Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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08/01/2006: "Whose commission is it anyway?"

Commissions are tricky. I've been fortunate in the past but recently I was asked to do recreations (in my style) of 2 paintings originally done by *other* artists. That isn't something I would ever do. Sure, I (like every other artist) have incorporated imagery from other artists' work into my own, but never like that. No way.

After explaining why it wouldn't work the collector was great...he hadn't understood but said he'd look through photos he'd taken and that he was still interested in me doing a couple of paintings for him.

I was happy that he was still interested but the two photos he sent next (the pose in the first and the thigh-high black stiletto boots in the second), made me uncomfortable. I paint figures in nature but they're not intended to be salacious.

I wrote him back that the images were not compatible with my style but I felt badly about it. What are collectorsí expectations when commissioning an artist? I think itís understandable for them to be confused as some artists you can tell what you want and they paint it for you. I don't (and never would) work that way. To do so would go against every ounce of artistic integrity in my soul.

I will admit that picking up two rather nice sized commissions right now would be hugely beneficial to my wallet but perhaps this isn't meant to be. Do any of you do commissions and if so, what would your own policies be on these two instances?

In other news, I had a Eureka moment at work today. I came up with a rather ingenious solution to a problem that many who had come before me had attempted but failed. Today I shared my implementation strategy with the Provost and she was incredibly impressed, she said "I love the way you think lady" was on cloud 9 all day after that. Itís amazing to get something *tangible* accomplished, especially something that required a lot of coordination and that many people said would never happen. BooYah!

Replies: 7 Comments

on Wednesday, August 2nd, berry bowman connell said

Have seen the "stilletto" look in four artists...two I remeber well because they were really great works...Patrick Nagel who did some incredible graphic works and Leroi Nieman, whose works included stylistic representations as well as the sports figures he's more noted for. Another is a name I might butcher, so, I'll pass until I get t'home and find his work again, but, the last one, and this is the impression I got when you described the work, is a fellow named Sato, whose works have graced (funny word, that) Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler, and others of the like.

I think, of the four, that Nagel has died.
As for the implication of doing a commissioned piece of a dead artist, well, y'all probably know of the laws better'n I, but, in this case, it doesn't sound like it even matters.

I have been asked to reproduce four of the twelve "Sunflowers" by Vincent, and I relent because I knew each time that the person was more into the art than "just a print" if you'll forgive the seperation. They wanted something touchy/feely (yeah, I use technical language sometimes, eh?) instead of a flat, or, now-a-days, canvassy feel. If approached to do a Sato, I would pass without even looking back.
You want a Sato, go buy a Sato.
You want a Neiman, go buy a Neiman.

I would do something in the style of, but, never a copy, and I think that would be OK.

On the other jhand, I hope you took yer camera while on "cloud nine" cause the air looks different up there!
Yesterday was my very first "press release" though I have been on TV and radio before. Guess in the newspaper, too.
But, talk about cloud nine. They sent me a press release and I sat at the 'puter and shipped it out t'everybody I knew that had an e-mail address!

And, yes. I have m'camera with me!

on Wednesday, August 2nd, Elise said

Congratulations on the press release Berry! Are you going to post it on "Walking on Aligators"? If not, email it to me too OK.

As for the commission, the pieces (neither the paintings nor the photographs) weren't pornographic and they weren't by anyone famous, in fact, one of the paintings I would have loved to paint too if it had been one of his oringinal photographs.

There is this funny book about a painter who has become well known for doing these large mural commissions of Sunflowers for rich people (until she has an epiphane and goes back to the work she used to love to do)...

I wish I could remember the name, they owned a gallery and it was light reading, sort of a mystery romantic comedy thing, not the sort I normally read but I do subject heading searches on painters and read all the books (even fiction) that feature them!
btw, I liked your most recent blog post. That was very cool of you!

on Wednesday, August 2nd, berry bowman connell said

The book, well, OK, I do the same thing, sort of. I'll read a book just because one of the folks in it paints....

And, the blog. I'm glad so many liked it, only, I just hope theyu respond the way they should, and that would have nothing t'do with pattin me on the back, but, rather, you know. Gettin' checked and so on.
I'll indeed send ya the release, and, as usual, upon looking up yer e'mail address, I find yer like, light years ahead of me.
Y'all make a great model form, if i could ever just catch up to ya!

on Wednesday, August 2nd, Jackie said

E: It's okay to pass on doing commission work if it tangles with your ethics. Berry's story is a bit different - in art school they even have exercises where you 'copy' a painting by one of the masters to learn technique, color, etc. But painting from someone else's photo or a living artists' work for money is a horse of a different color.

I don't feel comfortable having someone ask me to render their idea into art - if they are so taken with their idea, (i figure) they should learn how to paint themselves! I think your response to this patron was reasonable and courteous. :satisfied:

on Wednesday, August 2nd, Elise said

Hi Berry,
I liked the press release, looked all official and everything! Way to go!

And I'm not sure why you think I'm light years ahead of you because of my email address...could you elucidate me?
And Jackie, thanks for the feedback about commissions. I've often wondered if I should do them at all, except the ones I have done have been very satisfying. I guess I just have to be ok with saying "no" from time to time.

on Friday, August 4th, Howard said

About the only suggestion I'd accept would be the size. People who want to dictate the whole look of a painting really don't understand what it means to own an orginal artwork. Jackie has the right idea. They can go paint their own painting.

on Friday, August 4th, Elise said

Hi Howard, long time!

I'm going to do a painting for this guy after all, it turns out I didn't really understand what he was thinking.

I decided that I'd play around with a couple of the figures from one of his photo and if I could get them into a composition incorporated into one of my landscapes, with hair color altered in photoshop and body shapes manipulated etc. and if I could get it to a design that I liked so much I'd do it even without the commission...then I'd still do it.

Turns out it was easier than I thought. I came up with two alternatives and let him decide since I liked them both equally well...and he seems happy so, I don't feel like too much of a whore!