Tag Archives: acrylic

Commissioned artwork

A recent commission. The customer wanted to feature a bit of the courthouse square, change the season so the weeping cherry tree was in blossom, and tidy up the flowers. It’s still in my style but I didn’t mind making these adjustments. Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 36.

If you have been an artist for any length of time, you have probably been asked to create something especially for someone.  Maybe a friend or a relative, someone special.  It is always difficult to decide if that is really what you want to do.  Here are some concerns for you to think about.

1.  What is a commission?  This is basically when someone asks you to create something special for them.  Frankly, commissioned artwork was the norm until a few hundred years ago.  Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel.  At that time, the artist was primarily a sculptor and didn’t want to do the job but was persuaded  one way or another. That turned out well.

2.  Know your style and what you are comfortable doing.  If you have been an artist for any length of time, eventually someone will ask you to make something for them that just doesn’t fit your comfort zone.  Maybe they want you to copy another artist, or perhaps paint an abstract painting when you paint only in a realistic style.

To be totally honest, I was asked early on in my career to copy another artist’s painting and just was not comfortable with it.  Although I eventually I complied (it was a relative), it never sat well with me and I haven’t done it since.  Be true to yourself.

3.  Don’t compromise.  This hooks in with the paragraph above.  Know your style and stick with it.  If the client wants something different, you may just have to pass on the job. It always helps if you can steer them towards someone else who can help them.

4. Take notes.  I have several notebooks which I have filled over the years with notes for commissions.  Obviously, the client’s contact information, but more details about what they want.  You might even have a list of questions before you meet.  For instance, size, materials, deadlines are obvious.  Less obvious are what they want in the commission and what they don’t. 

5.  Come to an agreement.  If you really want a formal agreement, you may need to draw up a contract.  I don’t usually do this but it is a good way to cover yourself should any misunderstandings occur later.  Are they agreeing to your style?  Will you submit sketches or mockups?  When do they want the final? 

6.  Arriving at a price and getting a down payment.  You should do a little research ahead of your meeting or perhaps you will have to get back with the client later.  Remember to include your materials, time, driving time or shipping.  Condition for submitting the final product.  Don’t forget your overhead. And don’t be afraid to ask what you deserve.  Do some research for your area and medium.  What are other artists charging for similar commissions with a similar level of skills and background?

7.  Ask about a deadline.  Is the commission for a special event or doesn’t the client really care when you complete it?  I really like to get the commissions done and off my plate.  If there is a deadline, do you have time to meet it?  Is it around the holidays when everyone else is clamoring for work that must be done yesterday? 

8.  A commission is work for hire.  Get comfortable with that idea or don’t accept the commission.  Maybe you’ll be excited by the first few commissions you have, but perhaps by the 100th, you’ll be so tired of doing them.  Raise your prices!  I did house portraits for many years until I became annoyed with them interfering with the work I was really interested it.  After awhile, I kept raising my prices until I finally just had to quit doing them. 

9.  Do your best.  If you have agreed to accept a commission, then you owe it to your client to do your best.  Maybe you’re getting a little tired of work for hire, but get this one out of the way.  Then decide if you still want to keep doing them.  But remember that your reputation is on the line and a disgruntled client can be a real pain.  If you can’t make it right, maybe you can refund their money and aim them in the direction of an artist who can better suit their needs.

10.  Ask your client for input.  Most people who commission an artwork are thrilled with the prospect of having something made especially for them.  Ask for their input and a written recommendation. Develop a thick skin in case they have some criticisms.  It might prickle at first, but you can always learn something from a good critique.

To see a step-by-step demonstration of how I created this painting, go to the Artworks tab or click here.

One more week!

Beach Girl, preliminary color sketch for Wings and Jump. 16 x 12, acrylic, Kit Miracle

One more week to view my solo exhibit at the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center. I must say, the number of visitors has been terrific and the comments in the guest book are so touching. Thanks so much for coming out.

Wings, Intimate Spaces, Beach Series. Acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24. This little girl is fascinated with the seagulls. Thus, the double meaning of the title. I wish I had done this painting on a larger scale.

