Doing commissions for clients.

Doing a commission for a client brings its own challenges. …………

Firstly, it isn’t going to be a painting for oneself in the hope that someone may like it and buy it. It’s usually a client who has seen your work and wants a painting for themselves, based on something of yours that they have seen and liked. Or they may like your style, but want something of their own that they feel you can express for them.


Secondly, for the client, the painting is an investment and they are usually very specific about what they want. So, from the beginning, I like to deal directly with the client to find out what it is they want and where the painting is to be hung. The client knows what size they would like and what room it will hang in, so this can affect the colours you use as quite often, the colour scheme of a room will be mentioned.


I like to deal directly with clients. This way, I can get a feel very quickly for what the client requires.


If the initial contact is made through the gallery:

I feel that it’s important to have a very good relationship with one’s gallery. One needs to keep the gallery fully informed of the work’s progress and the client’s reaction to how the painting is progressing. All contact with the client has to be fully transparent to the gallery. After all, the gallery works very hard to promote their artists and deserve like treatment.


So, I speak to the client and send them a rough idea, by email, of what I think they want. This is usually a photo used as a base and altered in Photoshop. I add elements to the photo based on what the client has asked for. In the case of these three clients, I was lucky that they had email and were computer savvy and so could communicate easily with me. They were very quick to reply so I could go on to the next stage smoothly.


Once the client has agreed to what they want………and this can take quite some time as the photos I send them can sometimes spark off a new train of thought, and they could end up with something quite different from their original idea. I start on the painting and at the end of each day, email a photo of how much I have painted. This involves the client in the painting process and also, they can understand how long it takes me to do a painting in my style. Each day, the painting progresses and by the time the painting is finished, they may have received as many as sixteen images.

When the painting is completed, to both the client’s and my satisfaction, I invite them over for a viewing, prior to varnishing and framing. This is so both the client and I know that the painting has fulfilled their original specifications.



First commission: Playing at Freycinet.

This client had seen a painting of mine at my gallery-The Moulton Galleries in Mosman.


1) The client originally saw “Playing on Balmoral Beach” image size: 95x95 cm. Acrylic on stretched canvas. She asked for a different sized and shaped painting, the original being cropped to just the children, the beach and a little of the water. Its finished size was to be 55x110 cm. it was to be unframed and finished with the painting going around the edges of the canvas.


2) I sent her a straight crop of the original painting 


The client then came up with another idea.

3) She sent me an invitation folder that was used for her son’s 60th Birthday party at Freycinet in Tasmania and indicated that she would like me to put in a dinghy and two children, a boy of two years old and a girl of six, playing on the sand. And they should both be blond and only wearing swimming costumes, no tops 

4) I sent her a picture of Freycinet that I liked, with rocks, above and below the water, clouds, a dinghy with passengers and the same set of mountains ……..The Hazards, in the background, with clouds, reflecting in the water.


5) The client then sent a piece of material that was the cover of the couch below where the painting was to be hung and asked me to take the orange rocks out and replace them with a sandy beach. She liked the dinghy rowing out to sea, but the children were to represent her, now adult, grandchildren. She wanted the painting to be soft in colouring so that it would tone with the couch. She liked the idea of having some rocks under the water on the left hand side and also the clouds and their reflections. She also wanted a small wave breaking on the shore.



6 & 7) I looked through my reference material and found two children that I could put together in the one painting, from separate sources and made adjustments, so they looked like the ages my client required.


8) I also had, on file, a breaking wave to use.

9 & 10) I also found some beach toys for the children.

11) I then assembled the whole proposal and sent it to the client. I had made the girl’s swimming costume purple as that is what the client’s granddaughter wore at that age. The boy was fine. The client also asked for the colours of the beach toys to be softened and the blue bucket to be green. She felt that the children were enough like her grandchildren to do.



The Progressives.

The size of the painting was to be 55x110cm It was to be acrylic on stretched canvas, unframed, with the painting continuing around the edges of the stretcher.

The Drawing 

I started off by drawing the painting to size and traced it down on to the canvas using graphite transfer paper.

 Stage 1. This shows the under-painting for the sky using a mix of white, phalo blue and ultramarine, grading the sky, starting at the mountains with a little phalo blue added to white and feathering upwards, gradually darkening and adding more phalo blue, then ultramarine as I reached the top of the sky. 

Stage 2. Next, the clouds, using white and a mix of white, phalo blue and ultramarine for the bluer clouds, then adding burnt umber to the mix to create the grey. Then I painted the mountains with a base coat of yellow ochre mixed with cobalt blue and white. The texture and light and shade on the mountains is painted with a mix of Burnt umber and ultramarine. For the forests at the foot of the mountains, I am using an undercoat mix of Sap green and Burnt umber


Stage 3.  Now the sea……For the under-painting, I am using the same mix as the sky for the sea just under the mountains, then, some Turquoise for the center area, then an addition of some cobalt blue to the mix, for the foreground. I am using the same mix for the cloud reflections as I used for the clouds, just all a little darker.


Stage 4.  I have started to put in the ripples, working forward from the back, increasing the size of the ripples as I go. I am using a mix of Cobalt blue and Phalo blue for this, slightly darker than the under-painting.

Stage 5.  I have finished the main ripples, darkening the area to the right where a wave has risen. I am starting to put in the wash behind the wave using a mix of Cobalt blue, Burnt umber and white. Also, I have started to work on the wet sand area just in front of the wave, using yellow ochre, burnt umber and cobalt blue.


Stage 6.  I have completed the wet sand and the wave at the front. Also, I have started working on the wash behind the wave, with the transparency of the water showing the sand through it. The sand showing through is wet and is the same colour and tone as the front wet sand. The wave itself has the same mix of colours as the clouds.


Stage 7.  I have broken up the wave more and tapered it off towards the left hand side where the sea is calmer. I have also started to put the rocks in under the water using a mix of Burnt sienna, Cobalt blue and a touch of Alizarin Crimson.

Stage 8.  I have added the water in front of the wave using the same mix as the sea underpainting and put in more rocks under the water and adjusted the foreground ripples.


Stage 9  The finished painting: “Playing at Freycinet” 55x110cm, acrylic on stretched canvas…

The children are now in, plus the beach toys. Their light skin tones are painted using a mix of Burnt sienna, yellow ochre and white. The shadows on their skins are painted with the same mix but using a lot less white. The girl’s costume is painted using a mix of Magenta and Ultramarine blue. Their hair is a mix of Yellow ochre, Burnt sienna and white. I have also adjusted the wash behind the wave to increase the transparency of the water.

The client was delighted with the finished painting and changed nothing. I varnished the painting using first an acrylic based varnish, then a final coat of turps based varnish, gloss. 


Stage 10. The finished painting in situ.