Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Skinny on Commissioned Art: 3 Rules

In the art world, a commission is simply a custom artwork ordered by a client from an artist.  Artists either love doing them or hate doing them, but I for one, quite enjoy commissions.  I wouldn’t want to work this way exclusively, but a commissioned work definitely has some benefits.  Usually, commissions happen because a client falls in love with my work, and who wouldn’t like that kind of attention.  It is also a guaranteed sale, with partial payment up front- a good deal for artists who are used to covering all material and associated costs of an artwork until a buyer is found.  Lastly, commissions sometimes give an artist the opportunity to do something that they couldn't normally do, like work on a very large scale, or in another material.

Here I am in the studio after the completion of the large triptych, Through the Trees - Brockway, acrylic on canvas over panel, 96 x 180 in. (8 x 15 ft).  This painting was commissioned in 2008 by Deerfield Campbell LLC and is on permanent display in the lobby of their green office building in Menlo Park, California.

I have a few simple rules for accepting commissions, which are as follows.  1) The client must love and understand my work and subject matter.  I don’t do people, I don't do landmarks, I won’t paint your dog; I only paint trees and forests.  A client must understand this and therefore know what they can expect from me.  I really want to create the best work I can for a commission, but before I can truly do that I have to be  passionate about what I am creating.  Which is the main reason I stick to a subject matter that I know and love.   2) The client must be able to tell me what they want, or don’t want, so that we can work together to find a suitable image for their painting.  Often, I ask a client to peruse my website and tell me which pieces they like and why.  We talk about colors, we talk about the feel of the work, we talk about content - the amount of trees/sky/land, etc.  At this point we can either work from a new photograph I’ve taken or base the work on a painting that I have formerly completed.  I prefer the first option, but I sometimes do the second option.  3) Lastly, the client must choose a size and scale that fits their budget, and agree to a timeframe for completion.  Commissions often incur an additional charge over and above the artist's regular pricing, and usually take longer to complete than a typical painting.  I always commit extra time to make my commissions very special, so there is definite value there.

Colorful One #2, 2009.
Acrylic on paper, 40 x 24 inches
Collection of the Ritz Carlton Highlands
Hotel in Lake Tahoe, California.
Most of the time, my clients are easy-going, and these are the best kind of clients for me.  Often they are working in conjunction with a designer, art consultant or gallery - a person that can filter and analyze the necessary details and then present me with a proposal for the project which, I can accept, alter or deny.  This makes my job fairly simple; for all I have to do is understand and paint what they are asking for, as long as they are in alignment with the above rules.  Sometimes, I have the pleasure of working with a client directly.  Usually this is because it is a friend or I have a special connection with that person.   This is the case with Jaimie and Alec.  In Part 2 of this series, The Skinny on Commissioned ArtWork: My Ideal Client,  I will discuss Jaimie and Alec's commission and let you know why I loved working with them.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

A look into my Spring Open Studio

Here's a peek into my open studio, in pictures.  Enjoy!

For those of you in the Bay Area, visit me this weekend at 2325 Third Street, San Francisco, 12-5pm both Saturday & Sunday.

I am writing to you from this vantage point, sun on my back from the window nearby, greeting visitors as they come in...

I just finished the piece above yesterday.  It is still as yet untitled, but the inspiration was found in the East Bay, in Danville, CA.  60 x 48 inches, acrylic on canvas over panel.

Here is another Danville inspired piece, entitled "When you know 2", acrylic on canvas over panel, 40 x 30 inches.  Above the door is "Smiling at me", acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24 inches, from my Golden Gate Park series of 2011.

 On the right is "Anticipating a pleasant outcome", acrylic on canvas over panel, 48 x 44 inches (Woodside inspired).  At left is the new Danville piece again.  I like how they speak to each other in this photo.

Here are a few Golden Gate Park inspired works at the door, above is "Fly away", acrylic on canvas, 20 x 22 inches.  Below is "Once in a song", acrylic on canvas over panel, 50 x 40 inches.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A quick recap, in case you were wondering

The last four to five months have been somewhat of a blur.  Here is a quick recap of what I've been up to lately.  In December alone, I was in three different shows - one solo with Hang Art Projects in San Francisco and two group shows, one in Sausalito at Robert Allen Fine Art and one in Seattle at Davidson Galleries.  In February, I was invited to display work at the Marin Designers Showcase event in Belvedere, CA, and at the A. Rudin Showroom in the SF Design Center for their annual Winter Market event.  At the end of the month, I gave an artist talk in my studio to a group of undergraduate art students from Mesa State College in Colorado.  Then March began just as busily with the opening of a group show at the Village Theatre Art Gallery in Danville, CA entitled Branching Out.  Here I am excited to be showing with a select group of artists working with their own contemporary visions of an age old subject, the tree (through April 13).  March also brought a studio visit with a curator that resulted in a surprise (and quick) offer of a solo show opening on March 26 at the 455 Market Lobby Gallery.

