Almost two months ago, I started a painting commission and I wanted to share the process with you. After getting approval on the basic composition from some simple sketches, I worked up two small studies with very different color directions.
The client picked the orange study but he wanted more orange, less red on the bottom, wasn’t fond of some of the black, and eliminated any ink “doodles”. Armed with a better idea of my client’s taste, I began work on a larger canvas. Here are several stages the painting went through along the way, incorporating the changes and preferences of the client’s each time. As my process incorporates many layers of paint and hand-printed collage paper, adding more layers only enhanced the final painting by adding depth, texture, and complexity.
Though the final painting loosely resembles the original study, it took on a life of its own through the collaborative process to its finish. It was really fun to work together to create a painting we are both happy with.
Avalanche, mixed media, 36″ x 36″
How does an artist go about painting a commissioned painting? Every artist is different but I’d like to share how I go about it. I recently got a commission from a collector of mine and I thought I would share the process with you over several blog posts.
To start, I needed an idea of which type of painting style of mine he liked best, the painting size he had in mind, and the color palette he envisioned. He also sent me photographs of the other artworks in his home that would be within sight of the painting I was creating.
I started by sketching out some rough compositional ideas in small thumbnails (3″ x 3″). Next, I picked my favorite composition and transferred the same sketch onto a couple sheets of Bristol board. Then I painted two small studies with different color palettes based on the colors the collector was interested in. You can see how I went dark and dramatic in one painting, and hot and bright in the other. These are very small studies (6″ x 6″) and they are just to get some early feedback on preferences, likes and dislikes before moving forward onto the next phase. Then I emailed the sketches to the client who gave me some valuable input to move forward with. Check back and you’ll see which sketch he liked best when I post the next phase.
In my last blog post, I talked about how to best manage my two studios. One idea was to invest in duplicates of my most used tools. Some of these tools are my Gelli Arts printing plate and Speedball brayers so I purchased a second set yesterday. I wanted to play with my new tools but not worry too much about the final outcome so I decided to decorate envelopes. If I didn’t like the way they turned out, I could always use them to pay my bills with.
I started out by cutting 3″ Post-It notes in half and sticking them to the center front of the envelopes. That preserved the address white space.
Next I got out my Gelli plate, brayers, acrylic paints and stencils (some hand cut, others purchased from Stencil Girl Products). I started by adding some paint to the Gelli plate and then rolling it out into a smooth layer using a brayer. I placed the envelope face down on the plate, placed a clean piece of scrap paper on top and rolled a clean brayer over all of it to transfer the paint. I cleaned the plate and then added a second paint color to the plate. This time after rolling on the paint, I laid a stencil over the paint and then placed the envelope on top (and the scrap paper) and rolled the clean brayer over it all. This left an interesting pattern as the top layer with the first paint layer showing through the stencil gaps. I sometimes printed a third stencil layer as well. I repeated the process on the back of the envelopes.
Finally, I pulled out my paints and markers (I use Copic Markers, Zig Writer and Faber-Castell Pitt artist pens) to doodle and add some details. Voila! Some fun, usable envelopes.
The Back Side of the Envelopes
This week in New York City’s Javitz Center, I got to visit SURTEX, a trade show for selling and licensing original art and design. My licensing agent, Wild Apple Graphics, was there with a huge booth and about ten art directors to pitch to clients. They were nice enough to get me a ticket to walk the show to get a better idea about this whole licensing world that I’m just learning about. In addition to the licensing houses, artists from all walks come together at SURTEX to show their new collections and introduce their beautiful artwork to clients.
My head is still swimming with all the great design work I saw there. As I’m a newbie, I really didn’t know what to expect when I went. There were hundreds of booth with artists and licensing agents pitching their newest work and I enjoyed getting a sense of what current trends are. It was pretty overwhelming, but after walking it three times I finally got a sense of what’s out there.
I’ve got lots of ideas for new designs so it’s time to get back to my studio and start creating some fun, original work for next year’s show!
I started with the idea to create a set of matching paintings with lots of 3D texture. I love the soft, white flowers of the dogwood tree but realized I would need a colored background to make the petals show in the paintings. I’ve documented my painting process below. I will flip-flop between the two paintings as I forgot to photograph them both at each stage, but you should get the general idea.
