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!
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.
"I think of my studio as a vegetable garden, where things follow their natural course. They grow, they ripen. You have to graft. You have to water." -Joan Miro.
Our studio is located at 533 E. Ocean Ave. above the restaurant, Hurricane Alley in East Boynton Beach. This hundred year old building has so much character and charm, and it's has been a pleasure to call it my home away from home for the past couple years. Within that time, the offices and occupants like IndieSWIM, Propel Marketing & Design, Chelsea Erwin photography, Katillac Gems, and I, have all been changing and growing. It's so nice to see that the space is reflects the ripening of our own individual businesses.
Kat Yarbrough and I have been working on making our studio a delightful place to work and play, and thanks to the wonderful photography of Chelsea Erwin, we can finally give you a little digital tour.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Kat at Katillacgems@hotmail.com to make an appointment to visit!
I have been receiving a lot of questions about prints and editions from friends and people that I've met at art shows, so I wanted to take a moment to inform you about what it all means in case you were curious. This is information that I have gathered throughout my life admiring other artists, and now through my own experience as a professional artist. If you feel that I missed something or some part of it is not accurate, please feel free to comment and I will edit it for everyone. This is purely to educate anyone interested, so they can make art purchases more confidently.
Let's start with originals, they are always the best option to own. You know that the artist touched that paper/canvas/wood, whatever it is, and it looks exactly the way he or she intended (well sort of, sometimes they have a life of their own). The colors have not been changed through the process of capturing and reprinting, it is what it is, and is usually the most expensive.
With that being said, there is nothing wrong with owning a print of a work of art that you like. For most of us, that is the reality of our personal finances, or it is not a priority to have the original, and that's okay too! Artists started making prints because they wanted more people to be able to enjoy their work (in my opinion). It helps reach everyone, at every income, gaining more exposure for the artist at the same time. On the other side of it, if you own an original and there are prints of it, that means that your original becomes more well-known, and possibly more valuable because it has been seen by a larger audience- you have the bragging rights of owning that original. If you have an original that does not have any prints, it is also of value because it is literally one of a kind. Sometimes it's harder to prove that it belongs to that artist, unless they have a very distinct style of working. There will also only be a very small audience of people that see it in your own house. If it has been in an art show, won a prize, is online on the artist's website or social media, or there have been articles written about it, it can help prove the work's authenticity and popularity.
Now for the editions… There are a couple things you should know about limited editions before you purchase a work of art. There is a little fraction on the painting, in the margin, or sometimes on the back of the giclee (print) that tells you about this specific piece. It might look like this- 23/250. The first number tells you the order of printing, is it a young print, (lower numbers) meaning that the artist just started making prints of it recently? Or is it closer to the second number in the fraction, meaning it may have been around for years? The second number tells you how many there will ever be in this size and medium (paper, canvas, etc. whatever the art is printed on is the medium). If there are no numbers at all, it means that it is an open edition and thousands of people could have it. If this happens, make sure it is at least signed and dated. Buying art at Home Goods or Target means that there is a good chance your neighbor might also have it along with thousands of people all over the country. There is nothing wrong with that, but some people want their collection to be a little more unique, (and support their favorite, local artists). So ask yourself, "How many other people do I want to share this image with?" If you don't care, don't worry about it. If you want to be one of a small few, look for the lower numbers. I myself try to own pieces that are under 500 at least, but the lower the better. If you happen to get an Artist Proof (i.e. AP 2/7), that means that the artist was trying out that size or medium and wanted to see how it went before committing to an edition. 7 is a very low number, however, and increases the value of that specific print.
