Annie commissioned me to paint her house with its lovely view of the river. She gets beautiful sunrises looking out from her backyard and the rocky face is wonderful. During a visit to the house, Annie showed me all around the house and property. The is built in the “Frank Lloyd Wright” style with linear trim lines in red and nice stone work. We even climbed down the steep ladder to the boat dock. The dock is to the left of this picture, on the water. This gave me a close up view of the rock face cliff. Annie was somewhat undecided as to what she wanted in the painting. This happens more often than you would think.
The sunrise was breathtaking but it was looking away from the house.
Now to the painting, Annie gave me a lot of information, I also asked for a 5" by 7" photos to work from and I made sketches of what I saw on my visit. I know that sounds like a lot,of reference material. But instead of a photo, I received a picture taken by a phone and then emailed to me. Unfortunately, the detail seen on the computer screen does not print well. It lost most of the resolution and detail. It also showed the house quite small. I had to use a large magnifying glass just to see the house. So I had to depend on my sketches and memory.
The rocky faces on the cliffs have a lot of character. All the colors and textures were really beautiful. The water was very deep and almost black. All you had to go on were the reflections. However the house was overshadowed by the landscape. In order to make a good composition, I needed to make some hard decisions. This is where “artistic licence” comes in. I needed to design a good composition and create interest. Without these it is impossible to keep a viewer’s attention.
I decided to reduce the distance between the house and the dock so that they could be included in the same composition. I also increased the house size to almost double the original size, so it could be seen and recognized. Additionally I enhanced the red color to make it more distinct. This was the kind of commission I love but also fear. It is almost like playing God. ( I’m not trying to be sacrilegious) But, it is a real responsibility. I could make the right decision and be praised for it. Or I could make the wrong choice and lose the commission. This could devastate my artistic standing and reputation. It is not like filling in the lines in a coloring book. This is totally freehand and painting from the heart.
Because of the lack of definition and detail in the printed picture, I had to enhance the colors. Fortunately, I know that the cliffs and rock formations in and near the Great Smoky Mountains are made up of red clay, gritty limestone, multicolored quartz and variegated granite. Knowing this I was able to reduce the magnitude of the rocky face cliffs while keeping their texture and character. Working with light and shadow, adding texture I was able to retain the look and weight of the rocks. This was where I could have some fun too. I also was able to enhance the reflections, on the water, to add depth to the painting. I wanted the viewer to see the painting and feel the weight and crevices in the rocks and the wet of the water. Here is the finished painting. I hope you like it. Annie loved it.
I am so fortunate to have the gift of my talent. If I had still been working a 9 to 5 job, I would not be able to work due to my back injury. However, because of the gift of my talent, I can control my working environment. I often get the statement “ I wish I could draw like you or You make it look so easy.” Believe me, there is nothing easy about it. I strive every day to make the best use of my talent. Not only do you have to be good at being an artist, you also have to be good at promoting yourself. You would think it would be easy to get a big ego in this business. One of the hardest things I had to overcome was talking about my work and talent. I had to convince myself that I was spreading God’s works rather than talking about myself.
I feel the joy of my talent, in so many ways, every day. Like, when I get up from my painting, after I have been working for a while. I come back in and see my painting from a little distance. I am surprised by it and think how did I create that. In that moment, I feel how strong God’s presence is in me. It is God working through me. I also see the joy in my collectors eyes, when they see my work the first time. I have brought the image of a lost loved one back to a family member. One of my collector’s told me “You brought my baby back”, preserving the family history. It doesn’t get better than that.