From time to time I am asked to undertake commissions for both paintings and my ceramics. Below you will find some details about the processes involved in recent examples of working to a client’s brief.
Waxwings with Rowan berries
A visitor to one of my recent exhibitions at The Artspace Gallery in Woodbridge was interested in buying one of my paintings but nothing on the walls would fit the very particular space he had in mind. He needed to find a painting to fit in the narrow space above a door which necessitated a narrow panoramic landscape format. This presented a bit of a challenge for the composition as it was difficult to avoid a linear arrangement which might seem a bit dull. In the end I think I resolved this by using the red berries to create a link between the birds and give the finished work a sense of rhythm as you read the painting from left to right. The choice of waxwings as the subject was a happy one for me as they’re one of my favourite species and I’ve painted them on many occasions.
This was an unusual commission as I normally paint birds or landscapes so mammals presented a particular challenge. Fortunately I’m very familiar with Roe Deer as I frequently see them in the fields and orchards behind my house so I felt confident undertaking the work. It was also fortuitous that I was asked to paint them on snowy wooded landscape as we had a big fall of snow in February 2021 and I had lots of reference material to draw on. I had made sketches of a large willow and this appears in the left of the painting (it subsequently came down in high winds later that year). It’s an unusual painting in that the client asked for it to be titled and signed, not something I generally do, preferring to just draw a simple ‘B’ in the right hand corner.
Trinidad Piping Guans
A species of bird, I must admit of which I was only vaguely aware before this commission but I guess that is understandable as they are extremely rare. From time to time I am asked to create paintings of endangered birds by Birdlife International based in Cambridge on behalf of their members. It’s aways an interesting challenge to try to come up with a convincing image of an unfamiliar though often spectacular bird. I managed to find some brief footage and still photos of the Guans in their tropical forest habitat and which to base the final result. Placing a pair of the birds high up in the forest canopy hopefully added a sense of drama to the composition.
A few years ago I was asked to paint view of the estuary near Shotley in Suffolk depicting several species of wading birds and geese. Recently the same person asked me to come up with something completely different in a painting of Emerald Toucanets from the Costa Rican rainforest. I jumped at the chance as they are such fabulous birds and I could crank their tropical colours up to maximum and concentrate on the light filtering through the leaves of the trees. He provided some photographic reference to work from as a trip to Costa Rica was out of the question. It is on my bucket list however so one day with luck I’ll get to see these lovely birds for myself.
Long-tailed-Tit ceramic bowl
I have done several paintings over the years of birds flying through hedgerows and woods, some of which can be seen in the gallery section. I was asked to use that same idea to decorate one of my hand thrown stoneware ceramic bowls. When you work on ceramic with slip or underglaze colours you can’t treat the medium in the same way you would oil paint. Things have to be simplified and you also have to keep in mind the colour changes which occur after firing. Keeping control of the final image can feel at times like trying to nail jelly to the ceiling – but hopefully enough of it sticks, if you see what I mean.