Anatomy of A Commission - Show Me the Money

Kathy Park is a wonderful "soul", artist, writer and friend who lives in the San Luis Valley. She and her husband, Henry Wolbert, also an artist, live in the village of Juaroso- about an hour from me and we consider ourselves almost neighbors. Our paths crossed on Saturday, and as ever, the conversation focused on the "artist life". I asked her to write down a story she had shared so that I could post it here.
The best commission I ever took happened like this. A friend visited my studio and noticed a chunk of lignum vitae wood, a beautiful, dense, oily wood. It won't float it's so heavy. Generally it's used for sculpture mallets, not the sculpture itself. I picked it up and handed it to her so she could feel its heft. She was suitably impressed, and surprised me by saying, "I want whatever you carve out of this." She handed the wood back to me, reached in her purse, and pulled out a wad of cash. "Here's your down payment." We settled on a subject - a woman so strong and centered she'll never burn out - but she wasn't that interested in seeing even a sketch, much less a plaster model, which was unnerving to say the least. Periodically she'd hand me another wad of cash. It's what got Henry and me through a very lean time, in fact. She ended up loving the piece, (and paying a New York price for it) and it went into her office in a women's prison where she served as the chief medical officer, the main doctor. She told me it helped her every day, and a whole lot of other women too.
Sounds like a perfect commission, and I doubt I'll ever get one again so good. Even so, and even though you may not see it, I know in my gut that the sculpture suffers from a cloud of cash around it. Hard to explain, but the fact that it already "belonged" to someone else made me tight, anxious, and preoccupied, all very bad states of mind for an artist. I felt beholden, obligated. What if the sculpture didn't please her? What if I busted it in the process of carving it? So, although it's beautiful, it's also a little tight, a little conservative, a little stilted, not my best work.
Check out Kathy and Henry's, individual, as well as collaborative work at www.dreampowerartworks.com
The "cloud of cash" - neither good, or bad - but like the elephant in the center of the room, it can be hard to get around.
And below is the 2nd part of my 3 painting commission. This one has been given final approval; the painting I posted last week is needing some additional detail work and the third piece is waiting in the wings. So far I am on target for my deadline and I am looking forward to painting out on Saturday at the Alamosa ArtWALK.


A Brief Commercial Break For Alamosa ArtWALK

THIS Saturday, March 28, is the 7th Annual Alamosa ArtWALK.
It is a good excuse to visit beautiful San Luis Valley and enjoy Alamosa's 2009 celebration of art, music and spoken word. There will be painting demos, and displays of photography, pottery, fiber arts, sculpture, and stained glass with artists on hand, 10 am - 5 pm.
ArtWALK locations are within walking distance of Main Street and Programs and maps are available in downtown Alamosa stores and restaurants.
Get your program stamped at 12 or more event locations to enter the drawing for a $200 art gift-certificate. Prize Drawing will be 5 pm at the San Luis Valley Brewing Company, 631 Main.
My work, including this painting "Valley Spring" - used for the ArtWALK promotion, will be on display at the
San Luis Valley Brewing Company.
For more info click on - Alamosaartwalk.org