Distill 8, 2012.  Acrylic on paper, 22 x 14 inches.  This work will be
featured in my upcoming exhibit 'Point of Contrast' at 455 Market
Lobby Gallery, San Francisco, March 26 - June 15, 2012.

The last few weeks I've been finishing up a brand new suite of eight works on paper for the 455 Market show  entitled Point of Contrast.  This week I am putting the finishing touches on my artist talk and slide presentation The Artist's Muse, held in conjunction with the Branching Out show in Danville.  The artist talk will be on March 28th, from 7-9pm, and will also include a presentation from one of my favorite artists - Eric Zener.  If you are interested in joining please contact the gallery at (925) 314-3460 to register for this free event.

And just because I thought March wasn't busy enough already - I will be hosting an Open Studio event on March 31st & April 1st from 12-5pm here in San Francisco.  Please visit the Exhibitions page of my website for more details on all of the events mentioned above.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

San Francisco Open Studios Wrap-up

This weekend I thought I would write an update during the down time at my Open Studio here in San Francisco.  I find the key to making it through the entire day with high energy is to keep busy!  I usually open up my studio once or twice a year to the public, but most of the time I sell through galleries or art consultants.  For those clients who do make it out to this event, they get a rare opportunity to glimpse into my world for a few moments, and ask a question or two.

Adagio, 2011.  Acrylic on canvas, 15 x 15 inches.  by Elaine Coombs
The event is organized by ArtSpan, a local non-profit that runs the oldest and largest Open Studio program in the county.  Every year they seem to do it better and better, the main reason that I continue to participate.  They even have a group show associated with the event that is meant to be a preview of all of the artists who take part.  You can go there, find your favorites and then visit their studio to see more.  Very effective!

Chorus, 2011.  Acrylic on canvas, 20 x 24 inches by Elaine Coombs
I always try to have a few brand new pieces available at this show.  Above are pictured two of my latest acrylic on canvas paintings - Adagio & Chorus.

ArtSpan produces a wonderful guide that features an image from every artist participating in Open Studios that year.  They also have a new on-line version of the guide that you can view and read about all of the artists involved.  Maybe you will discover a new favorite!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Exhibit Planning: Following Passion Into Collaboration

If you read my last post, News from the Studio, I mentioned that I was working on curating a show for this coming spring.  Now curating shows is not something I have done for some years now.  Early in my career as a budding artist in Toronto, I did manage an experimental gallery in the SkyDome, called The Palette Room.  It lasted for only one season, but I did quite enjoy finding the artists, organizing the exhibits, and holding the openings.  It taught me early on that running a gallery is a tough business - not for the faint of heart.

A few months ago, I was approached to curate a show for a relatively new venue in Danville, California.  Still very much in the planning stages, the gallery coordinator and I spoke of including my work in a nature-themed show along with one or two other artists.  I immediately began to think of artists' whose work I love and with whom I have always wanted to show.  The first artist that came to mind was my friend Heather Patterson, a mixed media artist with ties to the Bay Area, now residing in Colorado.  I adore her work, which is abstract in composition and includes references to natural and biological forms.  Her color palette is sophisticated and her treatment of the surface using diverse materials draws you in and keeps you interested with its flow and intricate design.  I just love the feel of her works.

Although our paintings are markedly different from one another, we share an affection for pattern, color and nature-based forms that I believe would visually link our art in a show.  When it came time to discuss the possibilities with Heather, she brought up the idea of creating and including a collaborative piece.  This would consist of one of us beginning a work and then mailing it to the other artist, each taking a turn at creating from what the other had begun, then mailing it back and forth until completion.  There is a history of artists doing this, especially in contemporary times.  I began to visualize what magic this might create.  (One famous collaborative effort was the joint paintings of Jean Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol, 1984-85.)  When I mentioned this idea to the gallery coordinator, the first thing she asked was, 'do you have an example of this type of work?'  I hadn't thought of that.  She needed evidence of its success to submit to the committee that finalizes the exhibition calendar.  Idea temporarily stymied.

To make a long story short, the Danville show looks to have morphed into Heather and I being included in two different exhibits, two months apart.  Our original idea of a two-person show with a collaborative painting or two has evolved into a larger concept.  We are now moving forward with our collaborative work as a side project unto itself.  First trying out some examples, then discussing and exploring a theme, then sending proposals in search of a suitable venue to exhibit the work.  If the experimental paintings in question turn out well, we will have an exciting venture on our hands.  If they do not turn out well, I imagine that we will still have created an interesting manifestation of our collaborative idea that will be treasured by each of us for years to come.

