Mattie’s Forest – Building a painting

Preparatory sketch for Mattie’s Forest

Sometimes, I’m privileged enough to get commissions. One Christmas, my good friend Miranda commissioned me to create a painting for her boyfriend’s mother, Mattie. They had been to a market together and she had commented on a painting she had liked. Having just had her kitchen redecorated the brief was to make a piece that echoed the one she had seen and execute it in tones that would fit her new kitchen. All this, without having seen either the original painting or her kitchen. Over the phone Miranda described what she remembered of the picture. I sketched what she painted in my mind’s eye.

First colour palette test for Mattie’s Forest

Then came a discussion about colours and trying options. I adore colour, it affects me. Sometimes, I have synaesthetic reactions to it and It’s one of the reasons I paint. But. It is notoriously difficult to describe colours. Our reference points are governed by our experiences and our experiences are entirely different to one another, even for the same event so how can we be sure what we are communicating is what is being received?

Second colour palette test for Mattie’s Forest

I emailed Miranda the first colour sketch. “I don’t remember there being that much blue, more yellowy and there was some snow…”Back to the drawing board. Literally. Warmer tones and hints of white. Was I getting closer? “That’s more like it!” Miranda seemed to think we were heading in the right direction so we agreed a size and I started painting. I was quite busy at the time so I sent through regular updates so she knew that the work was progressing.

Mattie’s Forest stage 1

Mattie’s Forest stage 2

I was starting to really enjoy the commission and people who wandered through the kitchen (my studio at that time) were very drawn to it. Miranda seemed pleased too.

Mattie’s Forest stage 3

In fact, I probably would have left the painting at this stage but Mattie had liked a painting that had snow so we did some tests on a photograph of stage three, using the gimp to try out how much and where to distribute the snow.

Mattie’s Forest – Gimp Snow Test

Once we had decided how much snow was enough snow, I was able to finish the painting in time for it to dry before Christmas.  Miranda tells me Mattie was very pleased and that it now hangs in her kitchen where it was envisaged.

Mattie’s Forest
Triptych ~ Oil on Canvas ~ December 2009
Owned by Mattie Macleod


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