I want to tell you about what I learned from doing a commission last week.
A friend of mine from the other side of the world, asked me if I would paint her a landscape, that lovingly reminded her of her visits to her grandfather’s house. She remembered where the willow tree stood, what the house looked like and where to place the lilac bush and the corn field. But she didn’t have a photograph of the place to help me. So I had to listen carefully to her description of the place and take it from there.
After many sketches, when I had penned in the final sketch with black ink, I started getting nervous. Is the layout okay? What colours would make this lady feel good and help her remember a place where she was happy? I am a lover of dark colours myself, as you might know, and this commission was way out of my comfort zone. But since I like and need a challenge, I took a bold step and grabbed my yellows, reds and greens. An image emerged on my paper, that I could not fully relate to, but checking the wishes of my friend, I did seem to be doing the right thing. But it was very hard for me to form an solid opinion of my own work. That felt weird! I had to ask mutual friends for theirs to see if I was on the right path. Thankfully they said I was.
When I finished the painting, it took me a while before I had gathered enough courage to send a photograph of the artwork to my friend in question. I was afraid she would be too sweet not to tell me she thought it was crap and that it had nothing to do with her memories at all. But she loved it. She didn’t want me to change anything. So why couldn’t I feel as secure about my work as I normally feel?
Then it dawned on me that a commission is a completely different way of working from creating and image from my own mind. This time I had to try and translate another person’s feelings and memories into an artwork, not my own! So no wonder I didn’t have the same strong connection to the image as I would have had to my own work. Not something to judge! The fact that I was able to depict a loving memory of a friend, was a great experience. Very new and different, but lovely in its own way. So I learned to have different expectations on how commissions make me feel and how my own work makes me feel. It is a natural thing. Not something to get nervous about. I have learned from this and I am so glad I did this commission!
Eva Mout, Ursus Art