Obviously the smaller the edition, the more expensive it will be. If you are purchasing one of the last prints in an edition, it may even be more expensive than the original price. 49/50 of an edition that use to cost $40 may now be $50+ if it is the last one. Remember though, it might not be the absolute last print of that image. The artist could later make a different size and another small edition, or as I said, come out with an Artist Proof. Most artists are not trying to devalue their own work and saturate any of their images, but if it is a really popular one, it's nice to have the option to provide it in different ways to a customer. For example, a local of Boynton Beach, FL might ask for the Boynton Pelican on a canvas as a 20"x24" piece even though the original was small. If the resolution looks good at that size, I would have it made for them and call it AP 2/15 even if the 11"x14" printed edition was closed already. Why did I choose 2 when it is the first one ever printed at that size? The artist usually keeps the first of all of their editions just in case they want to sell them later, or they just want to have one of their own. I have not been doing that with all of them, (some of you know because you have number 1) but I did start with some of my favorites, especially of Lantana where I live. The value of the print does not depend on how low the number is- unless it is number 1. When I do a commission, I am not oppose to giving number 1 to the person who commissioned it if they ask, because it wouldn't be in existence at all if it wasn't for them commissioning. So if you can ever have number 1, do it!
Why are some images printed and others are not? Sometimes it may be that I just sold the original before I had a chance to capture and make prints, or judging by the lack of likes and comments on Facebook and instagram (what a world we live in with instant feedback), it might not be the most widely liked, so why invest in printing? Sometimes I'll start an edition and find out that it is not worth following through on. The Manta Ray with the scuba diver on Boot Key is an example of that. After going months without selling one at a show, I stopped printing at 14, (good news if you have the Manta, because even though it says 500, there will only be 14 others with it unless someone orders one specifically). Another reason not to print is if a subject is over done. If I already have 3 of the Jupiter area, for example, I won't print more until an edition runs out, unless of course I'm going to be in an art show in Jupiter. If you are looking for a specific print from me, the best thing to do is look at the commissions and sold works page of my website to see if you want one that is not sold as a print. I can always order it, but just might not have it on hand.
Last but not least, The Series. What does that mean? Some artists paint all kinds of things and change subject or medium all the time, while others prefer to work in a series. Some of the most famous artists have series that you would recognize. Picasso's Blue Period, Matisse's paper cuts, Rembrandt's self portraits, for example. They could last a couple months, years, or they could stretch out for the artist's entire life. It's a way to really perfect a technique, explore a concept, or just enjoy a subject. Sometimes it evolves into something else, and sometimes there is an abrupt change if they find something new that attracts their attention. My own nautical chart series is completely different than the series before it. I use to do portraits of people in oil paint, and then yoga poses in ink washes. Working as an art teacher at a school with a maritime theme, and living in South Florida near the ocean, has helped make this series one that stuck. I honestly thought I would make one for my house, and a couple for friends and be done, but I am having too much fun to stop now!
A sub-series would be anything that branches out of this series with slight changes. The Underdog series: under appreciated marine life, is an example of that. I love painting creatures that don't usually make it into artwork and maybe have never been seen by most people, helping to bring some awareness to ALL the creatures that we share the ocean with. The Palm Beach Mini series is another one with close up, nautical charts of Palm Beach County areas and different sea life. I also just started another new, sub series, changing my medium to canvas and acrylic paint, instead of watercolor. We'll see how it goes soon!
To Recap, I think the most important thing about purchasing artwork is to make sure that you have a connection with it first. Could you look at it for a long time? Does it show you new things every time you stare at it? Does it fit with your decor, or will you change the decor to fit it? Remember not to buy artwork as an investment in hopes that it will pay for your retirement. Having a commission made to talk about your own life experiences, vacations, family, etc. will give you life-long enjoyment, while you put your money in more solid investments and savings! Teddy and I recently had a commission made by the artist, Nathan Ledyard. Each of his pieces are hand carved into wood and then painted with acrylic. We had him make our home break during Hurricane Sandy, before the Lantana lifeguard tower was destroyed by the waves. It has a special meaning for us and we will always cherish it. The tower at Lantana now is completely different and the waves that we surfed during that time will always live in our memories. I hope you also find artwork that speaks about your own life, so that you and the generations in your family to come will always share that history.
I hope this was helpful and answered some of your questions. Always feel free to contact me and/or comment with your thoughts.
Thanks so much,
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.