Friday, April 22, 2011

Home, a custom work in progress

For the last couple weeks I've been working on a large custom piece I was commissioned to do as a mother's day/birthday gift and just finished it last night. Creating custom artwork is so much different than creating art on my own... in commissioned artwork, I haven't hatched the idea myself or been inspired by something specific. I haven't had the idea working through my head, catching and intertwining with little colors and thoughts for however long it takes to form something that can be put down on a canvas. It's a challenge because there is so much to live up to in the expectations of the buyer. Because it is someone else's project in their mind's eye, either a whole painting or just a feeling, I need to ask enough questions and get enough answers in order to turn it into just the right combination of paint and paper. 

This process, and all art, is like a conversation in two languages. Much like how poetry is what can be felt versus what can be written, art is what we hope to see or feel, the answers that we look for, what we have to tell each other, versus what we can actually speak onto a canvas. Or maybe onto a board, or a piece of paper, or a chunk of metal, or a concrete wall, with paint, or pencil, or old letters or stamps or ink.

I think this is why I like working with mixed media... anything that we can use to create artwork is our vocabulary, and the wider it is, the more able we'll be to translate the things that create art-- hopes, fears, beliefs, needs, joy-- from our minds onto a waiting canvas. A single word doesn't make poetry or a song, but the right ones in the right order can deliver something meaningful and unforgettable... the right paint or paper or string or text in the right places can too.

I think that's why its such a challenge to create a custom piece of artwork for someone, and why I like it so much. There are emails, sketches, phone calls and photos back and forth, but I'll never know exactly what they want in the way my eyes and fingers and brushes know what I do. It's like conversing in a language I'm not fluent in, but trying anyway, and hoping that between the two of us enough can be conveyed that what is in their head can flow through my fingertips and into something beautiful-- and right.


  1. Just beautiful Mae! And you are so right. I am always terrified of a commission, but you make it sound so beautiful. I know the piece will be well loved for a very long time...what I can see is just beautiful :-)

  2. Gorgeous, Mae! (I love your use of stamps - I include them in my artwork a l lot too.) And I definitely agree about the pressure felt doing a commissioned piece...I'm always afraid they're going to hate it! It's a tough process creating something from someone else's ideas and words. But I think you've done an awesome job!
    PS. What camera/lens do you use? Your pics are always beautiful, and I love the focus. :)

  3. Melissa - Thanks!
    Lesley - I love using stamps... they add great little pops of contrasting color and can be great background textures. My camera is a Canon Rebel t2i. I'm still learning how to use it best but I've found that using the macro setting even when just taking a portrait makes for some dreamy out-of-focus backgrounds :)

  4. Mae,
    You've inspired me to start my own mixed media painting! I'm so excited and I hope you'll allow me to share my end result with you! Thank you so much!