The Anatomy of a Commission
I was awarded a commission for a painting by one of my Drawing & Painting Fundamentals students, Cathy, around the end of last year. It was to be a Christmas gift for her father; a mountain stream in Colorado. She emailed me a handful of photos:
What Cathy wanted was a painting of her dad fly fishing in the river, wearing waders, and his lucky hat. His beloved Labrador playing in the water by his side.
I sketched him fishing in the mountain river with Elephant Mountain showing in the background. I developed a couple roughs that I was happy with and presented to my client. Cathy really was delighted with the one with the Labrador in the river behind her father. Once I had a client direction and approval I went back to the studio, refining the sketch.
Re-evaluated the drawing I decided to add several more pine trees in the background considering 20 years of foliage growth. I also reworked the configuration of the shoreline, adjusted the level of water, and arranging some of the larger rocks.
The biggest challenge I had was estimating the height and width of her father since I only had a photo of him sitting in a tractor showing only the upper torso of his body.
I then had to figure out how the dog would be placed in the water making him look natural to the environment and how the water would be rushing around him. Sometimes you can’t just Google a solution!
Once I was happy with the sketch I transfered it to #300 pound Arches, cold press. Normally, I stay away from frisket because it causes hard edges if you don't use it properly. But in this case I wanted to retain the delicate, fine details of the man, dog, and some of the rock's shape. Frisket allows you to paint uninterrupted washes in the area around your subject such as what you see in this photo below. To read more about my frisket tips CLICK HERE.
I began painting the scene bringing in more greens and blues-greens off to the left of the painting and in front of him compared to the photos. The photograph was pretty much blacked-out, showing no detail. I added a little bit more configuration to the shoreline further in the background to give a better flow. You see once you start laying down pigment you may have to refine the composition.
When I finished the painting I gave Cathy a call telling her that I increased the size of the trees keeping in mind the number of years growth. She told me all the trees have been cut down several years ago because of a beetle infestation. She thought adding more foliage was a good idea because it would bring back wonderful memories to her father.
I presented the final framed painting and Cathy was extremely pleased. But the big challenge was what her father would say.
I called Cathy after the holidays. She said she shipped it out west to her dad. and he was excited to hang the painting.. Needless to say he was thrilled with his Christmas gift.
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Dale L Popovich IWS
is an award-winning watercolorist and teacher who is passionate about capturing the raw beauty of the American landscape with the fluid stroke of a brush. As you will see the works selected in his portfolio represent the breath of his holistic approach to painting. You can also learn along with this talented and experienced teacher through his workshops, Palette & Chisel, Mainstreet Art Center i Lake Zurich, IL, Elmhurst Art Museum, Towering Winds Academy of Fine Arts an online art school, and Popovich Studio classes.