Monday, July 18, 2011

News from the studio

I wanted to let you know of a few exciting things happening in the studio this week.  First of all, this Friday, July 22nd through next Wednesday, July 27th, three of my paintings will be featured on the Serena & Lily website, in their Bazaar section.  This Sausalito, California based decor and furniture company has made a splash in the arena of high-end home design since 2004.  Recently, they have begun featuring original artwork and other unique finds for one week per month, in the Bazaar section of their website.  Visit this Friday, July 22nd and take a look at the gorgeous featured art work here - http://www.serenaandlily.com/Bazaar.  Note:  If you sign up for their email announcements you will get a special sneak preview one day early, on July 21st!

Elaine Coombs, Swing, 2010.  Acrylic on panel, 15.25 x 16 inches
 Available at the Serena & Lily Bazaar, July 2011.

Secondly, my friend and fellow artist Michelle Casey wrote a blog post which featured work from my Blue Skies show.  Thanks Michelle!  Visit Michelle's Collage Your World blog and scroll down to read more about her unique artwork and great collage tips for beginners.

Further news: I am working on curating a show in the East Bay for next Spring.  More to come on this exhibit as I finalize the details in the coming weeks.

Lastly, I had some 4 x 6 inch notecards designed and printed which feature an image of one of my favorite paintings, Remembering my song.  They turned out just lovely, and will be available for purchase on my website by the end of August.  More details to follow.

Elaine Coombs, Remembering my song, 2010.  Acrylic on canvas over panel, 60 x 42 inches. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Where I Have Been & Where I am Now

Hello!  It has been a while since I have made time for writing this blog.  It is something I quite enjoy and yet when I get busy it is one of the first things I tend to neglect.  For the past three months I have been intensely focused on painting my solo exhibit entitled Blue Skies, now on display at 525 Market Street in San Francisco through July 30th (see previous posts).  The show is based entirely on photos that I took in Golden Gate Park.  It is light and airy in tone and very much a summer show.  You can read more about my inspiration here or visit my Facebook page for more installation photos of the exhibit.
My paintings installed in the lobby gallery at 525 Market Street
After an intense period of painting, one of my favorite things to do is to go on vacation!  I am currently writing this post at my parent's home in Ontario, Canada - relaxing after a five day sojourn in New York City.  My best girlfriend moved from Toronto to Manhattan last year and it was wonderful to see her and experience the city together.  I have visited NYC several times before, so this trip was mostly about catching up with a friend.  Inspiration hit while walking in both Riverside Park and Central Park, and I could not help myself from taking hundreds of tree photos for a future series.  I also made sure that I saw a few galleries in different neighborhoods amongst playing tourist.
Flowers in Riverside Park, Upper West Side, Manhattan
One trip highlight for me was visiting the High Line - an elevated walkway and public park created from an old railway line.  Section 2 was recently completed, running along one side of the gallery district in Chelsea.  I really enjoyed seeing both tourists and locals walking, sitting and eating their lunch in this park.  Currently spanning about 20 blocks north to south, it is a pleasant alternative to walking along the busy Manhattan streets.  The skyline views from here are pretty fantastic, too.
Tourists and locals walking in High Line Park, Manhattan
Another high point for me was my first visit to Williamsburg in Brooklyn.  I originally intended to spend the day seeing as many galleries as I could, but by the time Sunday rolled around I was pretty exhausted from 3 days of walking around Manhattan.  The shows were quite spread out, so my friend and I walked along the main strip of restaurants and cool indie shops on Bedford Avenue and then ventured to a few galleries that were close by this area.   Both on Roebling Street, the Frontroom had an excellent group show entitled Fuse Works, and Like the Spice featured Matt Stone's layered sculptures made from wood, foam, resin, spandex and other mixed media materials.  An extensive future gallery stroll is definitely on the list for my next visit.
Wall art in Brooklyn
So now you know where I have been and where I am now.  I will leave you with this update along with a promise to write at least one post when I get back to my studio in July.  I have many future projects in the planning stages that I am anxious to share.  Until then...
Me on the High Line

