The Shakey Handover!
There is no such thing as a confident artist. No matter how much confidence they appear to exude, underneath we are all quivering wrecks, nervous about how our work will be received.
If you know or are a portrait artist, taking on commissions, like me, you will probably empathise with what I'm about to write about, because there is nothing more nervewracking that drawing someone's beloved pet or children, those that they are closest to, who they know inside out. There is nothing more gut wrenchingly worrying about trying to portray their chosen subjects personality and character, as well as all their little imperfections (in the most flattering way of course!).
I have done countless commissions over the last 20 odd years and I have to say, it doesn't get any easier. As an artist I go through various stages during a commission:
- I'm really excited about doing this portrait and can't wait to get it started
- Yes, it's starting to really take shape and look good
- Oh what happened its starting to go wrong
- Its all wrong, I'll have to start again
- It's rubbish
- I'm rubbish
- It's not looking too bad
- The client probably won't like it
- The client loves it!
- I'm on top of the world!
Yes, these are the stages I go through and my poor family (particularly my husband) takes the brunt of it, I'm afraid to say. But the first and last stages make it all worth while.
I've just finished a commission for a couple that I have known for many years now. Their beautiful dog (pictured) has extremely pretty eyes and very silky fur and I spent hours endeavouring to portray that in the drawing. I got to the 'It's not looking too bad' stage and decided to email a photo of it to the client. As I was typing the email my hands were visibly shaking, my stomach was in knots and my heart pumping so hard my whole body was moving. I hit 'send' and said to myself, 'there's nothing I can do now, what will be, will be'. I felt sick for the whole 2 hours before a reply was received. They loved it!! That feeling you get when you've spent hours trying to make something perfect for someone, to then hear that it was all worth it is an immense relief.
I hate those negative feelings I get. I dread those middle stages of a commission as I know its going to be a real battle, but if I didn't have those feelings, that would be the time to stop doing commissions. These portraits need that passion, committment in them to make them the best they can be. If I didn't put my all into them, they wouldn't be any good. It would be like I can't be bothered.
I hand delivered the portrait today and to see their faces when they saw the original was the best feeling in the world. To know that I have given my all and done the best I can is enough for me, but when the recipient of your work is delighted, it's the cherry on the cake.
I suppose you can liken it to an actor, stepping out on the stage. They always say, if you don't have nerves, you shouldn't be an actor. It shows you want it to be perfect, you are giving your all and trying your best.
So rest assured all you artists and art lovers out there, when a piece of art is produced, it is produced with the artists whole heart and soul, which is what makes art so special.