Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River: An Art Commission

The first loose watercolor sketch shows my vision for the artwork.An adventure begins with a thumbnail watercolor sketch.

A friend of a friend, Julie and I were bridesmaids in a wedding more than twenty years ago.  She has been following my artwork online.  She sends me a private message.  She's interested in commissioning an artwork.  This sounds interesting to me!  We message each other about the basic details, then she shares the photos with me.  From there, I begin to doodle away with pens and watercolors...I see where my inspiration takes me.  The vision for this artwork becomes clearer in my mind.

The vision for this artwork becomes clearer in my mind.

We arrange to chat on the phone, talk through more details and make a plan.  I need to hear about what is important to her, the buyer/collector.  She tells me about this place on the Brazos River in Texas.  She talks about the wonderful history; it was built in the early 1800's, a stagecoach stop between Austin and San Antonio.  I'm drawn in and curious to know more.  I am caught up in imagining what stories this place could tell and the people it's sheltered there.  

Wildflowers and a dog named Frindle

She would love to have the little dog, Frindle included along with the types of plants and wildflowers that would be growing there.  We talk about sizes and prices.  With that decided, I begin to write up a contract, we take care of the deposit, and the real work begins!

Creating the first watercolor thumbnail sketch for this project with pen and watercolor.

The first watercolor sketch is loose and light in style.

The buyer gets a sneak-peak

As I work, I stop to take photos often which is how this blog has developed until now.  Throughout the process, I share updates through photos for the buyer.  An online album with a link by email makes it a breeze for the buyer to see what's taking place in my art room.  It's a sneak-peak, behind the scenes way for me to make sure we're on track.  It builds the excitement on both ends of the arrangement!

The proper perspective is drawn out

The first sketches begin on a large sheet of tracing paper.  Below it, I lay a sheet of posterboard with a drawn grid.  Because the perspective in this drawing is the key foundation, I work through finding the vanishing points at far left and right.  Once the drawing is completely ready, it's time to transfer it to the watercolor paper.  The buyer has chosen 22" x 30" for the final artwork size...a full sheet of 300 lb. watercolor paper.

The drawing is created using two point perspective on tracing paper with pencil and ruler.

The sketch is ready to be transferred to watercolor paper.

I transfer the sketch to watercolor paper with the aid of graphite transfer paper.

The color mixing fun begins!

Working with the art reference photos and the inspiration watercolor sketch, it's time to work through color mixing to set the tone.  This takes time but it's part of the process that gets the plan more worked out in my mind.  By the time this step is complete, I'm all excited to move on and begin to paint with these beautiful combinations of pigment.

Color mixing for the artwork with reference book and previous color mixing charts.

The color mixing chart for this artwork is ready to go!

A glance at my art table, filled with palettes, water containers and brushes.

I am ready to move to the next stage: the watercolor on paper!

Before any color is applied to the paper, I mask out the small details that need to stay white.  Now, I can begin the large washes of color.  I use a large brush and make sure I have a generous amount of color mixed so I can completely finish an area without interruption.  The sky must be completely filled without stopping or unwanted hard lines will form there.  This artwork progressed so smoothly from one stage to another.  Pre planning makes a difference when the painting begins.

A view of my work area and the artwork in its beginning stages.

Artwork by Christy Sheeler, The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River by Christy Sheeler

A spattering with the toothbrush in a contained area

Spattering with a toothbrush comes in handy at this point!  It's also makes a mess.  I need a plan for keeping the spatter where I want it.  The top right area of the painting will have tree branches with light coming through all dappled and delicate so I need to have a plan.  A large roll of freezer paper is a terrific way to protect surfaces.  Here, it protect the rest of the painting surface.  I place the freezer paper over the painting, cut away to reveal where I plan to work, and mix up my greens.  There's a bit of spattering and then I step away to pause while I study the artwork.  Without some caution, I'll take it further than I had meant and feel some regret...a little restraint is a good idea!

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River

The palette, tubes of pigment, and a toothbrush for spatter.

The watercolor is spattered to create an effect of leaves on trees.

Spattering watercolor with a toothbrush.

