On Commissioning A Memorializing Painting
"County Fair" 2009, Oil on Canvas, 16 x 32 in.
A while ago, I was approached by a follower of my artwork to undertake a painting commission. He wanted to capture his memories as a young boy while attending a County Fair in Kansas, USA, in the 1940's.
He was specific as to the location and of many things he wanted to include: a horse race track with a race in progress, the judges, a grandstand, horse barns, a Ferris wheel, lots of people, and many details of the fairground midway.
Such a painting memorializing the memories of a specific location or occasion has much appeal to both myself, as an artist, and to my client, by putting on visual record a defining moment.
While each painting assignment is different. The following discusses the steps undertaken for this specific commission. Many would be similar for any such painting.
The original location of this fairground had changed much over the years. The community hosting the annual event has shrunk to just a few occupied houses. The grandstand was destroyed by a tornado many years ago. There are no remaining signs of the fairground.
The project was drawn from the client's memories and a couple of photographs showing the grandstand, a water tank tower in the background, plus the judges stand. All other issues will have to be researched.
In order to construct a painting from the client's recollections, I need to determined what may be seen by the viewer, the positional relationships, and the artist's viewpoint. To establish this information, I asked the client to prepare a simple map of the fairground area from his recolections.
The map became the starting point in planning the painting. It shows the relative position of the key elements: the race track, the grandstand, the Ferris wheel, the horse barns and excersies area, the judge's stand, etc. Using the map as a basis, and from further discussions with the client, we decided from where the artist would view the scene.
The first Working Sketch:
From this information, I produced a small line drawn sketch, showing the relationship of the key elements. Also, I suggested boundries for the view and aspect ratios that might determine the shape of the painting. I made a working copy and gave the original sketch to the client.
When presented with sketch, the client pointed out some corrections, allowed for the grandstand to be shortened to show more of the horse barns, and together we chose a 1:2 aspect ratio.
We then talked about the painting's size. Since I always price my paintings by the square inch, the bigger the painting, the more expensive. There is a lot going on in this painting, so size also determines the amount of readable detail. Also, the client had some limitations on his available wall space. From this we settled on a 16 x 32 inch size.
Since this size is somewhat unusual for me, I orderd a custom canvas to be manufactured.
While awaiting its arrival, I began planning out in detail the layout of the principal components. Since the the period is the late 1930's early 1940's (just before WW2), and there were a lot of figures to appear, many quite close up, I did research on the clothing – women's dress lengths, hats, caps, shirts, etc.
A horse race is approaching the finish line, and details of the jockey's clothing and the horse's harness and saddle had to be dermined. In the background are cars and trucks. There are details of the Ferris wheel, the Carousel, and the Midway tents to be researched. And, what do Kansas skys and skyline look like in the summer.
My biggest source for data was Google Images. Also, this was the age before plastics. For example the carousel was made from wood and canvas.
The unveiling of the finished paintng is always an exciting moment.
Some requested final touch-ups after viewing but before delivery, maybe accommodated.
My work is scheduled far ahead. Be sure to allow several months for completion.
All details may be settled after extensive discussions. Contact me to discuss such a project.
Updated September 2012