If you would like to have a personal tour, just contact me and I’ll meet you there if I’m available. Otherwise, admission and parking is free. And the exhibits are open seven days a week. M-F 9-5, Sa 10-2, Sun noon – 3.

Jump, Intimate Spaces, Beach Series. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 24. Kit Miracle Notice how the little boy’s feet are just lifting off the sand, thus the title.

Two more weeks!

Gallery view 1. Visitors are invited to examine the paintings up close or from afar. Photography IS permitted in this exhibit.

Only two more weeks to see my exhibit at the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center in Jasper, Indiana. It has been such an awesome and inspiring experience to show my contemporary impressionist paintings in this brand new facility.

Gallery view 2. Kit Miracle exhibit. You can see the other two galleries across the hall.

The number of visitors and the flattering comments made in the guest books are humbling. As my son told me, Mom, although these paintings are large, this gallery makes them look small. That is just how beautiful and large the gallery spaces are.

Gallery view 3. Kit Miracle, contemporary impressionism.

The show closes on Friday, June 25th. If you haven’t had a chance to drop by, please plan to do it soon. I’ve met many friends and guests at the gallery for a private tour, not only of my show, but the entire facility. Just let me know if you’re going to be in town and I’ll be happy to meet you there.

Jasper Community Arts / Thyen-Clark Cultural Center

100 Third Avenue

Jasper IN

Hours: M-F 9-5, Sa 10-2, Sun noon – 3. Free admission and plenty of free parking in the rear of the building.

Gallery view 4. More paintings in the exhibit.

Something a little different

I’ve been taking a break for the past several weeks from working on my current series of paintings Intimate Spaces: Breaking Bread.  Although I tend to be pretty disciplined when I’m working on a big project, sometimes I need a respite.  Recently I’ve returned to some old themes, particularly western scenes and my travels.  Culling through a couple of decades’ worth of old photos, scenes that I may have skipped previously, now draw me in.  It doesn’t always have to be the entire picture, just a small portion of it.  And I always feel free to change things around.

Atrium at Longwood Gardens, du Pont estate, Pennsylvania. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20, impressionistic style, Kit Miracle

Here are a couple of my most recent paintings from my travels.  The first one is of the Atrium at Longwood Gardens on the du Pont estate in Pennsylvania.  Although I visited in March of that year, it was still beautiful.  The gardens under glass were particularly impressive. Touted as the most beautiful garden in America, I couldn’t disagree.

Garden Cherub, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16. Pittsburgh, PA Kit Miracle

The second painting is from a different trip to Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh to be exact.  One of our favorite places to visit is The Strip District, a multi-block area of food shops and restaurants, fish markets and collectibles.  This particular shop had some very enticing items in the front of the shop, but as I walked through the store to the back, they had a garden shop with rusty gates and ironwork, birdbaths and outdoor trellises.  I loved this little garden cherub.  Now I wish I had purchased him but at least I could capture him in paint.

Both of these paintings are painted on red-toned canvases which peeks through, adding another layer of liveliness to the scenes.

In case you are interested, these are both available in my Etsy shop KitMiracleArt.  AND….I’m having a 20% off Labor Day sale through Monday.  Free shipping, too.

After School, 96th Hoosier Salon Exhibit

After School, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 30 Kit Miracle This painting is currently on exhibit at the 96th Annual Hoosier Salon show at the Indiana State Museum through October 25th, 2020.

I’m thrilled to have my painting After School on exhibit at the 96th Annual Hoosier Salon exhibit at the Indiana State Museum.

This painting depicts two girls having a snack after school.  I assumed that they were in band or cheerleaders as they were dressed alike.  I was attracted to the silhouette shape of the figures.  Despite the high contrast of the figures against the light background, the painting itself actually has a lot of color.  Notice the distinctive color outlines.  These are painted before the rest of the painting, however, sometimes I go back and reemphasize the colors.

The background is painted very loosely and doesn’t really include any details except the umbrella.  It’s always as important to know what to leave out as well as what to include.  More details, parking lot, would not have added anything to the painting, just more distraction.