Freezer paper is used for a contained area for spattering watercolor.

From one area to another, with careful thought...

It's time to turn my focus to the main subject, the cabin itself.  I work in layers of pigment so the base layers will build a rich vibrancy at the end.  From one area to another, I study the reference photos and go from there, developing it one piece at a time.  One day, I might focus on the rock work of the fireplace.  Another painting session, I focus on the window and door frames.  When two wet areas are directly touching, the pigment flows between those areas.  This means there's strategy that must be in place.  I carefully select the layers in each area and which area is ready for more brushwork.

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River by Christy Sheeler

Wow, what a beautiful mess?!

As these photos clearly show, I have a large yet controlled mess in my art room.  There are painting sessions where I need to work quickly without interruptions.  At other times, I can frequently take breaks for a snack or a few stretches before I return to do a bit more.  At the end of each work day, I spend about 15 minutes cleaning up and preparing the flat surfaces for the next day.

Another glance at the messy work table during a painting session.

The work continues on Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River.

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River by Christy Sheeler

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River by Christy Sheeler

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River by Christy Sheeler

The artwork is reaching its final stages

Once the artwork is completed, it's time to take it to the framer!  I do not ship framed artwork usually.  I have been very afraid to ship with artwork under glass.  The buyer is sure she would really prefer to have it arrive framed; she won't have that extra detail to arrange at her end.  There's a local frame shop here and I've had work done there in the past.  As we talk, I am pleased that Chary, the framer, is happy to help me with these arrangements.  We actually meet 2 weeks before the painting is finished and go over mat and frame choices.  We narrow down the best options and then I send the final options to the buyer.  The buyer makes the final decision within minutes!  The framer is able to make sure she'll have the mat and frame for our appointed done date.  What I love about this process so much...the frame molding was made here in Montana as well.  When all  put together, it really is a fantastic presentation!

What do you think?  Are you tempted to walk into this relaxing and serene place?  Can you see yourself enjoying an hour in one of the porch swings?  The cactus have their blooms and Frindle is ready to give you a hearty hello!  There's a rugged feel to the building but it's not neglected in any way.  The strength of its construction with hefty logs and rock outfitted with so many windows.  What a haven and retreat it must be!  One day, I hope to be able to visit this place on the Brazos River, to plant my feet on the ground there and take it in...I'm just sure that I captured its charm.

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River by Christy Sheeler

A closer view of The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River by Christy Sheeler

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River by Christy Sheeler

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River by Christy Sheeler

Final mat and frame choice for The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River watercolor by Christy Sheeler

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River with double mat.

The Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River with double mat and frame.

Thank you to Julie for this opportunity.  She is a dream buyer/collector!  I'm so thankful that she chose to work with me.

Thank you to Chary at Framing Etc. for working with me on the matting, framing and packaging.  She does excellent work! I had peace of mind in the final steps of the process, due in part to her skill and attention to detail.  We spent several hours together as this artwork was carefully packaged up and shipped off to the buyer.

Thank you to my family for making it possible for me to create work like this from home.  My husband and two teens are supportive and encouraging in so many ways.  I counted on their input for several critique sessions.  My husband would come straight from work and go right to cooking the evening meal for us.  My kids have pitched in at home and have developed an eye for detail!

Thank you to all of you who stop by to visit me here.  I look forward to getting back into writing and sharing in the weeks to come.  I have been sorting through reference photos for upcoming artworks.  Several have my attention and I'm working through test runs toward the final artworks.  When I'm in the middle of a creative flurry, I post more frequent updates on Instagram and Facebook so check out my profiles there!

If you are interested in a private art commission, check out the Private Art Commission information.  There you'll find all the details for arranging to have an artwork created just for you!

From my messy and chaotic art room, I wish you a beautiful and creative week!


-She must make art.

An Update:

July of 2017, Julie (the client) sent me photos of this artwork hanging in its new home.  It has been my intention to add these photos here as the final reveal.  So here is the finished artwork hanging in its Texas location.

Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River original artwork by Christy Sheeler

Ivy Ranch on the Brazos River original artwork by Christy Sheeler

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