Tube-Wringers: Late to the Party. Again.

After Art School, I started shopping with various mail order companies, since I wasn't living that near my art school, in whose proximity were a number of good stores. In their catalogs, I always saw the ubiquitous Tube Wringer advertised. As a student, I couldn't afford such $20 luxuries. And, convinced that my diligence and effort in squeezing every bit of expensive pigment out of my tubes was enough, I later never bothered.

After randomly coming across some reviews, I decided to finally plunk down for one. Ha. Well, let's just say after using it once, I proceeded to pull out every tube of Acrylic and Oil paint I had--even plastic tubes, and put them through. It was not only lots of fun (I'm easily amused), but the thing works. I was advised to skip the plastic and go straight for the metal one, which I did. I so enjoyed seeing the tubes flatten out so much that I even put my toothpaste through it.

Above is a large 150ml tube of white paint. White paint is fairly inexpensive, but a standard 37ml tube of, say Cadmium Yellow, Orange, or Red can go for $15-20. A premium color like Cobalt Blue, which is probably my favorite blue, runs for $25-34 for a small tube. Just finishing up my existing partially-used tubes will probably earn back the cost of purchase. For the record, my paints in Art School were usually cheap student-grade brands. As soon as I was able I abandoned them all.

Who was I kidding? There is no way my own efforts, fastidious as they may have been, could flatten a tube like that! So yeah, if you paint, get one. Now. Don't be like me.

How to Commission an Original Painting

This article is for those who want to commission a unique painting to hang on their wall. If you'd like to know how to commission an illustration for your project, that information is here!

An illustrator will work for almost anyone who will put food on his table, and the more food, the more likely it'll be your project rather than someone else's. If your project will--gasp--even pay rent, you'll move higher on the list. That means that while big public companies like Blizzard or Hasbro may contract an illustrator like myself during a given year, there's always room for Joe or Jane Collector to buy a chunk of time at those companies' expense. And don't think it's impossible--Blizzard and Hasbro don't necessarily pay what you may think. If you can already afford an original piece of art by an illustrator, you're already in the ballpark or very competitive (depending on how the illustrator prices their original art).

This case study involves me going to Illuxcon (2009), at which I was a very last-minute addition, and during which I sold the original painting for Balance. So imagine my surprise when a few days later another collector wrote asking why it wasn't on my website on Monday when it was on the past Friday. I had to disappoint him with the news. However, we started talking and decided a private commission could be just the ticket. I was very happy with Balance--as I showed before, the project was particularly ripe with ideas. I thought it would be interesting to do a second, alternate version of the painting. There were aspects of the first painting that, a year later, I already knew I could improve on if I could to it again. The buyer could also get some input into this customized original painting, could get to play Art Director, in some sense. We decided we'd take many of the compositional and thematic elements and create a second version, without actually copying the first. I'd paint it as large as the first one (18x24", which was my largest Magic painting to date) and he'd get a one-of-a-kind piece he had a hand in creating. The price for such a commission is in the mid-to-upper range of comparable paintings of similar size, depending as usual on complexity.

No one ever sees thumbnails during the process but me. Because, well, look!

After putting down a small deposit, I began by digging through the initial batch of thumbnails, and worked up a few new ones. While none of the original thumbnails were quite right in their original conceptions, a year later, a couple still excited me enough to pursue them in a new direction, so I did just that, continuing work on them. The thumbnail at right can be seen in the earlier post in an earlier state (1st row, 4th from L). The one at L was from the new batch.  I then worked up these two as pencil drawings. As with business clients, I didn't show the thumbnails you're seeing here--they are mainly for me to have a framework to work from. In the original Magic assignment, the scale was supposed to be resting on her sword, but I proposed having it hanging off the sword, because it made more sense and would look cooler. For the new version, I opted to just have it held in-hand, eliminating that idea, which was not entirely free of awkwardness even after I'd made my suggested changes. Other things we decided to keep were the general warm palette, the quality of the armor (as if another set were ordered from the same armorer, perhaps), and the slightly ecstatic look of the face, with the magic effect spilling out from closed eyes. From there I added other details--hint of background, patterning on the wings, additional clothing underneath. And where the first balance is broken apart and reforming, the new one is cracked--either about to break up or in the final moments of re-fusing.

