Last August I was contacted by a couple living in Victoria and asked if I would paint a sailboat painting for them, the very first award I won was with a sailboat painting, so I was totally on board.
Carol and Don asked me to do a painting that would be hung over their fireplace in their new condo. They knew what they wanted but did not have the exact painting in their head just yet. When we first started to talk about the commission, we talked about the size that would fit. Carol agreed to send me some photos to give me some idea of what they were thinking of. They also had a friend who took great sailboat photos and was willing to let me use them. I sent her some contracts, one for the commission, two for the photographers.
Over the course of a few months, we went back and forth regarding the composition of the painting, Carol must have sent me 30 photos, I did some of my own research on the internet and we finally came up with some ideas for the composition.
They wanted their favourite beach, Island View Beach in the foreground, sail boats racing or doing something in the middle ground and James Island and Mount Baker in the background. The background was easy, and I thought the foreground would be the same, but as it turns out there is much more to a sailboat racing painting than putting a sandy beach in. The boats must look like they are in deep ocean and not going to ram the beach, but if the boats are in deep ocean, they weren’t going to be very big in this composition, and the main focus would be on the boats. We tried a curved beach, a straight beach and then we thought a rocky beach that was raised, like Cattle Point on Island View Beach that would allow the boats to be closer to the foreground.
With the background and foreground figured out we then had to decide on the size of the sail boats and their positions. We went back and forth on that for quite awhile and decided on three boats. Two small boats and one larger one that would be ahead of the smaller ones. Between emails and facetime we finally agreed where the boats should be placed, sort of. I knew what they wanted, but composition wise it wasn’t working, so I decided to put the two small boats where we agreed and then I put the larger boat where I thought it would make the most sense. When they saw it, they were happy, and I started the monochromatic.
Carol and Don had specific requests about the colour of the painting, their living room had warm colours but didn’t have a lot of light. They had some excellent ideas of what the colours of the ocean and the sky should be, but not 100% sure about the boats and sails yet. They didn’t want too much blue in their painting, for me that was a challenge. The ocean, the sky, blue was in my head, but through the course of the evolution of the painting less blue emerged. The sky had clouds to help dampen the blue, but they also wanted sun reflecting off the water, so it couldn’t be a total cloudy day, and they wanted it to portray a windy day.
After I finished the monochromatic and starting the colour green was in my head, no blue, no blue, but green would work, nope didn’t work, then dark grey was in Carol and Don’s head, nope too dark, then Carol sent me some more photos, but this time the ocean colour was what she was looking for. I started adding more light grey, more blue (yikes), green, black, white, orange and yellow. The waves evolved over time, starting as slight waves to a more dramatic windy ocean with spray.
The rocks and driftwood were a lot of fun and I spent a great deal of time working out that part of the composition and got a little carried away with the vegetation, which ended up changing. The sail boats were the last thing I painted in and they were painted out a few times as the ocean was adjusted. The main sailboat was taken from a photo of a sailboat named Will of the Wisp, I kept the colours of the boat and the sail but did not put in every detail. The smallest boat changed colours a few times until Carol decided on the orange, good choice.
All in all, this was a super fun painting to do, I learned a lot about sailing and enjoyed Carol and Don’s input and suggestions. Because they live in Victoria everything was done through email, texts, phone and facetime. When the painting was done, we went over many frame samples and we found one they liked, and I framed and shipped the painting to them. The painting arrived safe and sound and their feedback was fabulous, they were very happy with the end result.
Finished Painting - Close Reach - 30" x 20", oil on canvas
Commissions are a joy and a privilege to paint. They are not always easy, and they do take time, this one from start of the sketch to the finished painting took 8 months. That doesn’t mean I worked on it 8 months straight, there were lag time between emails, there were a couple weeks I couldn’t paint on it. It’s my firm belief that the client needs to be happy with the end result. I may use some of my own artistic license, but it's always to the benefit of the painting and never to take away the vision of the client.
…When we approached Memory to do a seascape painting for us I don’t think we realized how much a part of the process we would become. Right from the start she made it clear that this was our painting, and that her goal was to make sure we were happy with it. She actively sought our input on every aspect. Her patience was remarkable with our indecision at times, as we switched gears and changing directions more than once. She shared her artist’s experience with us and offered expert insights based on her knowledge of art composition. She also genuinely seemed interested in learning about sailboats and sailing terms, and put up with a lot of our sailing jargon.
She was very professional in how she conducted the business end of things, which inspired our confidence in her and we felt we were in safe hands with her.
We really feel like we had a hand in creating this painting “Close Reach”, and are proud to have it hanging in our home.”
Carol Toal and Don McKay, Victoria, BC