Ellen Starr Lyon

commited to creating art while being a full-time working mom

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completion of a commission

Last month I was asked by a friend of mine, on behalf of a group, to paint a specific image as a gift. I’ve never completed a commission for a group of people before but was thrilled. The painting is to be a gift based on a metaphor used in a conversation, “We’re definitely the cherry in a basket of apples and oranges!”It seems pretty straightforward and so will the final image, I suspect. But what isn’t are all the decisions made along the way.

Here is a short list of examples: what type of apples, what color and shape, how many of each fruit, what type of surface, what kind of “basket”, to add or not add a textile? The size was predetermined so one piece of the puzzle began it all. I went to the grocery and handpicked my fruit models and then sifted through my collection of bowls, baskets and fabric. Long before a brush touches the canvas, there is set-up. Set-up is composing the still life: adjusting folds, items, lighting and shadows. Then in turn, composing of the painting: balance of objects, light, line and spacing on the actual picture plane. I’ve included a photograph of me painting, it shows both the set-up and the final composition. Sometimes, these are quite different. I have also included a photograph of the first composition which I later abandoned and started over from scratch. It may seem like a small change but was huge to me. The bowl of fruit needed to make a stronger impact and in a practical sense, the star of the show, the cherry, needed to be larger. For me it comes down to what feels right.

Commissions are a great way to partner with an artist whose work you admire but to also add something of yourself, whether it is an idea for an image or an object that has significant meaning. I know that I am happy to participate and judging from the big smiles above, the result can hit just the right note.

If interested in commissioning a painting, large or small, please contact me at ellenstarrlyon@gmail.com .