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"A PLAYFUL CHRISTMAS" private collection(commissioned 21"x27")

I have bitten off into a very large subject here, but will try to narrow it down. There are several kinds of portrait commissions an artist can take on, the ones for the customer, which means that the artist will mostly allow the client to dictate how they (the customer) want their finished painting to appear, feel, and of what elements it will consist (their vision---not mine). Personally, I find this type of commission too taxing and truly applaud those artists who can pull it off time after time, while retaining a list of contented clientele.

Then there are the commissions earned strictly through photos. The client, usually living at a distance, mails or emails a photo they would like duplicated into a painting. These I turn down, and for very much the same reason as above (their vision---not my own); the exception being if the subject or subjects have since passed away where photos are all that remain. I have so far experienced this only once, and must say that found the whole process a true joy.

While my subjects, a beloved pair of cats, who both reside in separate boxes of ashes placed on a mantel, with but faded and worn photos remaining, their owner was very much alive and very willing to provide not only a series of photos, but any bits of information she could think of that would help breath life into her pets. As the painting was a Christmas surprise for her Mother, to which we were adding a tree, she dug around in the basement on the sly, finding precious ornaments from her own childhood: she worked as a master thief, smuggling the ornaments around and taking photos for my use in the painting.

This was a labor of love, an emotion she managed to pass on to me as I worked on a layout and planned my approach. From one photo I pulled the divan, a familiar blue blanket from another, and each cat subject from a couple of more. Then I added the tree, decorated as nearly as I could glean from my clients childhood, complete with very old, recognizable tree ornaments . . .

and familiar blue blanket.

We came up with a winner, and come Christmas morning her Mother was indeed thrilled to tears. But mostly, for myself anyway, this opportunity to create magic from someone else’s photos does not happen a lot. For me it is important to know something more of my subjects; their personal spirit, if you will, their own inner glow, or inner peace/unrest, whichever may apply. This need usually causes me to paint only from reference photos taken myself.

The third way is obviously a live sitting subject! Yeah right! Now mind you that I do not know of painting in this way first hand, but during my years as a graphic artist we had a photo studio as well where I worked . . . Have you ever tried taking a formal posed portrait of a pet or a child? Enough said?