evolution of the process of a commission piece.


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I was recently honored to be asked to paint a commission piece for friends of mine who are getting married.

I worked for about a month and 1/2 on this piece.  It went through many other stages and cycles, but I edited out the majority of shots to show you the main progression of its evolution without getting too convoluted.

So, this was the process:  We sat down for an initial visit and they described through words, symbols and images the way they met, the unique similarities between themselves and their families, the unusual parallel between their two worlds as well as the fragility of love and the fear of loss.

Together we chose the size, main color scheme and composition for the layout and discussed a few other factors.  They left the rest up to me.  They descriped many things but what stood out for me was this:  When they started dating, they lived in seperate communiities and had envisioned a hot air balloon hovering between them where they could meet.

I decided to use this symbol as the main image for the piece.


1.  After Alan built the panel, I sanded and applied the first layer of stained poly to the sides.  I scraped the panel thorouhgly and applied a layer of ground, (gesso).  After this dried I applied two very thin layers of spackle allowing each layer to dry thoroughly before the next.   I then painted the first coat of blue for the background.


2.  I painted the 2nd layer coat, a paler blue, and sectioned off the bottom.  (I shot it from an angle so it looks lopsided, but it’s not 🙂


3.  I applied the 3rd coat leaving traces of the undercolor and a 2nd coat on the bottom which would serve as the border color for the grid.


4.  I stressed and weathered the panel with a razorblade and sandpaper and glued yellow tissue paper in areas for a textural effect and color variation. I measured out a grid on the bottom section and painted the 3rd coat, leaving traces of undercolor between the grid.


5.  I worked over and around the tissue paper, added clouds and lightened the sky, which gave it more of a sense of depth and atmosphere.  I stressed elements and re-worked areas which needed attention.  I lightned the green of the grid leaving traces of undercolor.


6.  After searching through endless air balloon images onine, i chose several of my favorite and combined elements from each that I would use for the main image.  I sketched out the hot air balloon and applied the initial coat, using a ruler and pen for the tiny ropes.  I re-worked several sections many times, adding and deleting aspects of the balloon.


7.  I lightned the sky and added more clouds, some in front of the balloon to show depth and most behind.  I reworked the balloon, implementing and transforming color, depth, detail and design.  After several attempts I chose the location, length, and shapes for the ladders.  I wanted this symbol to convey the idea of seperation and union, love and fear.


8.  I selected images  for the grid that related to their personalities, their interests and professions in addition to personal touches, and adhered these to the surface.  I added frames around the images and scraped and stressed the boarders.  I painted a middle line to the top of the balloon, more detail and color, and re-worked the ladders and sky.  I included the burner and flames under the balloon, a little flag in the basket with the first initials of the couple, and small details on all the objects.


9.  I darkened the ropes and lines in and outside of the balloon, added several coats to the balloon, darkened the areas around the ropes, added shadow and washes.  I stressed and added umber to the collage, as well as the edges of the piece, highlights to the ladders and balloon.


10.  I included a little red sandbag hanging from the basket.  I lightened areas of the sky again, repainted cloud coverage, detailed with color pencil, ink and acrylic.  I added repititious dots to the top of the collage and highlights again overall.  Once again added highlights and shadows and reworked the tip and basket of the balloon.


11.  I re-worked small details and cloud coverage, final touches all around.  I screwed in wire on the back to hang and applied 2 more coats of stained poly to the sides of the piece.  I polished and burnished it several times with oil allowing it to dry between coats and signed, titled and dated it on the backside.