Ben Hicks and I have been friends since our very first Art Show together about three years ago. We both liked all things ocean and surfing, we were both making a career of something we loved, we were both expecting little groms of our own soon... We still have so much in common, and so does our art. When I started this painting of Boca and Deerfield, "The Hatchling Charge", it didn't immediately occur to me that I was painting Ben's life as a photographer. As most of you know, his main subjects are waves and sea turtles and Boca is his main stomping ground. I am always so inspired by the way he captures the character of those babies charging it, making their way to the ocean after already digging out of a shell, AND a deep hole in the sand! I try to create a character of my own while painting, but Ben is revealing that baby's actual character, and telling the story in the moment. It is no secret that a painter needs good reference photos to make the composition, subjects, colors, and shadows believable in his or her paintings, but I look to Ben for more than that. I want my paintings to also open up a new view into the lives of these creatures that we share our beaches with. How does he do it?
We may be similar, but we each have very different ways of expressing ourselves through visual art, and I thought it would be fun to describe the "behind the scenes", or "in the minds of" the artwork with paintings and photographs side by side. Ben is joining in, and will be writing in italics.
"Photography is in the moment, painting is in your head"
When I start a painting, it is a little different than a normal painter. It's more like a sculptor actually, because I am looking to the nautical chart to reveal opportunities, focal points, positive and negative space that I can use, etc. I usually have a subject in mind, but sometimes, have to change it if the chart doesn't have the right space for it. It's not like I couldn't just do it anyway, but my goal is to create harmony with my painting in the chart. I want you to feel likes it belongs there. These babies were meant to hatch, this surfer was meant to get tubed… I get a vision in my head after staring for a while and then I get as many photo references as I can to support my vision. Sometimes I'm lucky enough to have taken my own, sometimes I look to my friends like Ben. It's important to me not to ever completely copy a photographer, because that's encroaching on their art realm. I do however, take three or more photos of a wave, for example, and after sketching ideas that might fit the chart space, I create a composite of those photos in the final painting. Waves especially are a subject that needs a lot of practice to be understood. I look to other artists like Ed Obermeyer, for my wave painting crushes, and learn through observing and practicing. All the visual memory, photo references, skills, experiences, color knowledge and practice, floats around up there, and then comes together where the chart points it to. I can say some of it is definitely in the moment as decisions are made, but for the most part, I disappear in my head.
When I started out as an image maker many of my nature scenes were very spontaneus spur of the moment scenes that I put myself into. I started to realize the stories behind the images were impacting a lot of people especially with sea turtles. With so few opportunities a year to photograph hatchings, each new season I prepared more and more to be as ready as possible when I got my opportunity. I spend hours in and out of the water waiting for the moment to capture. Within the last 3 years I really started thinking of ways to create new images in ways people haven't seen before. There are thousands of failed images, but when I get one it is such an inspiration for me to bring the moment into the world. Images can tell a thousand words and for me to be able to create those words with an image that can impact the way people feel about the environment then my motivation generates even more inspiration! I do still have ideas in my head for specific photos, besides those taken in the moment. One of my recent successes, I had been trying to capture for almost three years!
"Editing photography vs. editing with watercolor painting"
The camera can only recreate a certain amount of what I see. Some images I have to adjust color temperature or exposure to make sure the image was how I saw it. Subtle editing is very important and key to sharing images as how they were.
Watercolor is unforgiving because your "white" is the paper. I don't even get to start with white sometimes because that isn't the color of that part of the chart. The sea turtles in this painting don't have an ounce of white on them because they are on the land part of the chart, where everything was already tan. I have to play with shadows and temperatures of colors to make it look like high lights and leave spaces empty. If I overwork it, and cover my highlight, there is no getting that back… I either work with it and make it look like it's suppose to be there with other shadows, a change in composition, or scrap it and start over.
