Recently a high school friend contacted me after we hadn't spoke or seen each other in over 13 years. He and his wife were very interested in a painting for their house. Never having commissioned a painting especially for themselves, I thought it would make an engaging post on this process, and as a reference for others in the future.
Their original interest and inspiration for the considered piece was this small digital piece i did back in 2007 for the "taxonomy animalia" show at the limited addiction gallery(now dave b smith gallery).
12" x 6", mixed media(digital piece outputted on watercolor paper w/ varnish finish on board)
What followed was a lengthy approval process that required the finish painted to be done in a way I had never painted before. They wanted a 77" x 33" painted piece but done in the style of the digital painting. It was the background graphics and the transparency effect that they really admired. This posed a major technical challenge when it came time to render the bird which they had expressed to be a phoenix instead. We started with some digital comps and searching for the perfect bird reference.
The background texture:
Several bird/phoenix references they had found and i had found:
We ended up choosing the black version for now and began tweaking the background:
At this point the clients were satisfied how the comp was feeling and i began stretching, building and prepping the painting:
I would occasionally update them with process photos as i went along in the work:
At this point I felt the background was rich and compelling and needed no further work. This was a crucial commitment since the nature of this process allowed no further "back rendering" because of the phoenix transparency effect. Once I began the phoenix there would be no command Z.
A month had past at this point and i was never thrilled about the original phoenix reference. I found that Osprey's were a solid reference that portrayed a bird with a robust presence and anatomy:
I tried to sketch out my own version of that bird but it never really moved me, instead, I found this dynamic eagle shot, and sketched a phoenix version of this eagle. This was the finally approval, and the clients like me, were now very satisfied with the composition/position of the bird:
The only last three minor changes that were requested that the talons/legs be more relaxed, that the tail feathers be more narrow and longer, and the the frill on top of the head be moved forward a bit. I then proceeded to render most of this phoenix with a very small #1 round brush and a couple of other old brushes i modified to create intense texture and form.
The finished piece, Thanks Scott & Laura for this opportunity and challenging me!!