"Hey", I thought "I like painting portraits". So I accepted the commission.
And then it began. The third party art studio through whom I received the commission suggested that they would print a badly photo-shopped picture onto the canvas to insure that I painted a likeness.
I was, of course, quite insulted. I didn't pay $40,000 for a masters from the Graduate School of Figurative Art (New York Academy) , and spend 20 years painting, so that someone could tell me that I didn't know how to paint a likeness. So, biting my tongue because I needed the money, I told them that it wasn't necessary. She insisted
I'm a patient man, so I again bit my tongue and suggested a compromise. "Print it in black and white or sepia so that it doesn't throw off my color development." She agreed. So, we wait a week for them to print it (during which time I could have painted the damn thing.)
The day I pick up the canvas she is not there, so I head home to find (to my horror) that it was printed in color! Not only did the image have drastically distorted proportions, but the color resembled the yellow glare of a Las Vegas street light.
And then there was the goofy smile.
I try not to be the kind of person who takes myself too seriously, but this just crossed the line. I mean I do have self-respect. So, I called the offending party up and promptly refused the commission. However, a friend of mine manages the studio (not the one causing the problems) and she begged me to do the portrait as the deadline was in four days and she didn't have time to find someone else.
Look, I'm typically a pretty thorough person. I asked the standard questions at the beginning and got vague responses - that should have been enough warning. But I really needed the money. My friend negotiated more money for me to finish the painting, and not wanting to put her in a bind, I agreed to do it. Certainly, the money helped too.
I roughly sketched out the composition and decided to give her a dignified expression and get rid of that cheesy smile. Upon e-mailing the image, I received this response:
As she is currently painted she looks too old and we would like you to refer back to the original print exactly as it was for her face and her smile, as we all found that to be pleasing.How could she look old or young? It's a sketch!
No matter how I tried, I could not find a middle ground between what I could deal with and what she wanted (which changed daily by the way).
So, I bit my tongue so hard it bled.
And I painted the image above. The first day was 10 hours of pure, unadulterated, torture. Not only did I hate what I was painting, I couldn't paint properly because I didn't like it - so everything I knew went out the window and I struggled the whole time.
The second day was 12 hours of lamentable hell, and I still had a mental block. I finally came to what we have above, and I'm totally exhausted. I feel as if I've sold myself on the corner and been violated for 63 hours (shudder).
So, here's my advice:
Always make your price, time line, and working conditions perfectly clear at the beginning. Make sure there is a legal contract.
If they are not forthcoming with information, they are not someone you should be doing business with.
Update: The offending third party has now refused to pay what we agreed upon, and now asserts that she will pay me the equivalent of $7 an hour (big, surprise). I made more that when I worked at Wal-Mart in high School. She refuses to negotiate. So, I now have no qualms in revealing their identity in the hopes of warning others.
The company is Novo Arts, and the neurotic, condescending, micro-managing owner and arbiter of bad taste -who couldn't paint her way out of a paper bag (I've seen her paint) - is Marlaina Deppe. Further, her knowledge of art history doesn't extend much beyond Impressionism. Not only is she undercutting the business for real artists, she is exploiting us and destroying the quality of the work. I would strongly advise anyone who comes into contact with her to steer a wide course as she is unprofessional, exploitive, and cannot be trusted.