Conception of a Commission

“The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man’s observation, not overturning it.” E. G. Bulwer-Lytton

How artists approach commissions may be as varied as their work. Ask a dozen their perspective, and the word headache frequently pops up.(commission definition click here)

Thou commissions are always challenging, aching heads may be avoided when both parties have discussed expectations/ abilities and completed thorough research. You wouldn’t hire a plumber to wire your house or employ a portrait artist to paint your Grandpa’s cornfield.

In my opinion, two key elements help determine a commission’s success.

  1. Communication
  2. Trust

I begin by clarifying terms of acceptance.(click here & scroll to bottom text).

11 prep for large commission

Occasionally clients request large canvas to be installed in a permanent location. In this situation, it’s my aspiration to offer an element of the unexpected to excel the painting in ways the client hadn’t imagined.

“Who could be so lucky? Who comes to a lake for water and sees the reflection of moon.” Rumi

P1250191 commission wall above- photo credit Sho-Arc Bureau of Architecture.

When Michael Shocrylas of Calgary’s Sho-Arc Bureau of Architecture called to confirm the commission that would hang in one of his incredible designs, we had been in communication for nearly a year.

Previously, I shipped work for the clients to view and test in their home. gathering direct feedback on palettes & compositions they were most drawn to.

The circumstance was unique, as the painting would be viewed from varying distances/ living areas, becoming an integral part of the house as much as the architectural features.

IMG_4859 commission wall centre

P1250132 commission wall left.

Some cultures believe original paintings are alive, breathing life into dwellings and the occupants within. In this way, art stands on it’s own, with unique benefits. (benefits of art, click here).

Art can be an active participant in habitats and we can use this knowledge to our advantage.

Therefore, I make deliberate choices in the process to create a dynamic piece, that will literally, interact and blossom within the space.

10 8×11 ink sketch

For this project, I collected as much information on the dwelling as possible. Michael & the clients were fantastic to work with delivering all material I required, including panorama photos and architectural drawings.

main room painting section view Credit Sho-Arc

Factors I considered before implementing the design/ composition:

  • Natural Light in the room and how it changes thru the day.
  • Installed lighting
  • Design of room/ architectural elements
  • The rooms purpose, such as: entertaining, living, dining. (in this case it would be all three).
  • Time of day occupants frequent the space.

Thou original art’s intention isn’t decorative, taking advantage of architectural elements and considering the room’s intention can bring the painting’s full potential to life.

My requirements for the painting:

It needed to:

  • Express & fulfill the client’s desire offering the feeling I infuse in my work: emotional experience connecting with the spirit of nature.
  • Embody energy, interest and tranquility
  • Captivate viewers from below ( with elements to draw the eye up) and yet have perspective/ interest from upper level.
  • Have a sense of anchoring on the left side and opening dimension on the right. A ‘lifting feel’ thru the space with architectural elements coming into play.
  • To embody a composition that would keep the eye moving thru out.

I hoped to achieve all of this by:

1) Using natural light play/ consideration from bank of windows to the right of the painting, pulling outdoors in/ indoors out/ – partly achieved using the angled roofline to meet with clouds lifting up & out.

28 underpaint near completion under painting

2) “Pockets” of light introduced thru the sky corresponding with how natural light moves in the room. The sky should feel as thou moving/ changing thru the day.


3) With composition in place, the light will ‘shine’ on the islands as if coming from windows on the right. Viewers will feel the expansion both of space & sky, continuation of sky/ tree line from outdoors, in.

4) The island on the left anchors the painting when seen from the upper level, creating interest & foreground. Viewers here should feel as thou merging with the painting, ‘walking into’ the landscape.

5) Contrasting reflections from the dark shoreline pull viewing from below, also creating synchronicity with walnut table below and wood elements in the room.

6) Multi levels of warm grey palettes in the clouds help coincide with stonework and natural elements in the room.

7) Bold drama is brought in with less fussy reflections. Viewing from a distance requires contrasting design to stand out. It’s also a play on the clean lines within the home.

8) The entire painting is under-layered with combinations of wall colour meant to give a feel of synchronicity.

Process described above pictured below. Under painting completed in acrylic with sponges to soften the many layers. oil was introduced 3 weeks into the painting.

29: working in oil 231





In closing, none of these details will be directly noticed by the viewer. The intention to offer these elements in a way that will be felt unconsciously, the painting will feel very natural in the space and give flow, emotional impact and visual interest for years to come.

photo of completion

~A special thank you to Michael, C. & S., it’s been an absolute pleasure and honour to work with you. What could have been a stressful project, instead, was a delightful challenge. You offered your complete trust, giving me freedom to do what I do best, and the wings creation needs to soar.~


Gratefully, not once was I asked “How long will it take you?” or “When will it be done?”

“Commissions tend to bend your mind into dimensions where you may not at first be prepared to go.” Robert Genn.