This is another painting in my Intimate Spaces: Breaking Bread series.

After School, detail 1. Acrylic on canvas.

After School, detail 2

The painting is currently on exhibit at the Indiana State Museum.  The exhibit opens tomorrow, Saturday, August 29th with free admission.  It runs through October 25th.  You can find the Indiana State Museum at 650 W Washington St, Indianapolis.  There is so much to see at the museum it’s certainly worth the trip.  A great outing for kids and adults.  And it’s right next door the the Eiteljorge Museum of Native American and Western Art, too!

If you can’t visit the museum in person, here is a link to the exhibit online.  All the works are for sale, of course.

Lunch at the Museum

Lunch at the Museum, Kit Miracle, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24.

This is the seventh painting in my Intimate Spaces: Breaking Bread series.  A bold, vertical portrait, this painting certainly grabs attention.  I’ve been noticing that in addition to telling a story, my portraits often include a wry sense of irony.  Yeah, I just now figured that out but looking back at much of my work, I can see what often attracted me to the scenes initially.  Maybe it’s my quirky sense of humor but hey, it’s my work and I can do what I want.

Anyway, this scene was when I took my granddaughter to the Carnegie Museum complex in Pittsburgh a few years ago.  All that walking around to see dinosaurs and artwork and more is hard work.  We stopped for lunch in the museum restaurant.

I guess that the first thing that strikes the viewer is, “What are those things coming out of her head?”  This, of course, as any photographer will tell you is a definite no no in composition.  You don’t want trees sprouting from your subject’s head.  But here with those globe-shaped lights, it works.  Some rules are made to be broken.

Lunch – detail 1. A sweet portrait but not saccharine.

There is a lot of vertical in this painting.  Not only the canvas but the stripes, the lights, the straw for the girl, the wood on the table.  The head is not quite in the center but everything leads to the face.

Lunch detail 5. Those squiggles become chairs and tables on the outdoor patio, viewed through the window of the restaurant.

Lunch detail 4. Up close, the people in the background look like beans, but again, from a distance, they come together.

I particularly like the balance between the warm and cool colors.  Even within the cool areas, you can see quite a bit of color if you look closely.  It’s about one third to two thirds ratio of warm to cool.

Lunch, detail 2. I captured this little still life even in a portrait.

Another little still life. The loosely painted silverware and napkin come together when viewed at a distance.

Some people like to see a photo realistic finish on paintings but that is not my style. (Been there, done that.)  As a contemporary impressionist, I look to convey the message with as few strokes as possible.  Looking at my paintings up close often reveals a jumble of bold brush strokes.  But stepping back about six to eight feet, it all comes together.  This is done to deliberately allow the viewer to become a participant in the experience by filling in the details with their own eyes where there may actually be none.

Canvas prep and under painting. This abstract painting doesn’t necessarily follow the composition of the painting but is designed to give a little guidance. Look closely to see my initial sketch of the subject before I begin to paint.

I also like to paint on a toned canvas, often with a rough gesso base to add texture.  One of my favorite colors is a reddish tone which adds sparkle where it peeks between the brush strokes.  This is particularly good for landscapes that have lots of green.  However, the tones on this series of paintings are more somber, greys with some splashes of color.  The subject is then drawn on top before I start painting.  When my husband saw all the prepped canvasses in my studio, he thought I was switching to abstract painting.  Well….not yet.

Plein air painting – oil and acrylics, tips and tricks Part III

Plein air painting on the rim of the Grand Canyon. Duck on a Rock is the name of the formation. It was very, very windy that morning so I had to secure the easel.

My last post about plein air painting addressed how to do watercolors.  In this final post, I will address how to do oils and / or acrylics.

There are many similarities with painting plein air in oil or acrylics. Same supports – panels or canvasses, same (similar) brushes, same easel, etc.  The biggest difference is that oils take a long time to dry and use some volatile chemicals, such as, mineral spirits.  Acrylics are painted with water and dry in less than fifteen minutes.  This makes a big difference if you are transporting the canvasses.  Oil painting will smear and get everywhere, whereas, acrylic paintings will dry quickly and be ready to transport within minutes.