The customer got to choose from these two concepts, just like any client.

The customer got to choose from these two concepts, just like any client.

As with an Art Director, I worked up the two drawings into digital greyscale studies for the collector to look at and comment on. If not convinced with either and unwilling to work up another set, there was the option to end the project at that point, and the deposit would pay for the purchase of the 2 drawings. It was proposed that we take some details from sketch 2 and combine them into sketch 1.

Armor, wardrobe, background changes, and rework of the scale, which was a sort of placeholder originally.

Armor, wardrobe, background changes, and rework of the scale, which was a sort of placeholder originally.

I reworked the drawing and got approval. I sent the pencil drawings to him after that, as the deal included his getting them to keep. At that point, a second payment was made, securing my time while I actually painted the piece. So I got to work, and thoroughly enjoyed the process. This is one advantage to personal commissions--the artist gets more creative room to breathe, not necessarily being under sometimes tight, awkward directions to create a scene based on particular requirements.

When the painting was basically done, but before varnishing it, I sent a photo of it for approval. A few small tweaks were requested, and they were made. I also made adjustments to a few small areas that I wanted to improve last-minute. After getting approval on those, I varnished the painting and scanned it, sending him the final version. The third and last installment was paid and I shipped the painting off! If a few months were needed to pay the last installment, that would've also been fine, I would have just held onto the painting until payment was completed.

"Balance 2" 18x24" oil on paper over panel sold

"Balance 2" 18x24" oil on paper over panel

I got to do a nice piece, and the buyer got a chance to get their hands in the creative process, and receive a very special piece of artwork. It was paid in installments and with regular communication, keeping risk low for both parties. Private commissions, then, are quite often win-win situations of the best kind. The new owner was even so kind as to send a photo of it framed. This is always welcomed, as I love to see how my progeny end up:

Nice frame, BOLD wall color!

Nice frame, BOLD wall color!

I've only done a small handful of private commissions over the years, but that may be because I've not brought it up much, or mentioned it on my site, until now. Generally, copyrights are not included--you're simply commissioning a physical painting you will own. While a private commission can be of just about anything we can imagine together, the idea of creating "alternate art" for a Magic painting was novel and worth doing again. After all, some of my best pieces often had 1-2 competing sketches that weren't chosen, or were fertile ideas begging for further treatment--there's no reason I wouldn't want to do an alternate art for quite a few of them, especially once the original painting is gone. Back in the day, some of the old masters would actually take commissions for full-sized copies of their own works! They may have painted a 4x8 foot painting and sold it to a museum, so a collector would contact the artist and pay them to repaint the entire thing again from scratch. It would be difficult for me to want to do that, just for lack of sheer interest (although at the rates they commanded, I could be persuaded!), but the idea of variant art is great.

Timeframe varies depending on what I have going on. A month at the minimum, but with back-and-forth emailing and other assignments it could take longer. This project popped on the scene in the midst of other projects, so took a couple months to get through. 

Interested in possibly doing one of your own? Drop me a line!


I Haz Cat pt.5

He's back!

Happy 11th birthday. We don't actually know his birthday, but we got him from a rescue at what was believed to be 8 weeks old, on June 1, so we rounded back to April Fool's as it seemed appropriate somehow.

I did a few watercolors of Kirby back when he was 1, back in 2000 sometime. I never scanned them and subsequently forgot about them. I never work in watercolor and don't even own any now. I think this was in fact the last time I touched them. I painted these rather small (maybe 3" wide) using two colors, a brown and a purple.