"We both show you, the viewer, what we want you to see"
I definitely keep the main goal in mind. I want your eyes to wander the whole painting to see new details and moments with the subjects and the locations every time you look. These long, skinny paintings are a challenge because there is so much space to do that, and I don't want to create chaos, but baby sea turtles climbing out of the sand don't march in twos or anything! I can change your focus with specific details on some turtles, where others are more obscure. I can use the large compass, and obviously the giant sun radiating colors to bring your eye back to the center. I can even paint some subjects literally pointing back and forth to each other, so your eye darts back and forth. Oh the power! Seriously though, as cliche as it is, I'm trying to give you a new perspective.
I often will think about the viewer but also mostly consider perspectives that have yet to be seen in the world. The audience is important but the stories behind a single image can be told in so many ways. I often have split seconds to consider the message I want to send, the story I could potentially tell and so on when shooting.
"We both know our subject well, in different ways"
My subject is my passion. If I wasn't a photographer I would still be out in nature around or in the ocean exploring. It is a privilege that I get invited to see and photograph some amazing scenes. Understanding every aspect of the subjects that I photograph will only help me understand their habitat and when it is appropriate for me to have a camera within the moment. Nature is very fragile and I strive to not impact anything that I photograph.
I have been painting for a long time now, and I have favorite techniques and ways to make the magic happen in the painting, but it really comes down to getting to know my subjects. I think that artists like to choose a series to literally obsess over something they want to understand more. Though the specifics of that obsession change regularly, the ocean is something that I can't seem to shake (not that I would even want to). I haven't seen the bottom, and observed as often as I want to lately after having another baby and trying to raise two young boys at home, but I can pull up the sight of it in my mind in an instant. The sight is only a small part of it too, all my senses are caught up in trying to know and understand what it's like to be in that world, and how to capture and recreate that feeling.
"Our motives are the same- love of nature and love of life"
Anyone can see that. I think I touched on it up there as well, but I want people to feel connected to these creatures and protective of them! I love living here, and enjoying all the wild life we share this place with. I want my kids to get to do the same!
How can you not like nature? Well there are a lot of people that don't respect it! Everyday I try to continue creating epic moments that I can share my love for nature and the ocean environment. The energy while being out in is like no other! Both Carly and I have created our families in a time where understanding our environment and respecting it is so important. Everyday we teach our little ones more and more about it and share our love to embrace it!
Special thanks to Ben Hicks for contributing to this article, and for all that he does to help us see and understand more of the natural world! You can purchase prints of these photographs and more on his website.
Here are a couple more detail shots of "The Hatchling Charge." Email me at Carly@CarlyMejeur.com if you would like one of the canvases in the limited edition of 20. They are 26"x73".
It is with great pleasure, that I introduce this year's Small Business Saturday Highlight. As you all know, I like to share someone that is making a difference, to help us all think about the products we purchase, or our own businesses on this day. Allison Randolph is literally giving a voice to the ocean and has taught me about so many great people, products, and movements through her many podcast interviews. I love to paint and listen about how these new surfboard fins will send research back to scientists, or how a community leader is fighting against toxic algae blooms, to name a few. They are so inspiring and leave you feeling amped about the future, which doesn't always happen when people talk about ocean conservation. Thanks for sharing with us today, Allison!
Tell us a little about you and your background/schooling.
I was born and raised in Stuart, FL and thanks to my parent's love for the ocean, growing up I practically spent more time underwater than above. In school I was involved in environmental groups and had several science fair projects that went to the state level. All of this eventually brought me to Florida Institute of Technology where I earned my degree in Marine Biology. During my time at Florida Tech, and for a short time after I graduated, I had the opportunity to work as a researcher on a number of different ocean science projects, from corals to sharks, and while I love science and know that it is vitally important to furthering our understanding of the planet that sustains us, I felt as though my passion and talent could be better utilized as an Ocean Science and Conservation Communicator. In other words, I went from being a Marine Biologist to being someone that jumps at any and all opportunities to talk about the ocean, teach people about the ocean, and help protect and conserve the ocean. As Ocean Allison, I strive to be a voice for the ocean.
What made you want to get into podcast interviews, and what is your main goal or mission for them now?
