Years ago I heard an artist talking about the lesson he learned while delivering a portrait…..
He drove to the client’s house with a finished painting and had even framed it nicely under glass. He met the client at the door and the client then went with him to retreive the painting from out of the trunk. The artist lifted the lid of the trunk and there was the painting- upside down and smeared with the glare of the underside of the trunk’s lid. This was the clients’ first impression of the painting. They took it inside the home and the client keep moving it around, frowning a bit, trying to view it from different angles. She kept saying she loved it and that it was a very accurate likeness…and yet…. The artist swears the indecision came from such a harsh and unflattering first impression. The client eventually came to love the painting and didn’t request any changes, but it took time to get past that image of her child upside down with rivets across her face.
There is nothing quite like seeing an actual painting for the first time.
So that is why when I present a painting to a client, I bring it in the house in a large box, kick the clients out of the room, and set the painting up in a flattering way. Hopefully in the same lighting and room as where the painting will be hanging. I don’t frame them, but I do mat the paintings in black or white mats. Then I allow the clients back into the room.
After the paintings are done and accepted by the client I can then get them professionally shot for color accuracy. I feel as though when I shoot them I can never capture the subtle color nuances accurately and then I come to hate the reproductions. So much gets lost in translation. I have a good friend and photographer in Pittburgh that nearly all of the illustrators I know depend on to shoot their work. His name is Alex Pathos at Pathos Photography, and if you need color-corrected work, he is your guy. Be sure to look him up if you need prints or photos of your work.
But first I need to go back.
I had scheduled a meeting with Madame X to bring out the paintings, but then she had to cancel out. No problem. We just rescheduled. But the client was very anxious to see the finished works and quite honestly, I was very anxious for her to see them too. Now, I have a pretty strict “no-show” policy of paintings especially as they are being developed and even when they are finished. Like I mentioned, much gets lost in translation, so photos just don’t make the best first impression. But this time I caved….Here is how the actual text messages went. I went back and looked them up……
“ Can I get a sneak peek to show a friend?”
“Hmmmm…ok. They never look as good as in person, but here is one. You get the idea….”
“OMG! It is amazing…. …..Ooooooo I want another one! …Pretty Please”
“Ha- ok- last one will be a surprise.”
“OMG OMG OMG OMG”. CRYING RIGHT NOW. Omg That’s my baby girl!!! I sh*t you not- I’m crying! THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR TALENT WITH OUR FAMILY!!”
I was overwhelmed. I mean, this why I do what I do. Why we artists do what we do. We always hope for a wonderful response, but I didn’t expect to be so uplifted from a text. I couldn’t wait to show them the real thing….
On the morning I was supposed to meet with the client to show them the finished works, I had put the paintings in separate, large flat boxes on the floor outside one of my studio spaces. They looked like this….
So that morning I got my car ready by lowering the back seats, checked on the boxes and made sure to print out the final copy of the contract with the balance due. I was going to load the paintings in the car right before I left, so I went to jump in the shower and got ready to go.
I came back a bit later and it looked like one of the boxes had been moved. Weird. I was alone in the house…… And one box looked like the flap in the front of it was partially up. I know I had put it down. Hmmm…. I pulled out the painting and low and behold- there was a cat paw print on the black mat!
I looked closer and, oh man…… I think a cat butt smeared a bit of the hair and cheek on the portrait of the oldest girl. My cat, Othello, must has stuck his little nose under the flap and thought the inside of the box was a good hiding spot. I panicked and began to fix the painting. I only had 30 minutes before I was supposed to leave for the meeting. Luckily, there was no damage to the “vignetted” part of the image- that part that did not have pastel covering it. If there had been cat prints on the background surface of the image and not just on the black mat and areas that I could fix, I probably would not be writing this blog. I would have keeled over. Remember how I said that the three backgrounds had to match? If I couldn’t fix one, all three would have had to go…..
Good I can laugh about it now!
So the rest of the meeting went as planned. (once my heart slowed back down– bad kitty! ) The kids recognized themselves – always a good sign- and the client cried some more- an even greater sign. And yes, I did tell her eventually about the cat incident……
Here is the third painting…
I showed them how the paintings look in different lighting- in the natural “north light” that I paint them in, and in the more “yellowed” warm light from indoor lighting. This can help clients decide where to hang them if they are still unsure. I have clients tell me about how the paintings change throughout the day as the light changes and how in the near-dark they will creep into the room where the paintings are and stare at them in the middle of the night.
Over the years I get Christmas cards from clients and I can see kids where I have studied their features so closely grow up and change. I love staying in touch. I have had clients tell me that if their house was on fire, the paintings would be among the first things they would try to get out.
One thing I do for all my clients is to make them a “progression book” of the paintings. I use a Mac and it is very easy and relatively cheap (about $60) to design and make a hard-bound book with all the developmental photos of how the paintings progressed from the drawing stage until the very end. The errors and fixes are included too. This gives my clients a great “coffee-table” book that others can look at and appreciate. Like I said, I get a lot of word-of-mouth referrals.
Madame X literally just picked up her paintings this week! Here is the frame I helped her pick out for the pieces.
As soon as I have some pics that show them in their new home, I will post them.
So I hope you enjoyed this journey. Commissions are a challenge, but send me home after a final delivery singing to the radio and then happily calling my husband with the following conversation that we have had for over 25 years……
“ Hi! I did it! The paintings are delivered.”
“Do they love you?”
“Yup! They do….”
I will be taking off the next few weeks to enjoy the holidays with my family. I am finishing up work on a new, updated website which will be live in January. Until then, I hope you had a blessed, healthy and happy Hanukkah, I hope you have a Very Merry Christmas and I wish you all the best in the New Year.
See you in 2018!