Go big or go home

In the fall of 2015, I took on a couple of larger portrait commissions, which coincidentally came at the same time. One was a painting of a grandmother with her four grandkids – a 70th birthday gift. We initially agreed to a 16”x20” full-colour acrylic painting with the five figures. However, my client wasn’t able to get photos of them all together, so he decided to go with three figures (his mom and his two children) on a larger canvas, keeping the cost at what he had first planned. The final size we settled on was 26”x30”.

Not only was this painting bigger than I typically work, but it entailed a number of different challenges. Firstly, the image was largely a landscape (or waterscape, really.) The subjects were seated at the edge of a dock with the lake and horizon featured prominently behind them. Since the photos were taken at the family cottage, it was very important to capture the place as much as it was to capture the people. Secondly, there were three individual full-body portraits grouped together in the scene (as opposed to just heads and shoulders). The client supplied me with supplementary photos of all three. Everyone didn’t look too happy in the original photo. So, the portrait component of the piece wasn’t totally straight-forward – I had to manipulate the expressions of two out of three subjects. It always seems pretty simple to switch out facial expressions like that, but the lighting is different, angles aren’t the same, etc. It presents a significant challenge every time. This portrait took a long time to complete, due to its challenges, the amount of visual information, and the fact that I was limited mostly to working during my daughter’s naps and in the evenings. However, the client and I were both very pleased with the end result!

mstarkweather_norajilltom_familyportraitpainting

The other piece I was commissioned to do at about the same time, was a pencil portrait of (again) two siblings. The person who commissioned it in this case, said that price and size were no issue; she just wanted it large enough to make a big impact. This was to be a corporate gift for the head of her company. Now, I’ve typically worked smaller in pencil. The majority of the works I’m commissioned to draw are 5”x7” or 8”x10”. Michelle wanted it as big as I could go! I took a trip to the art store to check out my options in larger paper, and found that the largest size available that would be reasonable for me to take on with pencils, was 18”x24”. The image once again presented some challenges – not just the increased amount of work in creating a pencil drawing on that scale, but also the source image being blurry in areas (specifically the girl’s face!) I had my concerns, but the clients were steadfast in their determination to use that photo, despite my attempts to dissuade them. (I really do understand, as it is one of the stinkin’ cutest pictures I’d seen in a long time.) I told them, as I always do in these situations, that I can do it, but if the information isn’t there in the original photo, the resulting image will not be sharp. We forged ahead. I was thrilled when Michelle sent me this note after receiving my final email proof:

Melody he is so happy with this, he called me a minute after I sent it to say how amazing it is.

Blake and Drew, 2015, Siblings Group Portrait, Graphite Pencil Drawing on Paper, 18"x24"

Although both of these pieces were a lot of work, it was (and always is) so gratifying to see them completed. The best part is hearing from my clients how happy they are with the work. I love to know that my art can make someone else happy, and I don’t mind the ego boost either. For more happy clients, visit my testimonials page, my very favourite page. (I kid, I kid.)

xo melody


Comments

Go big or go home — 2 Comments

  1. I love these, especially the dock scene. Placing such vivid portraits in the cottage landscape, the high summer sun and the cool lake, lends so much to the story of a special time and place. You’ve really captured the moment. Childhood is fleeting and time with Grandchildren is precious.

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