I initially got the idea to produce a podcast when a number of factors started to converge all at the same time. For one, I started actually listening to podcasts, and soon began to realize that what I really wanted to listen to (ocean science/conservation stories) just simply wasn't out there. So at least to me, it seemed as though there was a need. Second, I was meeting an incredible amount of people through events, conferences, social media, and collaborations, that were all doing such positive things in ocean science, conservation, and education and I felt compelled to highlight their work. Third, while I was seeing so much "doom and gloom" cast over ocean issues in most media outlets, I felt like my real-life experiences were showing me that there is in fact a lot of positive work being done to help the ocean. And so Ocean Allison Podcast was created! My two main goals with Ocean Allison Podcast are to highlight people from all walks of life creating positive change for the ocean, and to inspire listeners to care deeply for our blue planet.
Has your network of friends and people you've interviewed help inspire some collaborations?
Yes! Usually a pretty deep bond is formed after going through a ~30 minute interview with someone, so there have been many instances where I've collaborated with one of my podcast guests in a different capacity later on. Or often I collaborate with someone on a project or initiative and then after meeting them, ask them to be a guest on the podcast, so it works both ways. I've also been fortunate enough to collaborate with listeners that reached out to me. It's truly created an amazing network of ocean advocates!
Tell us about Patreon and how it works?
Patreon is a subscription based funding platform that allows people to financially support creators, like me, as someone who is regularly producing podcast episodes. Although listeners can access all of my podcast episodes for free, if a listener wants to help ensure that the podcast episodes continue by supporting the creator, they can pledge a specific dollar amount per episode. Basically, if someone pledges $2 per podcast episode, each time I produce a new episode (once a month) they are charged $2. For me, Patreon is great because it allows me to provide free content to anyone and everyone, and in turn grow a large, interested audience, while also getting at least a bit of compensation for the work I do to produce this inspiring ocean content. Big thanks to all of my current Patreon supporters, it truly does help keep the podcast episodes coming!
How else can we support the cause?
I'm always open to new opportunities to collaborate on all things ocean science, conservation, and education so feel free to get in touch via my website oceanallison.com. I love to facilitate ocean education via K-12 and University classroom visits (in person or via Skype), as well as work with science groups from institutions and non-profits to help communicate ocean science research to the public using digital media tools like videos and social media.
Where can people hear all of your latest podcasts?
All Ocean Allison Podcast episodes can be found on iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud, and oceanallison.com. Happy listening ocean lovers!
Thanks again for all that you do!!
It is with great pleasure that I introduce this year's Small Business Saturday Interview with Brittany Webster of Planet Love Life!
Tell us about you and your husband and when and how you were inspired to start this.
My husband and I were inspired to start Planet Love Life after our first trip to Eleuthera, Bahamas, in 2014. Unlike beaches in the US, most of Eleuthera’s are remote, and the roads to access them are unpaved and extremely rocky or covered in sugar soft pink sand. Getting back there is not an easy feat, to say the least. When we encountered the beach for the first time, we were astonished by what laid before our eyes. The entire beach was strewn with plastic debris as far as we could see. After we started to look around and sort through it, we came to the realization that not only was the majority of the debris rope and nets but it was also in quite good condition and was still usable in one way or another. From massive piles so tangled together and buried so deep in the sand to tiny strands wrapped up in the mats of sargassum that make up the wrack line. We weren’t exactly sure how yet but we decided to bring as much of it as we could fit into our suitcases with us back home, and knew the right idea would come, eventually. At the time, my husband and I happened to be reading a book called the Blue Mind, by Dr. Wallace J. Nichols. The premise to the book is a how we are all connected to the water and our planet is represented by a blue marble. We were inspired by Blue Mind, and the Blue Marble Project, the notion that an item such as a marble or even a bracelet could not only have a beautiful meaning and story behind it, but could also be good for the planet and our oceans. After much experimenting, creating prototypes, and testing them out to make sure they would hold up to our active outdoor lifestyle, we came up with the current design for our marine debris awareness bracelets. We then decided that it was extremely important to not just educate on the perils of marine debris, but to also bring light to the hundreds of species that are injured or perish each year from the effects of marine debris, so each bracelet is named for a specific animal reminiscent of that particular rope.
What is the process of collecting and repurposing like?
