Studio Practices: Color Sketches

In a previous post, I explained the importance of strong preliminary sketches in the development of a painting. I feel this is particularly important if you are taking commissions.

Color Sketches

The second step in my process is to submit a full color sketch. In this instance, I used a set of art markers on marker paper. This is my first time working in this media on a large scale and I think it is a suitable way to present a color sketch. If I were working with a new client, I might have taken the extra time to work with a more subtle medium, like colored pencils, that would allow for greater variations in tone and value.

However, I have worked with this client on several projects and was confident that we could work out any changes with an understanding of the limitations in color variance caused by the markers. My only change at this point will be to tint the background colors by 50%, upon the client’s request. My initial intention when I submit oil paint samples was to add significantly more white to the pastel colors, so I am grateful for the feedback prior to putting together a sample palette.

Put the Work in Up Front

To those of you new to oil painting or working directly with clients on a commission, this may seem like a lot of extra work. It is a lot of work up front, but it has two main benefits. 1. It allows you to remain in regular contact with your client, solicit valuable feedback from them that will eliminate more complicated changes once the painting is started, and confirm that you both have a clear understanding of the amount of time and skill involved in creating a custom piece of art. 2. It gives you an opportunity to break up the total cost of a painting into installments. The benefits of this practice are twofold. First, it allows your client to make smaller payments, which may be a budgetary consideration and hurdle for some people who are new to commissioning fine art. Secondly, it guarantees you compensation throughout several stages of the process of completing a piece of art.

No one likes to talk about the possibility that a client might back out after several months of work on a project, but it is a reality. Thankfully, I have never had this experience, but I know artists who have and it is a heartbreaking experience. If you take the time to write up a legal contract and schedule partial payments at various stages throughout the process, you will at least be compensated for the material cost of the project and some of your time.

Personal Realizations

At this point in the project, I also realized I had left out one of the items discussed in my initial interview with the client about the composition. Preliminary and color sketches often help us see issues in composition and color/value that would be detrimental to the final piece of art and difficult to correct on the canvas (in this case).

In my case, I forgot a Ball jar of wooden spoons that have a significant symbolic meaning for the client. At this point, I will make a preliminary sketch of those items and add them to a final line drawing that will be approved prior to transferring it to the wood panel. In addition, it is time to start making color samples in order to submit a final color palette to my client. I will write more about the importance of this step and share my samples in a future post.

If you accept commission clients, how do you handle the negotiating process and preliminary planning?

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