A layered life, by Lynne Cunningham

I like to write, so being brief in writing the descriptions and labels that caption my paintings, and short(er)  blurbs I write online is something I need to perfect.  I need to be more brief.  But there's usually a story for every painting and it can be short or long. There's the seed of the idea for the design; the beginning of the painting. There's the middle part, which is the execution of the painting. Mingled into this mixture of the whole process is what I'm feeling throughout the act of painting, which influences the artwork. And not to forget the the technical part of painting.

For my methods,  of beginning to paint with a layer in acrylics and then finishing in oil paints, this process is a well-accepted and an archival handling of paint materials; the painting will stand up to time.  Archival carries less and less importance now in contemporary art, however I'm traditional in my methods. I like to create paintings that will hold together over the years, with little chances of flaking or peeling paint.

Studio visitors ask about this when they read the label description 'acrylic and oil' . I explain that commercially sold canvases, or 99% of the canvas sold in the U.S. already has a layer of acrylic applied,  which is the base coat of acrylic gesso.  Oil paintings are painted on top of this acrylic underlayer . I might begin and finish a painting entirely in acrylic. Or begin in acrylic and then as I go along, I may see the painting could use some blending or some different textures, and I then switch to oils - - after the acrylic layer is dry.

I don't mix acrylic & oil while wet;  that won't bond well to the canvas. The differing layers need to dry in between. I do not use latex paint, that's meant for exterior or interior walls of a house.  Artist materials are for my paintings, whether pencil, pastel, ink, acrylic paints, oil pastel, oil paints, and artist mediums .  . . that's all! Tools, however, are less traditional and I get creative in buying tools for spreading and applying, buying paint tools from Home Depot or the paint department at the hardware store. Paints and paint mediums do need to be of Artist quality for my work. Besides, I just like working with brands that are a connection to art history (like Sennelier) and are a pleasure with which to paint!

A special Art Commission

Here's a post on how a recent painting Commission developed. It was a special experience for me and one that explains my commission process.

 I had the most wonderful client this Fall; she walked into my studio in the middle of a big rainstorm with her baby boy peacefully sleeping, wrapped tightly to the front of her.  We then took a few moments to get acquainted and she said she needed a painting for the master bedroom of their new home. This client was prepared! She knew the exact size of the artwork she wanted, and knew when she saw my work elsewhere that I'd probably be the artist to create a contemporary painting. The decision maker for her was spotting a painting of mine, in her color palette. We laid a couple canvases out on the floor to visualize exact measurements for the commissioned painting. One interesting point we had in common was that our hometowns are located about 60 miles apart, in Southern California.

We talked about the most important item on her list:  the color palette.  Then, the style followed that. The client was quite drawn to the rest of the paintings on my studio wall.  These important points made me feel I could easily create something we'e both be very happy over -  no problem!   The original painting we focused on for an exact color palette and style is 'River Rain', 30"x30", in oil on canvas, shown below.  The price was set at the time we signed an Agreement: I use a formula for pricing paintings that gives the client an exact cost. 

The client and I talked over details, then signed an agreement with the set price and timeframe and a deposit was paid.  My first step was to order a custom sized canvas from a reputable, known supplier. I thought the best way to show my proposed idea for a new, horizontal wide- format painting was to do a Photoshop concept. That's a fun chore for me! And it would work for both of us: it would give the buyer an idea on what to expect in color and painting composition in the new horizontal format.  And it would give me a composition and foundation with which to begin the new painting.  

The Photoshop idea is shown above.  I let the buyer know the colors would be exactly as the original 'River Rain' painting, but that there'd be some adjustments in pattern and composition. I also thought the finished painting needed to be a bit more minimal than this Photoshop image.

While painting, I'd mix the various colors, then take a dab on my painting knife over to the original painting, to make sure the color mixes were exact, as this was the most item that was primary for the client. It's not good when you have a specific color of green throughout a room, and a big focal element in the room like a painting is a few shades off! Greens are one of the trickiest colors in any palette, so I made sure to match colors.

The heavens and skies cooperated. During the creation of the original painting last winter, I opened the studio windows to the sound of rain.  During the painting process for the second version, the winter rains continued! I don't use this word loosely, but I felt blessed in the creation 'River Rain, version two'. Painting can be a spiritual experience for me, I must say that!


Here's the completed 'River Rain, version two', 30" x 48", above. At about the 75% completion stage, I sent a photo to see if I was on track.  Yes!  I felt some real joy, at hearing that! So in a few days I finished, signed, got the painting ready for hanging and scheduled a day we could meet. The client was so pleased! Me too!  This was a most pleasurable commission; each custom artwork takes its own path and process, depending on the artwork. Other significant commissions have included a large abstract triptych for a home in Reno, Nevada with frame suggestions, a series of artwork and a commissioned painting for the ArtFul Plate project for Yolo Arts, and a large watermedia painting for a student organization on campus, along with others.

Color palettes, sizes, styles, formats and framing suggestions if needed, all are open to the client's wishes. I work with the client to give what they want, based on my current and past work, and what I believe I can achieve. An agreed-upon set of points will be described in a short 2 page commission Agreement. Work in progress on the commission are then given to clients in emails & photos, as needed. Working as a landscape architect on multi-million $$ projects which were very complex and which could take years of planning (with many changes) before completion trained me for the commission process, from visualization to finish! 

Use the  Contact Page to begin if you want to explore ideas, ask questions or find out the possibilities and costs for a custom artwork for your home or your office.