Collecting, or salvaging the rope is much like going shelling or looking for sharks teeth, but instead of finding shells or fossils, we look for ALDFG, or abandoned, lost or derelict fishing gear. Which basically means old fishing rope and nets that have been left behind, or broken and drifted away. Just like with shells, depending on what coastline you are walking, you will find different “species” of rope and nets in different colors and thicknesses. We remove it off the beach and then begin the arduous process of untangling and sorting it into usable and non-usable piles. Some of the rope is too far corroded by photo-degradation, wave action, and the friction of rocks & sand and becomes too frayed and brittle to be used. For those of you that may ask what exactly that’s like… imagine untangling a mass of Christmas lights and then going through each section, bulb by bulb, inch by inch, to see if it still works. It may sounds awful to some, but to us, it’s like a fun puzzle. Once we figure out what rope is best for bracelets and what rope is best for other purposes, and get it back to our workshop, we begin soaking and washing it. Soaking and washing in itself it a process, to make sure that it doesn’t smell like the ocean anymore.
After a couple rounds of washing, rinsing, and then laying the rope out to dry in the sun, we start sorting yet again. This time to organize the rope into piles of similar colors and begin cutting the rope into appropriate lengths. Once everything is cut, we start assembling the bracelets and keychains, getting them ready to be shipped all over the world.
Where have you held some beach clean ups and how can others get involved? …and give us more info on the brand ambassador program.
We have personally held clean-ups on Eleuthera every year since our inception, and twice this year. We plan to continue our work in the Bahamas and are organizing a large cleanup project for Cat Island, Bahamas, in 2017. We also work with other like-minded organizations that host their own beach clean up events & programs, such as: Sea to Shore Alliance, Bahamas Plastic Movement, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, Marine Lab, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, Restore America’s Estuaries and other marine conservation non-profits.
Individuals can get involved by sending us rope that they find on the beaches or waterways. They can ship the rope and nets they have collected to us, and we will turn them into our awesome accessories. We keep some to sell and then send some back to the donator as a token of our gratitude for their dedication to help keep our oceans clean.
Our brand ambassador program is a great way to live the Planet Love Life lifestyle by spreading the love and positivity through daily actions. We encourage all of our audience to rethink and reduce the single-use plastics and their impact on the environment through small, daily choices and actions. Such as to REFUSE using unnecessary plastics, REDUCE your Eco-footprint, and REUSE & RECYCLE your trash. Like skipping the straw and plastic ware when dining out, bringing reusable shopping bags whenever at the store, carry a refillable container for your water, support your local community by volunteering & participating in beach, river, park & other cleanups. Through social media, we encourage our ambassadors to post about their positive actions and things they are doing to make a difference whether it is recycling, using sustainable products, or participating in beach cleanups. We promote leading by example and inspire others to do the same. Our ambassadors can earn Sand Dollar Points and redeem them for discounts and free stuff! They can also share our pages with their friends and family and help educate on the issue of marine debris.
Tell us about the meaning and symbolism in your brand name and logo
Each part of Planet Love Life’s symbol has its own meaning and together represent a greater whole & purpose. The circle stands for our planet, our Mother Earth. The heart, for the love and respect that we have for her. The ankh, for all the life that resides within her and that which she provides. We have but only one planet that which we call home and we must honor, love, and respect her. We are all made of love and have a light within ourselves to shine out upon the world, acting as beacons of positivity to others. And we have but only one life, one chance to leave the world a better place than we found it.
Tell us where and how we can purchase
We currently sell all of our marine debris awareness accessories through our website, www.PlanetLoveLife.com . Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with our latest styles and promotions. On #CyberMonday, we will offer 20% off your entire purchase. Last but not least, on #GivingTuesday, we will feature the non-profit organizations that we work with through our Charity Charms program. Which, for an additional fee, you can add a charm of the charity of your choice to any bracelet and we then donate a portion directly to the charity of your choice. A couple of the great organizations that we currently work with are Bruckner Chase – Ocean Positive and Restore America’s Estuaries. We will soon be releasing the latest additions to the Charity Charms Program, such as Sharks 4 Kids, The Bahamas Plastic Movement, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, Blue Mind and we look forward to growing this program to include organizations that are likeminded.