I start by painting a variety of stripes on watercolor paper (glued to cradled wooden panels) using acrylic paint.
Next I glue down strips of different Japanese papers. I love handmade Japanese papers (made with mulberry leaves, rice shaft, and other organic materials) because they add a unique, textural feel to my work. I also include some handprinted deli paper I made using my Gelli plate.
Now come the flowers. First I sketch in the compositions. Next, using Golden’s heavy molding gel, I spread on the petals with a palette knife. When the gel is dry, I sand off any sharp points.
I add in collage paper elements for the leaves and stems, painting some areas to give them more dimensionality. Finally, I add sheer cheesecloth for an unexpected touch and use colored pencils to create some delicate color in the white petals. The paintings are sealed using a clear acrylic medium, and then two layers of acrylic varnish to protect the paper.
Dogwood One, mixed media on cradled panel, 12″ x 12″
Dogwood Two, mixed media on cradled panel, 12″ x 12″
Here’s a side shot to better see the raised texture of the paintings.
I fit in a couple of yoga classes while in Colorado for the holidays. This motivated me to start a new painting for my yoga inspired series which I began last year. I have four paintings completed so far and this will be the fifth. For this series, I start each painting by first picking out a Sanskrit word as my guide. This painting’s Sanskrit word is “Kirtan” which means a community gathering involving chanting, live music and meditation. After working out the composition in my sketchbook, I then did a quick value/color study. The next step was to paint a loose, watery background on a cradled panel to show the major color areas while also getting rid of that intimidating white!
With the basic color areas blocked in, it was time to hand-paint some paper for the collage elements. Using translucent sheets of deli paper and a Gelli Plate, I printed multiple layers of paint on top of each other using a brayer, stencils, scraping tools and more. I torn up these printed papers and moved them around until I was happy with the composition. Next, I glued all the papers down, painted over some areas and glued down even more papers. After some final fiddling, the painting was complete.
“Kirtan” (a community gathering involving chanting, live music and mediation), Mixed Media on cradled panel, 20″ x 16″, $600.
Paintings can be purchased at www.kathyfergusonart.com
Last Thursday night, it was a whooping 8 degree Fahrenheit in New York City. But that didn’t stop the art lovers from turning out to attend the Atlantic Gallery’s “Over the Bridge” exhibition in Chelsea. I was fortunate to have two paintings in this show, along with 38 other Long Island City artists. The wine was flowing, the crowd was enthusiastic and the art was excellent. I’ve included photographs of that night “before” and “during” the opening to show you the crush. There is still plenty of time to see the exhibition on display until January 17th at Atlantic Gallery, Suite 540, 548 West 28th Street, New York City.
I was approached with the opportunity to license my work through Wild Apple Publishing. They picked out a couple of paintings they liked the best and ask me to make companion paintings to go with them (kind of like a matched set). I’ve been working on the companion painting to Hide and Seek Orange. I’ve included some in process pictures so you can see my layering process. Here’s Hide and Seek Red, mixed media, 48″ x 48″.
I started by washing in an ocean background, then I painted in some distance kelp. Next I collaged in hand-painted paper kelp:
I initially used yellow fish but I didn’t think there was enough contrast, so I switched to red instead, and added some last kelp strands:
Here are the two Hide and Seek paintings side by side:
I started a new painting this week but it took me hours to finally make the first brushstrokes on the canvas. What is it about a blank canvas that makes it so hard to start a new painting? Instead, I procrastinated by updating my email list, entering some exhibition competitions, updating my website and online galleries, plus spending hours viewing other artist’s blogs and Pinterest accounts. I finally bit the bullet and made my very first strokes of juicy paint on the wet panel letting the paint run down freely. Stay tuned for more.
A painting of mine has recently found itself a new home in a newly renovate suite in the New York Plaza Hotel. Thanks to an invitation by Nancy Sweeney, owner of Art Advisory Service in Colorado, I was able to submit a painting for consideration to the Plaza Hotel design team. I was so excited that I delivered the painting without first taking a photograph of it. Fortunately, Nancy just send me a photo taken by the framer so I could share it with you. The elegant gold frame they used is beautiful. Be sure to let me know if you ever stay in the Plaza suite with my painting. I’d love to know what room it’s in.
“The Plaza”, Watercolor on paper, 14″ x 14″ image size.