I’ll paint under nearly any circumstance, even duress (!), but my favorite of all is commission work. I think it’s the communication of the thing; you tell me the oddities of your mind and I find the way to make those tangible.
Over the years I’ve done commissions of all different sorts. I had a pretty set checklist of follow-up questions for a client’s initial vision and then I’d disappear into my studio for a few months and emerge with the finished piece. This was working just fine until the "Fortune Teller" came along.
My friend Nell’s vision for her painting was so BIG. She had 16 different symbols and a multitude of feelings she wanted incorporated, each straining for a place in the piece: hope, grief, empowerment, happiness, sadness…….which is how life is, so I resonated with this charge immediately.
Her color palette was rich: peachy pinks, goldenrod, indigos, and emerald greens.
She wanted the moon, literally and figuratively, she wanted me to paint the moon into this piece.
In her mind’s eye the piece symbolized moving forward, healing and renewal, setting an intention for the future. It would be her Fortune Teller.
We emailed an outline back and forth, evolving quickly into odd hour texting, snippets of info that passed like code between us.
chime: i’m thinking a big fat pearl.
chime: mmmm. an oyster? jewelry.
The Fortune Teller moved through her phases smoothly and without incident, seemingly grateful for the attentiveness.
We started a pinterest page under lock and key for handy reference. the page reads like a trail of breadcrumbs as it tracks the Fortune Teller’s progress, one indian elephant forward, two teacups back.
Pinterest board Painting, current status: unlocked.
A list of ingredients to build a fortune teller:
- queen anne’s lace
- the ocean
- king protea
- the moon
- a crab
- the balinese dragon from the settee
- the number 27
- a pink radish
- a tea service or teapot or something symbolizing tea
- a coral pink rose
- a pale pink strawberry
- an elephant head with indian paint
- a pomegranate
- a honey bee
I painted the ocean big enough to hold us both. the moon shines down in that way it does when all feels light but we know it’s dark. All the flowers and fruits and creatures and treats have returned me joy and mystery.
The pieces came together and the whole took shape. I saved the swirl of bees and stars for last, and they felt like real magic conjured from this cradled heart and the potion of flowers and seawater.
Sometimes, we make magic.
You know that feeling you get when you travel by yourself and you love every minute of it, the solitude, the anonymity, until you see/taste/hear/stumble upon something so incredible you turn to share the moment with another and no one is there? When I paint on my own, on my lonesome, it can often be just that, lonesome. I’ve kept it that way for so many years because it felt necessary to my concentration and privacy. I learned something interesting from this piece, which is simply that I’ve changed. I have more room now, I can invite people in.
Nell’s vision for this piece came laced with hope: to evolve, mend and invigorate, reset and renew. I had happily taken on that challenge, never realizing the effect it would have on me by proxy.
This is the first painting I have completed since taking a year’s sabbatical to have my baby. I needed that time off, that break with the creative. Coming back to painting was exciting and a bit intimidating. I didn’t know what the future held for my work. Here, under the guidance of Fortune Teller i was able to reacquaint myself with my paints, my imagination, my first love. The dialogue between us, commissioner and artist, changed the painting from an object to an experience.
I’d like to thank Nell for entrusting me with this project. I encourage people to contact me or any other artist to commission custom work for their homes. There is power in the hand-crafted fruits of our imaginations, and that’s the kind of juju I want hanging on my walls.