Here is a recent commission of the beautiful Jadie and her horse Sparky. When I was talking to Jadie’s Mum about the relationship between Jadie and Sparky, it took me back to being a little girl when I was lucky enough to have my own horse. People talk about their connection with dogs but the connection with a horse is really special too. They also symbolise freedom and escapism for me. That’s what I hoped I had captured in this illustration. At times I wished I could have jumped over the moon…
If you ever needed a crude sketch of a demon happy to be holding money, you got it….
I secured my first commission last week which was just brilliant. In excitement, I worked day and night on the piece and it was an absolute joy and privilege. It also brought with it the excruciating (well, for me) discussions of money and value.
Perhaps it is because I am English and that the awkwardness of money is part of my identity, or perhaps it is because it is so hard for me to believe in myself.
When I was approached by the individual and had to come up with a price, I suddenly seemed to develop some incredible, fast-acting virus. My pulse quickened, my palms were clammy, I lost the power of speech… What was I worth? Shouldn’t I just be thankful people were asking me to do something for them and give them my valuable time for free? Yeah, because civil engineers are constantly popping up a free building here and there… Those charitable surgeons are just waiting to for someone to have a myocardial infarction so they can negotiate a good price on the cut.
So I asked my Husband. He seems to be the wisest person I know. He also makes music, so he ‘gets’ how difficult it is valuing your time and creativity. He is tattooed (not in that ridiculous hipster way, but more of your old fashioned salty sea dog way). He said to me ‘When I go for a tattoo, they charge £50 an hour. Value what you do. If you don’t, no-one will’. What he said really resonated with me. There are some awesome tattoo artists out there, by the way, so no sleight on them at all. But why are people so unwilling to pay for art they love? I know that at the moment, it’s hard to put food on the table so I’m not talking about art being seen as a ‘necessity’. It remains a luxury for a lot of people and I completely get that. I am talking more about it’s value in relation to ‘other’ luxuries. People will pay obscene amounts for shoes and handbags, even tattoos, but art? Hmmm…
The commission also raised another interesting point. I asked the lady how she felt approaching me about prices and we talked about how awkward that conversation is and she said something that made me smile and totally hit the nail on the head. She said ‘Well, it’s ‘Art’ isn’t it?’ We both laughed. I get it! I have totally felt this way too. I would be so reluctant to approach someone myself as you don’t know what the ballpark is, you’re afraid of looking a fool, of not ‘getting it’. So from now on I am going to ask and if I can’t afford it, I am going to say so.
To anyone thinking of requesting an artist undertake a commission, please just ASK!
I keep squeezing that comfort zone, bending it, warping it… it’s so much fun to go back to the essence of all this and explore and have fun.
A little story about dead people:
My Husband and I love to spend our Sunday mornings getting up and going hunting at car boot sales for vintage art and records. We have got some absolute beauties in the past. But one day this summer, I came across a haul of artist materials: brushes, oils, pastels, technical pens… the list goes on, literally boxes of stuff. The guy wanted £10 for it all. I have bought a couple of coffees for not much less than that before. I duly handed over my money and picked up the stuff. He explained that an artist had died and they had come from a house clearance. I thought this was really moving. I spoke to the guy, the dead artist. Told him I would do his materials justice and how much I appreciated what he had left for me. It felt like a connection. And in the spirit of continuing to push my comfort zone, I had a go with his Conte Crayons last night. They flouresce! No, they don’t really. But they look like they do! I love them. Here’s the results. Thank you, dear anonymous dead artist friend. We’re keeping the circle of self expression going.
Think I also picked up a nice early Procol Harum record that day too…
I have started work on a few new pieces using very different materials for me. Canvas and arylics. A few years ago I handpainted shoes for some folks. I needed to use something that would work on canvas so I bought some acrylic paint. I was really unsure at first, because I never really enjoyed ‘painting’ at school. Isn’t it weird how your school experience shapes so much of your future self? I found the paints again recently and thought I’d have a go at a few little paintings to mess about with techniques and see what I liked and what I didn’t like. I used a fantastic site called pexel.com where you can use stock photos, free from copyright restrictions as a tool of reference. A lot of traditionalists don’t like working from photos and to be honest, I very rarely work from ‘life’, but for me, working from a photo allows me to build techniques and experience. I think my style, whether pen, ink, watercolour, acrylic is just a step beyond the ‘real’ so I’m not too fussed if the tones / tints aren’t classical. For me, art, in whatever form should be about enjoyment and expression, not rigid rules laid down in stone. Stone = cave art = ultimate human communication. If you like to draw, if you like to paint, or even if you have never tried but have always wanted to, do it. It doesn’t matter if someone tells you what you do is bad, or that they don’t like it. It has nothing to do with them. It’s about letting your ‘inside’ out for a bit.