It has been FOREVER since I last painted. Between recovering from Kitchener Tri Con and having a series of unfortunate events happen, my studio has been completely neglected. And also my mental health, because if I don’t paint, I get grumpy. Like hangry but instead of food, I need to paint.
Technically, I can include this in my 30 Days 30 Paintings challenge, but this is part one of a double commission and I want to talk about commissions today.
Commissions are something that some artists love, others hate and still others put up with because they pay the bills. There’s the whole story artists tell about how making money from art means selling out to the establishment or whatever horse crap they’re shovelling. Here’s the thing: we all need money to survive. It’s a form of energy we exchange for various end results. It is not evil. And earning it with art is not a sell out.
Anyone who says that is justifying why they aren’t making money from art. Fuck that shit.
But for me, and this is important, commissions are love. LOVE. Being creative cannot happen in a vacuum. Sure I can paint my fandoms ’til the cows come home, but I think we’d find that I’d start repeating myself visually, or getting stuck in a rut. Commissions pull me out and keep me out of a creative rut and I am always so thrilled to get them. I often get asked to paint something I love and never knew I needed to paint until the order comes in.
Like this one. Steve McQueen. He was the biggest badass around and everyone wanted to be him. So fucking awesome. I had vague memories of watching him but he hasn’t been in the forefront of my mind until I got a request to paint him in Bullitt.
And then I DIED. Because STEVE McQUEEN!!!
And all my memories, the best kinds, came flooding back. Waves of love. So awesome.
This painting took two sessions because one of the unfortunate events that happened was the furnace dying in my studio space. No heat makes it difficult to work, especially in January in Canada. So I did the sketch and left to defrost.
This painting is quite large. Designed to go over a couch or bed, it’s 36″x24″ and I painted it on gallery canvas which is about 2 inches thick. It was a fantastic painting experience with lots of room to play. In spite of the size, the whole piece pulled together really fucking fast. About 2.5 hours in total from start of black to finished details.
Steve had this look about him. An intense gaze that I knew I needed to capture. My goal wasn’t just to paint a likeness but paint the character. The feels. Give him life. So I started with the intense colours first, creating a foundation or visual structure to ensure that that happened.
I can’t paint cars or technical things worth shit. Well, maybe I can, but I try to avoid them because they aren’t as interesting in my mind as organic shapes and people are. So this painting was set up with a hint of car and a crap ton of Steve.
It doesn’t show here but this painting is highly textured. I worked thick and deep, really enjoying the buttery feel of the paint and using it to add depth.
At each stage, the painting stayed in balance until I added in the red layer. This was the critical layer, but red is a colour that adds intensity and drama and really can throw a painting off if it’s not done right. This is the moment where I had to hold my breath and jump. Above, you can see a progress pic with the red and see how the painting is in limbo. It could go either way at this point and the only answer is to keep painting.
And look! The red really pulled everything together. Adding depth and intensity and warmth. Then it was just a matter of details and doing the fine work. Adjusting lines. Whitening some whites. Adding in more yellow.
Acrylic on stretched canvas
Original is sold, but prints will be available.