer practice (referring to my last blog post here) – this one is bigger (15 x 11 inches) and is more like the client’s dog I’m to feature in my fine art commission (via Caplan Art Designs). The commission is being done in color, using my cut handmade paper collage method, but I gotta get the shapes right first. So I’ve been practicing… https://sueclancy.com/2017/03/08/the-art-of-practice-and-a-story-inside/

Samson72

“Samson” by Clancy – ink on handmade paper

the art of planning

A Creative Life, animals in art, art commissions, art gallery, Dogs in Art, visual story

When I work on art commissions I cannot imagine telling a prospective client that “It’s gonna be great! Just Yuge! Believe me!” and then refuse to give any details regarding the project plans. I and each of my gallery owners describe in detail what the client can expect at every phase of the art project being asked of me and when they can expect it. Questions are answered as completely as possible as soon as possible.

The ability to unflinchingly describe plans for a project in easy-to-understand terms, to outline a proposal either verbally or in writing (or both), to answer questions, to give updates and to have “how-we-will-know-we-succeed” goal markers clearly marked is the very foundation of doing business. This is basic business plan/proposal 101 and expected of any person in business.

It is all the more important when the business is creative. Fine art (and all of it’s creative cousins) are notoriously subjective, mysterious and mystical – when viewed from the non-artists point of view. This means that clear communications about plans regarding artistic projects is crucial.  If the client can’t understand what you’ll be doing, and can’t explain it to their spouse or to their organization’s board – why would they commission you do do something artistic for their home, office or organization?

Since a certain U.S. president elect has been so vague regarding his plans for the country  I’ve begun to think that doing “basic business 101” and doing it well is an art and it may also be a revolutionary act.

So to aid, support and show solidarity with my fellow revolutionaries here are questions I ask myself that influence how I communicate my art project plan/proposals:

Why are you doing it/what do you hope to achieve? 

I like to help people preserve, via fine art, the story, the memory, of their life and relationship with their pet; dog or cat.  I often say that “I help people tell their stories visually”.  When talking with prospective clients I talk about this goal and a bit about how my art-making process works, how I use elements from the real-life of the client and dog. Since I work with a number of galleries many of the clients approach the idea of commissioning me to create something special for them already knowing this about my artwork process.

I (or the gallery) asks what the client hopes to get from my work, about the size of artwork the client wants and what fits in their budget.

What exactly will you be doing and approximately when?

During the first conversation we find out if the client wants one of my ink portraits, which has a more simple project plan/process, or if they want a color portrait.  Assuming  for the purposes of this blog that the client wants a color portrait then I (or my gallery owners) tell the client that I have a list of questions and a list of photos of their dog (for example) that I will need in order to create a full color portrait (like the color artwork you see here on my website).

Once those questions have been answered and the photos have been provided I’ll take about a month to create 2 designs for their approval.  A calendar date for our sketch-approval meeting is often set during this conversation. With the gallery as a mutual point of contact the client answers my questions and provides the photos of their pet.  After all of the answers/photos are received (usually within the first week) I set about creating 2 sketches to scale of the proposed finished work along with a set of “color swatches” to give them a tactile idea of my proposed color scheme.

Then, a month later, we meet (me, client and gallery owner) and I show my sketches and talk about the proposal.  Sometimes it’s happened that I deliver the sketches to the gallery and the gallery owner conducts the meeting (without me) to get approval from the client for one of the sketched proposals.  No matter who makes the presentation/proposal, I take care to label my sketches clearly, with color swatches taped into place so that everything is fairly self-explanatory. I allow the client to take a photo of the approved sketch at this time if they desire.

When doing public art commissions I’ve even included copies of the sketches or (as per request) color mock-ups that the client could then take and present to their organizations board.

When a sketch is approved I provide a date when the finished work will be delivered to the gallery.  I set this date far in advance of when I actually think it will be done – because sometimes there is weather that slows down drying time – so I would rather deliver something earlier than a client is expecting it than have to explain why it is late. And I tell the client I’m setting the delivery date out farther than I think it will be finished – and why I’m setting it that way.

Then I get to work.

The gallery is available if the client has any questions or wishes to have updates.  As I work photos of my project’s progress are taken. Those are provided to the gallery who shares them with the client.  At the end of a project I often use those “progress photos” and write a “how I made this” document that summarizes the entire project.

As you can imagine clear communication of plans and procedures  makes the process much smoother for everyone. Clients aren’t left wondering what I’m going to do to them instead of for them.

Here’s a photo of a commission I did some time ago now. The client was very happy with it! It’s titled “Preying for Peas”.  That title seems relevant just now.

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You can download a pdf “project summary” about the “Preying for Peas” project here:  https://sueclancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/aboutpreyingforpeas.pdf

feeding the beast

A Creative Life, Art Apparel, art commissions, art gallery, books, ebook, fine art, graphic narrative, Not-So-Sketchy-Food, sketchbook

A problem I’ve had as a professional artist who does fine art commissions – is that often the project is a secret. Which means even though my day (and mind) is filled with drawings, paper patterns and colors related to my commission I can’t talk about it online. No posting “in progress” photos because it’d spoil the surprise for somebody.

But still the Social Media Beast must be fed.

I’ve solved this problem – in hopefully an amusing way – by posting my short-narrative work (see my last post as an example), or something about one of my artist books…Here’s a page I particularly like today from my book Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit:

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page from “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit

Or posting a page from my sketchbook – like this one – which also happens to be an ebook page from my Coffee Table Book – (by the way, it is also a very good recipe for lunch):

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page from “Coffee, Table, Book” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/coffee-table-book

Or posting something about one of my pattern designs: The art apparel with my pattern designs that I do for VIDA really do have my signature on them!  You can see my entire signature collection here: http://shopvida.com/collections/sue-clancy

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Sue Clancy’s “signature collection” of art apparel really does have a signature!  See the whole collection here: http://shopvida.com/collections/sue-clancy

And now that I’ve told you my secret – and fed the Beast a bit – I’ll get back to work on my art commission.

on commissions of peas

A Creative Life, art commissions, art gallery, fine art, visual story

An art commission I did was delivered yesterday to it’s new happy home – along with a pdf file of how I created the artwork. The commission is titled “Preying for Peas”.  The client had asked for more information about how I work – so I did a blow-by-blow pdf file for them with the help of Judy who took the photos.  Well, the client, and the other people at the party yesterday found the pdf file interesting, and it seemed to add to the enjoyment of the actual artwork, so I thought to myself “Self, it might be good to post that on your website and blog.” So here it is: AboutPreyingForPeas (and on http://sueclancy.com/fine-art/)

And here below, if you haven’t clicked the above link, is an image of the commission discussed above:

Preying For Peas

Preying For Peas

This commission was coordinated by Caplan Art Designs www.caplanartdesigns.com