One Life, One Love, One Planet
Rob & Brittany Webster
Planet Love Life, Inc.
I know it sounds hard, trust me, I didn't know how it would even be possible with a little boy who eats all day long and needs tons of snacks on hand, but I LOVE my reusable sandwich bags. They have made lunch and snack time so much fun, and they're really not hard to clean at all. You can machine wash them, or wash them inside out with hot water and soap while doing dishes, and then air dry.
The best part is, there are more and more styles and brands popping up everyday while the quality and convenience improves. My favorite brand so far is the The Art of Lunch, (pictured here holding yummy snacks for my two beautiful nieces). The owner of the brand, Troy Wiley, uses designs from artists all over the world so that your lunch tote and sandwich baggies are beautiful, while support working artists. To make this one step BETTER, and in honor of World Oceans Day this year, we have teamed up to create a limited edition line of lunch totes and matching sandwich baggies with one of my turtle paintings on it, and are donating the proceeds to The Loggerhead Marinelife Center of Juno Beach, FL. You can pre-order your limited edition tote and sandwich baggies here, and purchase knowing that you'll be helping an organization dedicated to the rehabilitation, research and education of sea turtles. They should be coming out in the next month or so, so keep your eyes open!
As most of you already know, I'm very motivated to give back to the creatures that inspire me most, and I'm so excited to be able to collaborate on a product that will actually make a noticeable difference on the environment as it eliminates tons of plastic. I believe it's something that people can easily use to change their routine and better the ocean, but it will also remind us daily of the fight against plastic and marine debris, as we try to come up with even more ways to help. Let's make conservation a trend together!
That's my "Wave for Change" for World Ocean's Day, Join me and/or tell me about yours!
Watch the video here.
(Brands pictured above from left to right: Art of Lunch, Logan and Lenora, Itzy Ritzy, Itzy Ritzy, and an inside out, air drying Itzy Ritzy bag on top).
This is Katelyn! Katelyn is trying to make this radical bus above a reality, but she needs our help! The bus will be a huge asset to our community as it travels to schools, local beach clean ups, festivals, community events and businesses to spread knowledge about how to make a difference for our favorite playground in Florida. Please consider donating through her crowd rise campaign and watch the fun, informative video here. Every little bit helps!
Click here for a link to an awesome podcast about it by Ocean Allison.
Learn more about Sea to Shore and their mission here.
This painting was a huge honor to create. Not only was it exciting and challenging to fit all of the historic symbols of Florida, but I also loved the fact that it was a very special, and thoughtful gift from a sister to her brother, and the brother just so happens to be Harvey E. Oyer III. If you have children in Elementary school here in Florida, you will no doubt learn about him soon, as your child embarks on a journey through Florida history while reading "The Adventures of Charlie Pierce."
These books are used for 4th grade reading throughout several counties, and after voraciously tearing through one of them to prepare for this commission, I know why. They are incredible, historical accounts of places that we all know and love, in a time that many of us know nothing about. Some of the stories have been passed down through five generations, because Oyer is actually the great-grand nephew of Charlie Pierce himself! Each subject in the Painting represents one of the books that he has written: "The American Jungle," "The Last Egret," "The Last Calusa," and his newest addition, "The Barefoot Mailman."
Again, it was such an honor and great pleasure to work on something like this, and to have had the opportunity to learn more about our history through such an entertaining page-turner. I actually purchased one for my jupiter history buff friend, and all four for my son, (he may be far from reading age yet) but I know he will thoroughly enjoy them one day! Check out the book series website here, and learn more about the author.
Thank you, Christian, for trusting me to make something special for your brother to commemorate his amazing works.
Mejeur family photo from Cashiers, NC- Thanksgiving 2015
This year has been awe- inspiring, life-changing, incredible… I could go on. I don't even know where to begin to describe it, but I have kept some bullet points to remind me of the milestones, and I just wanted to share them with you as we all look back at 2015. I worked really hard to be able to live off of my own artwork, and I don't think I ever honestly thought it was possible to do full-time, but thanks to you all, here we are! I hope it inspires you to do that thing you always dreamed of in 2016, and to keep living the dream!