Although I painted in oils for over a decade, now I do plein air painting almost exclusively in acrylics.  Mostly for the ease of transport and quick drying times.

This is a typical French easel. It is a wooden carry box and easel all together. These have been around for over 100 years. There is also another smaller French easel called a half-easel. Both weigh quite a bit and, in my opinion, not too comfortable to lug around.

As always, my main concern in plein air painting is weight and ease of transport.  There are many wonderful easels but the most common is the French easel which has been around for over 100 years.  There is also the half-box easel and new aluminum easels which help a bit with the weight.  Another option is the pochade box, either homemade or purchased.  It seems everyone is trying to get smaller and smaller.  I have a pochade box which is a beautiful piece of art furniture, but not really practical for my needs.  I never want to get it messed up!

This is a beautiful little pochade box, similar to the one that I have. It is so exquisitely made that I hate to get it dirty. One needs to use a camera tripod to attach to the bottom as it doesn’t come with legs. However, you can just set it on a table or bench to use. The one that I have will hold a canvas up to 16 x 20 but that is not very practical for this size.

As usual, my main concerns are with weight and portability.  I use another light weight aluminum easel (Stanrite 100) this one with spikes which fold out, but the whole thing collapses to about 25 inches.  That I carry in the same homemade carrier as my watercolor easel.  And another backpack devoted to acrylic (oil) painting.  For some reason, Stanrite quit making these easels but I expect that is mostly because they last so long.  You can probably find them on Ebay or one of the resale sites.

The typical gear that I take with me for acrylic painting. Backpack, selection of brushes and paints. portable travel palette, sketch book, panels and canvasses, gloves, water. Not shown would be a container for water. For oil paint, there would be two containers of mineral spirits and a portable oil paint palette.

Many of the items that I carry with me are the same, but some are devoted to acrylic painting.  Paints, types of brushes, larger water jar, rags, etc.  For oils that would be oil paints, brushes, and two jars of mineral spirits (one for cleaning brushes and one clean).  Backpacks are cheap so just keep one packed for each of the type of work you wish to do.  I have made separate lists for each type of plein air art activities that I do to remind myself what to take.

Easel

Chair / stool

Umbrella / bungees

Bag

Paper

Support

Clips

Acrylic travel palette (Mijello)

Or…oil travel palette

Brushes -assorted

Paints – assorted

Water and cup

Or Mineral spirits (two jars)

Spray bottle

Pencils/pens

Sketch book

Tape / clips

Multi-tool / pliers

Paper towels / cloth rags

Sponge

Bug spray

Sunscreen

Hat

Camera / cell phone

Apron

Scissors / knife

Snacks

Business cards

Some folding green stuff (money)

Bandaids

 

My backpack will hold canvasses or panels up to 11 x 14 inches.  Larger canvasses will have to be hand carried or strapped onto your pack.  When I travel, I will keep a plastic bin to contain all my canvasses.

These are the reminder cards that I keep in my kits. They remind me of what I need to take. I’ve used these kinds of cards for many things, vacations, camping, etc.

Most of the other equipment is the same as listed in my previous post about watercolor painting.  Bug spray is a must to ward off mosquitoes or biting flies.  I once had a guy who was hauling manure and (I think) deliberately let some out near where I was painting.  Bungees help to anchor your easel or attach an umbrella.  Very disappointing to return to your easel only to discover it face down in the weeds.  Oh, well, such is the life of the artist.

And, yes, it is OK to tweak your painting when you return to your studio. Yes, there are some purists who think that is awful, but, hey, it’s your art and you can do what you like!

The main thing is to relax, enjoy yourself and have fun. It’s not a competition; it’s an adventure.

This is what can happen when you don’t anchor your easel on a windy day.

Using my beautiful little pochade box.

On a bluff overlooking the White River in Loogootee, Indiana.

Italian Eating Italian: Intimate Spaces, Breaking Bread Series

Italian Eating Italian – Intimate Spaces, Breaking Bread Series. Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30. Kit Miracle

Painting a portrait head on is a bit challenging.  However, the distinct lighting of this portrait helps define the features.  The painting has a very robust feeling; a man eating a piece of bread and drinking some vino.

