Every now and then–largely because I either need to keep the boat afloat, or because a friend asks me to–I head out in an unexpected direction.
I have done very few “in response” pieces–I rarely work quickly, and I, to date anyway, don’t get to work much purely as an exercise. In the time I have, I work in response to my life and the world around me (Thanksgiving 2012). So I have rarely produced work in response to calls–though I have really enjoyed fitting completed work into the visions of various group shows–with one exception. For the opportunity to go home, to interact with the grand art dames of Great Falls, and best of all, to work side by side with my father to mount an artwork, I would do most anything.
In June, 2011 I created an installation for the Great Falls Urban Art Project, sponsored by Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art, and helmed by my former colleague, retired Great Falls High School art teacher and current Montana Congresswoman Jean Price, the exemplar of putting your money where your mouth is–or in Jean’s case, your action where your he/art is.
Commissions can be tricky, as I’m sure any artist–or anyone who works on commission of any kind–can tell you. I am very clear that I don’t work on spec. No matter what is in the head of a “client”, it will filter differently through mine. So I make sure they understand that what they are purchasing is my interpretation of their idea. I am usually very firm about input. I invite it at the outset, but once the work begins, I’ll listen–if you dare–but feel no obligation to follow. Sometimes what I hear has an impact. Sometimes it doesn’t.
And of course, the only thing that is absolute is that nothing is absolute. I recently painted a mural of a Chinese dragon for a friend, believing very much that I had heard precisely what she wanted and was executing it exactly…and at the end of Day One, once I had departed the scene, she came into the room, tore my stencil in half and added a head…and it was exactly what was required for the piece…and actually made it much more pleasurable to paint. Never say never, eh?
More often than not, I’ve found that commissions allow me a truly unique, and ultimately rather magical interaction with a friend that simply would never have been arrived at without a desire on their part and an ability to fulfill it on mine.
Occasionally, they open a can of worms. I still sort of cringe at the idea that, despite some profound relationships with animals, I might be considered an animal portraitist (I had to sit on my hands to keep from punching my beloved aunt Marj for introducing me to a stranger that way). Not that there’s anything wrong with animal portraitists–it just doesn’t feel to me like “what I do”…though I’ve done a fair number by now…
To date, these are some of my one-timers.
Ai yi yi! I almost forgot–this is what the occasional look at your CV will do for you! Also did the CD cover art for an exquisite musician who has become a dear friend, Arwen Lawrence de Castellanos, of Cascada de Flores. Sadly, the group evolved in configuration, and the piece became inappropriate. But I still love it, and I loved making it, from Oaxaca, with their music as accompaniment. Pure pleasure.