In no particular order:
-Painted 27 commissions in 2015 along with several originals like this new favorite.
-Collaborated on 16 shark species with Dr. Gary Rose
-Collaborated with Stream2Sea, Sea2Shore Alliance and Nalu Tribe on a huge, marine debris contest and giveaway through Instagram!
-Collaborated with IS projects on some super cute cloth diapers
-Started selling prints at several new locations and shops including Loggerhead Marine Life Center in Juno, Key West Dive Center, and Island Decor in Tavernier
-Exhibited in 12 art shows including my first west coast art show
-Grew my email newsletter subscribers to 590 people! (You can join too on my home page!)
-Hardcore nested on this nursery to get ready for Cody's arrival
-Gave birth to a beautiful baby boy on March 16th
-Started painting full-time instead of teaching while staying home with my son!
I am so thankful for all of you, and I sincerely hope that you have an amazing year of your life in 2016!
Happy New Year, my friends!
I feel so honored to have worked with this wonderful woman to tell her story through a painting. Kay reminds us that love isn't always easy, and if you truly love someone, you have to work really hard on it sometimes. Through thick and thin, sickness and health, love will prevail! As you are reading, see if you can find the symbolism that we used, and feel free to share your interpretations.
"My husband and I have been married for 23 years now. Soon is the 26th anniversary of our first date. I wanted this commission to celebrate our life together. A few years ago we went through our first really rocky spot. It was very difficult time and honestly I wasn’t sure, at times, we would make it through that. It was a stormy time in our marriage and lasted much longer than we would have liked. I had a great friend who supported me through that and honestly was instrumental in making sure I stayed level headed to ensure Rick & I worked through this tough spot.
We've worked extremely hard to overcome those difficult two years, focusing on each other, keeping each other first and most important every single day. We came through that storm honestly better than ever. In Jan 2014 we renewed our vows in Key West and have been traveling and really enjoying each other since. This is where the attachment to Key West came from. We also have 3 children, 24, 22, 21 and have a few special places in Florida. We spent lots of sunsets in Pensacola. Destin is also a special place. We spent a few anniversaries there, recently, as well. My first real trip out on the sea was from AJ’s in Destin and Rick loves boats. He was in the Navy for the first 6 years of our marriage. That anniversary on the sailboat was a special one.
Thank you so much for sharing, Kay. I hope it inspires us all to work hard on our relationships when the time comes, to make it through the storm to the sunny skies ahead!
Happy Small Business Saturday! This year I bring you Stream2Sea creator and founder, Autumn Blum! I am so impressed by all of her products and the fact that I can use them without worrying about the affect on sensitive corals that I swim, dive and surf with. I know that so many of you are water people too, and what a difference a product like this can make for our reefs!
I’m Autumn and I’m a cosmetic chemist, scuba instructor and environmentalist. At 23, I started a little natural skin care company. Always under-funded and boot-strapping, I eventually grew the distribution to include millions in sales through more than 3,000 retail outlets in the US and abroad. In 2009, I sold Organix-South and the TheraNeem brand to a publicly traded company. I worked for them for a few years—it was fascinating learning how the ‘big boys’ operate—and I truly enjoyed most of the work. But I was restless. I’m an entrepreneur. My friends and colleagues all knew this and kept asking what I was going to do next.
I figured it out when by boyfriend said, “I’m going diving in Palau. Want to come along?” Several months later, we were diving off a live-aboard yacht in one of the most remote dive destinations in the world. The water was spectacular, and it was definitely the healthiest coral reef I had ever seen. After every dive, I would watch the other divers shower on the dive deck, washing their hair with commercial products, suds rinsing right overboard. Then they would slather silicone-based conditioners with nasty preservatives in their hair, and a tropical sunscreen or some aerosol-based product all over their body. An hour later, we’d all jump back in the ocean to do it over again.
This can’t be good, I thought. I had read the reports of sunscreen actives being implicated in coral bleaching. I knew the ingredients in these products would never pass muster in a health food store, and I certainly didn’t like the idea of them going into these pristine waters.
