THE WORKING CREATIVE | ART COMMISSION PROCESS

CONCEPT TO COMPLETION

I recently finished a large, sculptural piece for one of my favorite consultant clients. By favorite client I mean longtime dear friend and art world soul sistah. I am going to poke at her to help me write some posts about the nitty gritty of consulting so hopefully you'll hear more about/from her soon.

Anyhoo! This was a fast paced project-from concept to completion it was about a month. Lead times range crazily in this business, but for the most part I try to make the client schedule work for me. I've always loved this type of work-obsess over something, crank out my ideas, then see it off for a swift goodbye. One major downside is that I almost never have time to get good shots of my work so it is hard to represent it well here and in my portfolio. 

Consultant and commission work is especially gratifying because each job is a little different.  For this particular job we started with a concept the designer had in mind and existing budget parameters to work within. The client had seen a piece installed somewhere overseas, and wanted something with a similar feel, but customized for their hotel.

 teeny tiny, kinda blurry, concept visual provided by designer

 teeny tiny, kinda blurry, concept visual provided by designer

One initial thought was that we could create the elements using prefab items like synthetic flower petals and paint them gold. I hunted around but didn't find anything that I liked. Back in the studio I fussed around with materials on hand and found a couple of things to try and initially came up with these two options. 

                    paper option on top, lower piece made from a section of wired ribbon

                    paper option on top, lower piece made from a section of wired ribbon

The textile was too soft-I didn't feel like would hold up to create this overlapping, undulating look I was going for. I actually like the paper option and still think this would be a good way to go if you had a really tight budget or wanted a less textured, uniform look. Still, not quite what I had in mind for this.  I remembered I had a box of already cut and dried paperclay circles I had prepped for use on a sculptural piece last year. I LOVE this material. Its expensive (though contact them directly to order in bulk for slightly less than retail) but it is beautiful to work with. I often need to consider the weight and fragility of materials that will be used in public spaces such as a hotel lobby or passageway and this stuff is super light and durable, yet strong when dried. Playing with the paperclay circles a bit to cut and form a more cupped, petal-like shape, I came up with these. Once painted with a gold luster acrylic, they were just what I had in mind.

testing out the paperclay forms

testing out the paperclay forms

 

On to the process of prepping the rest of the forms. I divided the clay into the exact size piece I can fit in my little slab roller without too much waste. I learned the hard way on previous projects that not being exacting about that ends up adding a ton of time to the process. I used biscuit cutters (and a janky, handmade cutter I whipped up when one of the biscuit cutters disappeared) to cut out the circular shapes. I formed most of the circles into the cupped, petal-like pieces and kept a portion of them flat which when combined with the cupped forms made it easier to get the right sort of coverage on the backer board. I then baked them in batches (it will air dry but takes forever) and painted both sides once completely dry. Nila is always eager to help in the studio and it was fun to have her help with the painting of these. 

my studio helper at work

my studio helper at work

 

It took a bit of finesse to get the elements mounted to the backer board. I wanted the piece to have a nice flow so there was a lot of laying things out, stepping back, taking things off, and rearranging. As usual I underestimated the time involved in this-it kind of took forever. I am, for whatever reason, drawn to work that is slow and requires a million of something to complete.  I wish I had kept count but there are a ton of elements on this piece! 

paperclay sculpture installation process .jpg
oooooh....shiny....

oooooh....shiny....

A few late nights and long days later...the finished piece! I am so excited to see this once its framed and installed. They are using a nice, deep shadowbox moulding that should accomodate the depth of the piece really nicely. It's going into a hotel so I'm hoping to get in situ shots. 

I suppose that as with most things in life, the key to succeeding in this type of work is cultivating good relationships and partnerships. Great art consultants work tirelessly to create these art programs and are all about making it a good experience and great outcome for all involved. I really enjoy the collaborative aspects of this commissioned work but also try to have clear parameters about what is and is not included in the scope. Making clear what types of things are possible or acceptable from the outset of the project makes things so much easier. Sometimes this involves making sample pieces at no cost, providing progress images for feedback, and the willingness to change things if absolutely necessary. I totally get this isn't workable for every artist or every body of work but I have found it to be fun, challenging, and a solid base for my larger art practice. 

If you are an artist, are you open to commission work? How do you feel about collaborating with designers and consultants? Any questions you'd like answered from an old pro ;) Let me know! I'd love to hear from you.