Fire and claws, shimmering scales rippling over sinewy muscle, terrible in their magnificence.
Fragile and impermanent, having come untethered from its branch, the cherry blossom glides softly on the wind.
The dragon's roar may be muffled by the whisper of a blossom touching earth.
Commissions are strange, and potentially wondrous beats.
I have a number of artist friends and acquaintances who dread the elusive commission, even as they hunt for them like an alien Predator hunts for oversized Austrian commandos in a steamy rainforest. Almost everyone I know, from the greenest neophyte to the most grizzled veteran has a horror story about The Commission That Devoured My Life.
I’m probably jinxing myself here, but I don’t.
It might be because cut paper art, especially my style of it, is so esoteric that only a serious fan would commission it in the first place. Or perhaps because I didn’t begin considering commissions until later in my career, at which point I had a pretty good idea of the value of my work. My experience as an illustrator, writing my own contracts and negotiating (often poorly) has certainly helped - it gave me the ability to walk away from a situation that I strongly suspect is going to be a bad fit. Also, the skill of not taking things personally when the other party walks away.
I look at commissions as a partnership, a collaboration. The client supplies the inspiration. the germ of an idea. Then somehow that little seed finds purchase in my mind, and blooms.
The greatest gift an artist can get is the opportunity to look at some small corner of the world in a new way, to see the familiar from a new and revelatory point of view. The best commissions grant this chance.
Generally, commissioned artwork can take a few different forms.
The first is the do your own thing. The client may toss out a couple ideas, a favorite color, some past artwork of mine that they enjoyed. Sometimes they tell a story, sharing some important, or happily mundane, details of their lives. And these random bits carouse and dance around with my own style and ideas, creating an image I would have never made on my own.
Others come with very clear ideas. They have a concept buzzing around in their minds. Specific imagery or elements. My job is to marry these ideas to my own way of working, my style of drawing and cutting. Together, we often create a piece that’s greater than either of us imagined it could have been.
Sakura Blossom Season is of the 2nd type.
I’ll admit that it took a little while, and a pile of bad drawings, before we had a layout that worked. As with most challenges though, the more difficult the journey, the more we appreciate the reward. I love the way this piece combines the ferocity of the dragon with the soft impermanence of the cherry blossoms. It captures something that is utterly true to myself, but which might never have been seen without prompting.
Sakura Blossom Season drifts gently back into the shop today. Only a few more to go until the shop is full. One of the next pieces is, coincidentally, a commission too.