Monday, March 14, 2011

Solo Show Planning: Part 4 - The Mid-way Point of No Return

Today, I have over a third of the work done for my upcoming solo show at 525 Market Street in San Francisco, curated by William Torphy Fine Arts.  With 4 paintings complete and a fifth one well underway, I am almost at the mid-way point of production.  The show is really beginning to take shape and this is when it gets very exciting for me as an artist.  I can really start to see and feel what the entire show will look like.  I even thought of a title a few days back while pondering the completed works...  Nothing firm yet, but I am thinking of entitling the show, "Nothing but blue skies", after the Blue Skies song written by Irving Berlin.  The lyrics popped into my head as I realized this might be the first show I have ever done of solely blue-sky paintings.  For any of you familiar with my work, you will see that I have done several paintings with blue skies over the years, and they are always popular.  But most often, my skies are white or off-white; due to the time of day that I take my source photographs, usually dawn or dusk.  This batch of photos however, was mostly taken at mid-day and almost all of them have these luscious, summery blue skies.  I like that the title sounds rather optimistic in tone, which is very much my style.

The last post in this series, Solo Show Planning: Part 3 - Getting in the Groove of Production detailed how I split my work up into 3 sections and chose my first 4 canvases.  After completing these 4 smaller pieces I decided to work on 2 larger canvases for the back area of the gallery space.  I need 4 larger pieces in total, but I wasn't sure on all of the sizes and images yet, so I decided to start out with 2 pieces at 50 x 40 inches each.  Since beginning these, I am feeling that I may do all 4 larger works at this size and keep things really consistent.  I have so many wonderful images that I can use for this vertical format that I think it will be really stunning in the space to have the large ones all the same size.  But just to give me some perspective, I think after completing the second 50 x 40 work I will jump back in size to doing the remaining 4 small to medium pieces and then leave the final 2 large ones until last.  This will allow me to really see what I've made and evaluate which images will further compliment and balance out the rest of the show.  This is my current plan but I reserve the right to change it on a whim.

Now back to the easel I go.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Solo Show Planning: Part 3 - Getting in the Groove of Production

Preface:  This post was actually written back in mid January.  I attempted to edit it a few times, but as I got into production mode, this post sadly didn't get published until now.  Bad blogger, but good painter!

This is the third post in my series entitled Solo Show Planning, which details the preparation for my solo show this summer.  I have written first about Choosing a Theme and secondly in reference to my Image Selection.  Now I would like to discuss, getting down to the real work of production.

After a good study of the photographs I want to use and some visualization of the venue, I decided to prepare my canvases in groups of 4.  I need 12 -13 paintings for the show, as discussed with the curator William Torphy.  I figure if I do 3 groups of 4 paintings each, this is a nice way to break it up into smaller pieces that I can handle.  If I purchased and planned all 12/13 canvases at the same time it would not only create a storage problem in my studio, but I also would get quite overwhelmed.  It is next to impossible to focus on that many paintings at this stage in the game.

Armed with this thought in mind, I visited one of my trusted canvas suppliers (Rubars, Oakland, CA) and choose 4 canvases to get a start on things. As for sizes, I knew I wanted 2 each of the same size and I knew I wanted them to be in the medium size range to be displayed in the front section of the gallery.  I also was leaning towards a square format rather than my usual rectangular.   They could be slightly off square by a few inches but generally square.  With a canvas supplier like Rubars you can order any size you wish to be custom made which only takes a few weeks.  Since I wasn't terribly picky about the exact size I needed, I decided to just go in and see what was in stock.  Luckily they had quite a lot to choose from and I had to stop myself from buying way more than 4 new canvases.  I really want to take this step by step and not get ahead of myself!  So I ended up choosing two canvases 35 x 35 inches, and two 30 x 30 inches.   After these are complete I will decide whether to compliment these with 4 more in similar sizes, or possibly to do some more rectangular shapes also.  I have never been good at sticking to similar sizes, some artists do this and I am always amazed.  I feel that the shape and size informs the work and so I change it up quite often.  I am aware however that the curator would like some consistency and/or balance in the sizing, or at least in the volume of the works.  I am trying to work in pairs as per his suggestion, which is probably the easiest way to balance a group of works in a show.

After priming (see previous entry entitled Priming:  Art or Therapy), I began work on the first image several weeks ago.  It went very smoothly and several days ago I completed my first canvas in the new Golden Gate Park series.  Yesterday, I began the second one, another 35 x 35.  So feeling like I have a good jump on my production for the show, all that is left is to really get in there, put in the time and feel the work turning out well.  I like to visualize the work completed before it is done, and feel the praise it will receive.  Imagine the show as being complete while at the same time enjoying every moment of producing it.  I value the times when I am deep in production mode. I am very focussed, and everything flows, sometimes working extra hours to complete a painting just because I can't wait to see how it will turn out.... I absolutely love being productive.  I also love having deadlines.  If I don't have actual deadlines I tend to create artificial ones!

More to come ~