Margaret Lockwood on the commissioning process…continued
In my last blog, I discussed my commissioning process, so I thought it appropriate to provide a few examples of the process working itself out in the “real world.”
I had mentioned that, when an artist accepts a new commission, their role shifts slightly, from Artist to artist, or even from artist to craftsman. This shift of course results naturally when more than one person – the commissioner in addition to the artist – imposes their will upon the final product, usually in the form of a set of instructions to the artist, which dictate the size, color palette and subject matter (among many other variables) of the final work. In my previous blog, I had also mentioned that of the two types of people who purchased my art, the second type tended to commission new work, usually based upon an older work that didn’t quite line up with their initial desires or the feel of the space in which they intended to hang the painting.
As it so happens, I recently received two commissions that illustrate clearly two variations on this process. The first was based upon my tree-series. This is a series that I enjoy very much, and have developed over the years as a way of representing the endless variety that exists in the quality of light that daylight hours bring. Morning, midday, afternoon, evening and the moments in between; each has a special character, a unique mood that is conveyed through the interplay of light upon the bodies, branches and leaves of each tree, and each character and mood contains the potential (if captured correctly) to effect our own characters and moods when we view them in real life or in a painting (this, in the end, may be the true power of representation).
In any case, the commissioner’s initial desire was for a painting that either represented early morning or midday light filtered through the leaves of the forest, or perhaps just as likely, that complemented the character, mood or color scheme of the painting’s final home. I eventually provided them with two versions (below), one that conveyed a lighter, more “spring-time” character, and another darker, more mysterious variation:
In the end however, neither was chosen. Instead, the commissioner changed their mind in favor of a painting that evoked the moment that exists just after the sun has set (below), a moment in which the negative space between trees is loosely defined by the rosy glow of an evening sky, and which represents the borderline between night and day, a moment when one can still see – but not in any great detail.
The second commission was based upon two paintings that hung upon my gallery walls – both seascapes. In some sense, one important concept behind much of my work could be boiled down to a personal fascination with the interaction between the four classical elements, or more specifically, between the intersection of one element: light (fire), with the other three: earth, air and water. If my tree-series could be viewed as an investigation into the relationship that exists between earth, air and light, then my seascapes could be thought of as “studies,” which like the tree-series, explore the progress of the day, and the shifting moods that accompany that progression as the sun’s light mingles with the correspondingly shifting currents of air and water.
Each moment in time, each period during the day, the sun’s rays paint a new palette upon the heavens above and the sea below. As mentioned earlier, the initial inspiration for the final painting was based upon pre-existing works; there was no intermediary step of earlier attempts. Instead the final product (below) ended up as an amalgamation of the two paintings above, the client requesting the color palette provided by one moment in time (represented solely by water), and from another, a composition that resulted from the visual juxtaposition of air and water.
As a result of the commissioning process, new paintings came to life; each an extension and variation on previous works and concepts, and each completed through an extension or variation on the abovementioned process. To be clear, I did not mind creating the two tree-series variations that were not chosen, as each painting is a single step in an unending journey, or better yet, a stage in a relentless investigation into the temporally-dynamic relationship that exists between existentially‐static elements and the unique visual moments that this relationship produces, a relationship that in many ways mirrors the dynamic relationship between artist and commissioner.