So I always get annoyed with taking photos of my finished work…

It seems as though no matter how I take the photos they never show the nuances and depth of the original. And all those hours spent refining tiny color variations just get blown out or distorted altogether in the photos. For example, no matter how I took photos of the gas lamp above, it just did not show how the light glows in the original. (and I worked hard on that- darn it!) So annoying. And the family looks more alive and more subtle in the original too. When I submit paintings for shows I normally have them professionally shot and that tends to be a bit better, but I don’t bother with that with commissions.

So here goes. This is the final painting as it was presented to the family.

When I was growing up there was a show on tv called Fantasy Island. If you are old like me you may remember the phrase from it, “da plane! da plane!” I think paintings are a bit of a fantasyland. We create the settings and mood that we, or the clients want. I don’t know how photographers do it. Getting everyone, and especially kids, to be happy and in the right pose. For me, I just make them that way. So this is a story about a snapshot in time: A lovingly, restored summer home, a happy family and a fleeting time in the childrens’ lives. Six months from now everything will be different. The kids will have grown, and it will be winter. I have clients tell me ten years later how much it means to them to have frozen a moment.

I always have the family “live” with the painting for a bit to see if anything needs to be adjusted. This is so important because the painting will change throughout the day as the lighting situations change. At night the painting will have a different feel in the more warmer indoor light than during the day in more cooler light. Also, the longer the family looks at it the more they may see things that need to be tweaked before it goes in its frame. The family may decide that a cheek needs to be a little fatter, a little slimmer, etc… and I want the painting to be a perfect representation of them so I am up for any adjustments. It’s all part of the job.

You may have noticed that the hands, especially on the dad, are not finished. I needed to get a few more shots in the right position so I did that while I was there.

After a few days I checked in with the family and there were a few changes to be made. The biggest one was the shoes on the mom. They felt as though the shoes that she was wearing felt more like slippers, so they asked if I could change them to a more pretty shoe. I took a few photos and carted the painting back to my studio for final adjustments and painting new shoes. Now, you may ask how can I make such a dramatic change? Easy… just dive in.


I find it is easier to just block things in aggressively and then refine as I go so I just drew over the feet with black lines and then worked on the form and color. I always remember that this is a painting and if I render every nuance of the shoes then I run the risk of the shoes becoming center stage in the painting. So they are dashed in, rendered a bit and then let go. I save the details for the faces.

I did adjust and bring more detail into both of the girls and then added the man’s hand. If you are afraid to take back a painting and adjust anything on it you may want to rethink about working on commissions. A commission is a collaboration and as such I will adjust anything the client wants to make it more of their story. No need for fear.

Here is the final painting with the hands and feet adjusted.

More next week on how to paint faces so small with such large sticks…

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