It’s Not You, It’s Me

A detail of my mural sketch
A detail of my mural sketch

My blog has been a little quiet lately as I was working on a project, which unfortunately (or fortunately for that matter) I am no longer a part of. Without going into too much detail, I was commissioned to do a large mural for a new store in downtown Vancouver. I was very excited about the prospect of working on such a large scale, as it would have been just under 30 x 30 feet of blank wall for me to play with.

I was initially under the impression that I had a bit of creative freedom in the process, but in the end it turned out that they wanted someone to hand paint a very specific visual (a wall full of their best-sellers). The mural had to be painted in a specific style completely foreign to my work, but I still had to do press and media events relating the work back to my practice in order to promote their company working with a local artist. I was very uncomfortable with this, as it had not been what I originally thought the project was, and after much back and forth attempts to compromise, it came time to walk away.

When I was first awarded the project, I was given a few themes to work with and to look at the artist Cézanne’s work. While my first sketch was rejected right off the bat, I wanted to share the sketch and some ideas behind it.

The day I found out I got the commission, I wase visiting the Seattle Art Museum. While in the Japanese section, I came across a Hokusai painting, Five Beautiful Women:

Katsushika Hokusai - Five Beautiful Women (1804-18)
Katsushika Hokusai – Five Beautiful Women (1804-18)

I was immediately drawn to the way that the kimono patterns were painted, the flat graphicness with the black lines, and the clashing yet complimentary array of patterns. With this image in mind, I began researching for the mural, studying Cezanne’s work. In the process, I found some mention of his influence by Japonisme, and his paintings of Mont Sainte-Victoire in relation to Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji.

Paul Cezanne - Mont Sainte-Victoire (1888-90)
Paul Cezanne – Mont Sainte-Victoire (1888-90)
Katsushika Hokusai - Inume Pass, K?sh? (1760–1849)
Katsushika Hokusai – Inume Pass, K?sh? (1760–1849)

With these ideas in mind, I went to work and created a sketch that both worked in the company’s visuals and themes and also stayed true to my work. I created an image inspired by the Three Graces:

My initial sketch for the mural project
My initial sketch for the mural project

I’ve had to change the sketch a bit so that I’m able to put it on my blog without revealing the company that had commissioned me. I’m hoping that I will be able to use this idea in another work in the future as I’m quite fond of the image and feel like it could exist on its own.

I’ve painted commissions in the past, and I have to say, after this experience, how grateful I am to have worked on those commissions, as my clients wanted me to create freely and use my creativity in interpreting their ideas. Working on this project has been an eye opener for me. Challenging and frustrating at times, it’s helped me understand how dedicated to my art practice I am. I’ve worked hard to get to where am I now, committing myself to my full time practice for the past 10 years. And never one to dwell too much on the negative, I now have time to dedicate to my own work in the studio and to preparing for my upcoming exhibition in Calgary next month.

And now for a little classic Seinfeld:

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