Recently I was contacted by an old college friend who had seen my illustrations on Facebook. Ben liked what I was doing but didn’t say anything until he saw an illustration of a Rhinoceros Man, reminiscent of fantasy drawings he had loved looking at as a youth. This one clicked for him and so he contacted me to do a fantasy themed commission for his office.
Even though he lives in Chicago, we were able to connect over the phone and talk through some ideas about what he wanted as an illustration. Since we had been in a fraternity together, and the mascot was a red dragon, we thought it would be great to have that as a main design element. Add in the fantasy theme of a knight saving a damsel in distress, and the beginnings of a great painting started to take shape. When I create a personalized illustration for a client, I like to find things that are symbolic to them, which helps me create a story, which in turn focuses the composition. With Ben, he told me about his family ancestry, and the connections he had with Scotland. He got me a reference for his family crest to use as an element in the design of the illustration. All of this makes for a really rich back story that comes out in the commissioned illustration.
Ben was so excited to get his commission that he decided to pick it up in person. For me, it was great to see an old friend I hadn’t seen in years and to give him an illustration we had collaborated on together! When he saw the painting, he was floored to see something he had talked about in emails and on the phone, come to life on a canvas. He was so excited that he had already decided on doing another commission with me, this time for his company partners at Aceyus. Since it is a Greek themed name and he wanted to honor the people he worked with, we decided to create a real life scene based on a Greek army’s camp, with people interacting with each other doing various things. Ben had very specific ideas for this illustration, but also trusted me to use my creativity. It’s great to have that kind of relationship with a client, as it rewards all participants involved!
The illustration was very complex, due to the amount of people that I’d have to render, so a lot of planning went into the thumbnail stage. I wanted to make sure that Ben and his partners were front and center, that the people in his company were in various positions, doing different things, and that every type of person was well represented. Once the basic composition was agreed upon, I was able to focus on details like putting in lots of Aceyus related symbols, and make sure that the armor, the clothing and hairstyles were referenced correctly. I even added myself painting way in the background! Since Ben and I had worked together before, I had a very good idea of what he wanted from me, and how far I could push the composition. We talked about a color theme, and from that I knew what time of day it was going to be and how to render everything. Over all it was a very fun process and I find this shows up in the painting!
Ben loved the illustration and wanted to get it as soon as possible. This time I was going to mail out the illustrations, as he was having them sent to his two partners living in North Carolina and wasn’t going to be able to drive up to Toronto. This part is always a little stressful, making sure the client receives the commission on time, and since Ben was the only one who knew about it, making sure the other parties involved understood what they were receiving. Thankfully I was able to get them mailed out before the holiday rush and I can say that all parties have gotten their paintings and love them! For me it’s an amazing experience both artistically and emotionally, as my art hangs on someone’s wall and adds something new to their life.