I can now ( I hope) reveal details of a commission I painted in January which was a surprise present and you can never be certain who’s going to see these things. Although mostly I’m certain it’s not many!
The required painting was of a highland cow and the request was passed on by my friend Sheila Jones who paints delicate atmospheric scenes on silk. But, as she says, she can’t do Hairy. She recalled a card design of mine which I forwarded to the potential customer:
This Lady was in the Lake District and I took a couple of cards back to the farmer’s wife the year after I’d done the painting. Believe it or not, she recognised the subject from my painting – who says ‘seen one, seen them all’?
This was accepted as suitable credentials and I started some drawings (version one). Then I was asked to add a couple of calves. Now, I thought I had a photo of highland calves from a holiday in Scotland so I changed the format to landscape, added a couple and sent off the images for approval (version two):
I was a bit dismayed to read that the calves were not stocky or hairy enough – could I do anything about that? Watercolorists will realise the limited potential for change, particularly as I’d (over)confidently taken the paper off the stretching board. Sure enough, a photo of genuine highland calves (mine must have been cross-breds, maybe) revealed my error.
I brought the grass up higher to make the legs shorter and added quite a lot of hairy tufts and sent off version three. There followed a tentative suggestion that the cow in the background might like to have horns too? I explained that it was intended to be a second calf which would not yet have grown horns.
I was thus spared a fourth version and I believe my customer went off happy with this:
I’m reminded of a chef friend who used to say that the worst cooking job of all was that of a grill chef ‘because you invite the customer to tell you how to cook’. I think commissions are a bit like that – but hey – The customer is always right!