The Art of the Commission

Often my clients wish for a commissioned work to capture a beloved pet or a treasured moment in time. There are many ways to accomplish that of course. But those who hire me know that I’m exploring with them to find the essence of what made this special. I’m of the mind that if someone wants a lifelike photographic image of that special moment or family member or pet, they can hire a photographer to do portraits with a camera.

Often copies made directly from photos for a commission will be stilted and bland – the temptation after tracing an image is to just keep “local color”, which in the long run is neither as bright, nor as interesting as their memories held.

One of the steps is to spend time looking at the shapes of the subject, and the surroundings. Look for interesting negative space that will give the subject an interesting place to reside. This helps to deliver a portrait that is really fine art. After all, a portrait really should be much more than a portrait – it should be real art, that could hang in anyone’s home and be “entertaining” so to speak.

Another step I take is to look at as many images of the subject as possible, in many different positions and poses. If I can meet the subject, all the better. Over-all, it’s best if I can get to know them rather than guessing over a single photograph. The painting of Blue on this page, for example, was designed using a wide array of photos to understand the pet’s personality, and a few videos of her playing with her favorite red ball. I did screen captures as the video played, and that gave me the final key for finding young “Blue” for the painting.

It was apparent that this ball was very important to her, and once she got it she relished it, moving it around in her mouth, her lips bulging with the ball from one side to the other. With that, I felt I was capturing her mood and her presence. The client was delighted by this and the other commissions she purchased, and she commented that it really DOES look like Blue, even though it’s not photographic. That pleased me no end, as that was my goal.

This manor house in Chester NY -- Glenmere -- is an historic building that is the location for weddings where it must be the very best! I completed this commission - a 12 x 12 - in 2022.
This manor house in Chester NY — called Glenmere — is an historic building that is the location for the most special of weddings!

Weddings and other special events are made more special if the location of the wedding is one that speaks of a great life for all involved. A grand manor like Glenmere served as a wedding location that guests will always remember.

And the gift for someone getting married in such a special place could be a painting of the place this joyful occasion took place. Wedding location paintings have been a wonderful gift for my clients to present to the newlyweds, and it’s one that’s found on not a single wedding registry! No worries about duplication of gifts!

A home or apartment or even an office or study can feel so much warmer, more intimate, with real art on the walls. Lithographic prints are a good start, but once paint on paper or board or canvas finds a place on your walls, nothing else will quite do. It’s such a pleasure to often provide the first piece of original art someone owns for their own walls. When it’s a portrait of a place, a person or even a pet, the emotional draw is always there.

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