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  • Marja Brown


It´s immensely rewarding and a privilege to have just completed a large painting for a charming man who commissioned a Durdle Door seascape as a surprise birthday present for his wife. She had seen and liked one of my paintings at a friend´s house. He wanted dusky pinks and greys in the sky, presumably to fit the décor in their house, or perhaps because he knew his wife prefers softer colours.

Most of my commissions are adaptations of paintings we´ve chatted about at a show, or which someone has come across on my website. I add or subtract detail and make adjustments according to my client´s wishes. The initial connection for a commission is powerful for me, the warm feeling that the scene I was inspired to paint which brought me such joy, has triggered a happy memory, or a comforting emotion in someone else.

One client commissioned one of my favourite views of the Isle of Wight from Barton-on-Sea where her beloved Mum used to sit for hours, contented, in peaceful reflection. I painted an early summer sunrise, and added a bench to the scene in memory of those serene days. Another client I met at a craft market later sent me a photo of the beach where he had proposed to his wife. He wanted to capture that precious moment. I was commissioned to paint a seascape featuring a couple walking on the beach with their three children, and two dogs playing on the sand. He asked for an abstract summer sky for his holiday memory.

I was reading recently about good practice for commissions, and it really came home to me that we are all unique. Artists have their own individual style, buyers have their own personal tastes. I read some good business advice, but I must confess that I follow very little of it.

Perhaps I´ve always been a bit like that.

I´m a landscape artist and will usually pass on enquiries about portraits, animals or buildings. However it was an interesting, fun challenge to receive a commission to produce the illustrations for a lovely children´s book, Monty the Magic Magpie.

I am careful with my questions when discussing a commission. We talk about the size of the painting, the colours, the time of day, the focus, the weather, the season. I explain the difference between gloss and satin varnish and encourage my client to ask questions. Responses guide the colours in my palette, and the mood of the painting. I feel the painting in the warmth of this conversation rather than visualise it at this stage.