When I got home, I started looking for eco-conscious products I might use on my next trip or dive. I found a few varieties in the local dive shops stating reef safe or reef friendly. Then, I read the ingredients and was shocked to find oxybenzone, octylmethoxy cinnamate and parabens in many of them!
Knowing that every product we use on our bodies and in our hair ultimately reaches the ocean, I set out to create the highest quality, biodegradable skin, sun and hair care product line available. I left my job, poured over ingredient safety data, formulated the best possible line I could, partnered with Eckerd College and several labs, and finally brought my EcoConscious and Biodegradable product line to market!
It is my pleasure to introduce you to Stream2Sea, our new line of Ecoconscious and Biodegradable skin and sun care. Each product is safe not only for you and your family, but also for the sustainability of our environment. Our Sunscreen is the ONLY one that has been tested to be non-toxic to freshwater fish, saltwater fish, C. elegans and coral larvae. They are also readily biodegradable in both fresh and salt water. Now all I have to do is tell the world!
Maybe you have already had a commission made from an artist, maybe you are in the process of having one made, or maybe you are thinking about it, and want to know what to expect, and how to go about it. This article is meant for everyone.
An art commission… What an interesting concept, if you really think about it. Simply put, an artist, (who has their own clear vision of their work), accepts the ideas and stories of a non-artist (sometimes also an artist), and then tries to translate that into a visual memory for their patron. Although, it can be far from simple.
It is common knowledge that every person has their own visions for things, whether they are an artist or not. Many people have very rich imaginations and only lack the skill to make it a visual reality. Some people employ an artist to create exactly what they have in their heads, to their exact specifications, and some very gifted artists can take all of that information and make it exactly what the person wants.
Herein lies the trickiness of it though: When a person does receive exactly what they dictated, and every little detail they wanted is there, every color, position and object accounted for, will it in the end be a good painting? Will it be aesthetically pleasing with an interesting composition, or crowded and confusing? Will it have a beautiful subtlety and mystery about the person's life and story, or will it all be out there with no specific order or appreciation to the whole? Will it have an emphasis, or be disorganized and restless? Will you get tired of looking at it because there is just too much, or will it bring you peace and resting as you reminisce about your experience? Then, most importantly, does it have that confident quality, like the artist was invested in it, took opportunities and enjoyed special moments and freedoms within the painting, or does it look matter of fact, detached, stagnant, emotionless?
I happen to know what it is like to commission a work of art from another artist. I realize that there are a lot of psychological things going on that you wouldn't guess, especially because I am an artist myself, and have my own very specific taste. I want to describe the experience from my point of view to give you an idea of what went on in my head…
I had a beautiful piece commissioned for my husband and I, from one of our favorite artists, Nathan Ledyard (pictured above). There are three main reasons that I felt called to have this made, and these are things that you also want to think about when finding an artist to commission work for you: First, I had been following his work for months, eating up every post of progress and finished pieces, each one just completely taking my breath away, (I knew I had to own one to admire every day). After seeing so many gorgeous pieces created, I TRUSTED that he could make one for us that was better than I could imagine myself. That was the key- to say humbly that I wanted his interpretation of something more than my own, even though I am an artist too. I had to put my own vision aside and let him do his thing. Second, I could relate to his style. It was obvious without talking to him even, that he let the wood grain speak to him before he began and while he worked, this feeling of perfect harmony between creator and medium. I recognized this because it is one of the most meaningful parts of my own painting. The nautical charts send invitations to collaborate throughout the entire painting process, if I only listen for them. I knew that I would always appreciate that partnership in his painting and every time I gazed at it, I would find new places where he conversed with that wooden panel. Third, I had a specific story that I wanted to show in this piece. This lifeguard tower at Lantana beach was carried away by the waves of Hurricane Sandy. The tower represented our home break, but also the fact that my husband, Teddy, and I met each other as ocean lifeguards years ago. It was also a great memory of the epic waves of that season. Nathan Ledyard is an amazing relief sculptor and painter of waves, the perfect person to make this vision a reality.
