I was looking through linocutboy’s Instagram feed yesterday and he has this amazing t-shirt which reads “ART IS HARD” which really struck a chord with me.
He’s wrong, I thought, art is so easy. It helps everything from mental health to making my walls look nice. The world is a better place with art, you know, all that gubbins.
Then, when I’d calmed myself and clambered down from my ivory tower, I started thinking about the three commissions I’ve done in my short time as a printer. And then I thought, yeah, actually, art is hard.
So this blog is about those, and the nature of commissioning, and why I’d think twice about doing it again…
Sometimes people ask if they can have something commissioned especially for them, and when you’re starting out it’s a real ego boost to accept. Or someone might ask you to do something for someone else – birthday presents, that sort of thing. Or you might just take it upon yourself to make something for someone. But all of these are, as I learnt, really fraught. Or they were for me.
First up, I made a print for a friend’s daughter. This illustrates one of my main gripes with putting your work on one particular person’s wall.
You get better.
The girl’s name began with a G, and I knew she liked pirates, and that was enough to get me running to my sketchbook, where I fashioned this pirate G, a design I was, and still am pleased with. The trouble comes though when you get to my print. It’s cut well enough, and the ink was applied ok – but the colours I chose were a little basic, and if I had my chance again I would’ve gone much subtler with them.
The recipient was pleased, and of course I’m not saying I gave them something substandard (hopefully!) but when I see this print I always think I could’ve done better. My inner critic is busting out, chuckling. Art is hard!
Alright. Anyway, then I was lucky enough to be asked to produce a cover for a record. It was this record specifically:
Now, the astute of you will suspect that’s not one of my prints, and you’d be right. Part of the reason for that is that the time between me being asked to produce something and the actual deadline for said record coming out was very long. About the gestation of a baby elephant.
During that time, I think I must’ve had a crisis of confidence, as the work that once seemed so suitable, that both me and the musician were into, sort of fell away into naivety, and then insignificance, then almost loathing.
In the end, after some tweaks, the print was included in a limited edition run as an insert, and I think I must’ve been so fried with the work that I didn’t even take a picture of it – but here is the bundle of 30 going in the post to the record label:
So my advice here, I guess, is act fast. Again, I was my own worst enemy.
But it’s not all doom and gloom with commissions, which is why I wouldn’t rule them out completely. A lady I know liked my prints and wanted to buy one, but just not of what I had already done. Fair enough.
Well, she had a birthday looming so I thought I’d attempt to make one she might like. I knew she had a nickname of The Peach on account of her eating a peach in the office in a messy way. Real horror show.
So that was all I needed. I created a blend of her name forming the skin of a peach, and did this sort of gothic two colour reduction stone in the middle, a bit like the sun, and also a bit like a bumhole. And I was really pleased with the result (which opens this piece).
She got a one of a kind print, and I got a little bit of satisfaction. It’s great when it happens that way.
Anyway, the main gist of this post is to say, if you’re lucky enough to get a commission (all the ones I mentioned were willingly for free, I should add) then jump on it quickly, ignore your inner critic, and always make sure there’s love behind it. Because…
Art is hard.