Italian Eating Italian, detail, chin. Notice the reflective light on the chin and neck. Also notice that I rarely use a direct white paint. Most of my whites are mixed to add more vibrancy.

If you look carefully at the closeups, you can see that although I paint in a loose impressionistic style, the brush strokes are sure and vibrant.  I’ve been working with some colorful and contrasting lines which add a bit of spark to the painting.  The colorful outlines are not always related to the painting as far as contrasts go, but sometimes they are.

Italian Eating Italian, detail, hand and glass of wine. Here you see the wine glass, slight angle, gripped by the hand but all loosely painted.

Italian Eating Italian, detail. Hand with piece of bread. The challenge here was to paint a piece of rustic white bread against a white shirt.

This is another painting in the Intimate Spaces – Breaking Bread Series.

Intimate Spaces – Breaking Bread. A new series.

Alone. Intimate Spaces – Breaking Bread series. Acrylic on canvas. 30 x 24. Kit Miracle

A few weeks ago I showed some of the NOTAN studies for my next series of paintings.  If you recall, this is where the artist breaks the composition down to black and white abstract shapes.  This is the first painting in that new series.

Intimate Spaces, Breaking Bread is a rather ironic title for the series considering the times we are currently living in.  However, this series was planned out in December, long before we knew what the pandemic would do to our socializing.  No more public meals, family gatherings, etc.

So it only appropriate that the first painting is titled Alone.  The lone figure, distanced in the deserted restaurant.  The hard back lighting and reflections on the tables and chairs.  The even more ironic title of the sign inviting him to “Join” the team.  The painting evokes the feeling of loneliness, being alone, as in Hopper’s Nighthawks and some of his other paintings of solitary figures.  Even though there are some quite bright colors in the painting, the main palette is subdued, echoing the feeling of being alone.

Alone, NOTAN study. Although I don’t usually add middle tones to the NOTAN study, I did here to add more body to the image.

Alone. Charcoal sketch 24 x 18, Kit Miracle. Here I have added middle tones but it still keeps true to the basic NOTAN study.

Back to the River

It’s still too early to do much planting although I have onions, snow peas, lettuce and kale growing. The garden is tilled but we have to wait another couple of weeks before planting the whole thing.  We’ve done some trimming and tidying of the flowerbeds.  The spring flowering shrubs are next.

Plein air painting along the Blue River in Southern Indiana. As you can see, my easel is actually sitting in the water. What we artists won’t do for our work!

Monday was beautiful and balmy.  A perfect day to return to the Blue River for some more adventures.  This time my husband brought his fishing gear and I brought my painting kit.  It was so peaceful and quiet.  A week since our last visit but I noticed changes.  The redbuds are waning and the dogwoods are coming out.

Blue River, plein air painting. Acrylic, 11 x 14. That spring green will only last for a few weeks.

Bridge over the Blue River. Watercolor / pen and ink. Kit Miracle Created from photos taken on our previous visit last week.

As you can see, I had to set my easel in the water to get the view that I wanted.  I nearly tipped in myself but this is the price an artist pays for the adventure of plein air painting.  My husband got his line wet but not much luck until right at the end when he caught a nice bass.  (He returned it to the river, of course.)

Fishing on the Blue River. My husband actually caught a nice bass but he released it. We peeled off our sweatshirts as the temps warmed up quickly. Spring is here!

Another wandering drive on the way home took us past a little greenhouse.  Of course we stopped.  Although we have some tomatoes and peppers started, I had to buy a few more.  Hey, it’s that time of year.  All you gardeners understand what I mean.  (BTW, I was the only one at the greenhouse wearing a mask!) Later in the week the mice in the greenhouse started nibbling the plants.  Dirty rottens!  I wouldn’t have thought they would like nightshade plants but now I know they do.

So, that’s pretty much my week.  Finished the plein air painting in the studio and did a watercolor/pen and ink of the bridge over the Blue.  Some gardening.  Reading.  Oh, and cleaning the attic of my studio but that’s another story.