Great, seems easy enough, right? Now the hard part- letting go of my plan for this piece. I saw myself trying to have control, I sent several pictures of waves from the swell and angles of the tower, probably enough to thoroughly confuse him, but I wanted it to be perfect! It was, after all, the first time I was spending a large sum of money on art, and it had to be worth it! (How many of you had that thought cross your mind? It's not that you don't feel this artist deserves to be paid for their work, you just want to get the most out of it, and think if you are in charge somehow it will turn out better). This power struggle in my mind really helped me gain insight into the kind of thing that happens to people when they commission work from me. I trusted him, I loved his work, so why then was I worried so much about the outcome? I just needed to be in control! The only reason I did not bug him more and critique all of his progress photos, is because I reminded myself that when left alone to do my thing, I am always more successful, more satisfied, and more inspired by the moment and the work itself. I didn't want to hinder that for my fellow artist, because I knew it would affect the outcome. I didn't want my commission to be so black and white that he wasn't a part of it at all. I wanted him to put himself in there, isn't that why I had commissioned Nathan Ledyard to do it after all?! Then the most important thing came to mind- whatever image of the outcome I had in my head needed to be erased, because I would never be able to enjoy the artwork if it wasn't exactly what I had expected.
Doesn't this sound familiar about life itself? We all have plans and expectations and sometimes things don't happen according to plan- sometimes they are BETTER! When we try to control people and situations too much, we don't get to enjoy how life plays out. I had a clear plan for my career as an art teacher, and then my artwork started to become an option for a career to my own surprise. I didn't think I would ever do it full- time, but then oh my gosh, I had a baby! I wanted a way to stay home and spend time with him, how great does this work out? I am so happy that having Cody gave me the push to risk making my artwork my sole income, while loving this remarkable time with my son. If I stuck to the plan, I wouldn't be here, and he wouldn't be here. If I lamented the loss of my plan, I wouldn't be enjoying this awesome time in my life.
In the end, Nathan created the perfect painting for us, and I remember when he said, "I added this dark blue because I felt it needed something," that I rejoiced because it was that amazing addition that made it feel like the hurricane was either coming or had just happened. The fact that he felt called to, and then safe enough to make that happen, meant that it could happen, and I didn't stand in the way! His painting was better than I had imagined and still blows me away every day when I look at. So much so, that I want another one now to show our favorite break in Panama!
So, just a few things to think about when you commission a painting from any artist.
-Artists enjoy their work more when they have freedom. Paintings made out of enjoyment always look better.
-Controlling every detail of the painting does not mean that it will look the way you wanted in the end- or worse, you will find out that what you wanted doesn't look good.
-You do not need every detail of your story to show in the painting, like getting to know a character in a good book or movie- it should not all be in your face at once.
-The artist knows how to make a composition that looks good, it's what they do.
-Micro- managing in any field rarely breeds an amazing product, but inspiration can lead to ground-breaking results! Try to inspire rather than control.
To prepare yourself for the commission journey, ask yourself these questions:
-Do you love all their work? If there are some pieces you like more than others, try to understand why and share that with the artist- or tell them which ones and they can try to see why and get to know your taste.
-Can you relate to the way they paint, draw, sculpt? Can you see your story visually fulfilled in their style?
-Can you let go of the vision that you have for your story or memory and let the artist be inspired by it to create their own?
-Do you trust this person enough to do that for you, and can you give them the freedom to do their thing?
If not… It's okay if you answer "no" to any of these questions. Recognizing it early will save you both a lot of time, discomfort, and possibly money and hard feelings. It's important for you to be honest with yourself to really get the most of this experience. Maybe you realize that this artist is not the right one to create it, or maybe you realize that you aren't ready. That is a very personal thing and no one can make up your mind for you.
The best part about the commission experience is that you develop a relationship with an artist, you share memories, stories and feelings, really pouring yourself, your heart and soul into them, and then they pour themselves, their heart and soul into creating something you never even imagined!
P.S. If you want a turtle painted on a chart of West Palm, and don't need to tell me the whole story behind it, I am totally down for that too!
Thanks so much for reading, and I hope this really helps you in any of your future art endeavors.
Carly Mejeur is a floridian artist, inspired by her ocean hobbies and travels. This Blog is for news, events, and just for fun. Click here for the artist's Bio.