Brenda J. Clark, painter

artist's perspective
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The artist's perspective
A season full of commissions. I have enjoyed the challenge of rendering four large-scale commissions in a single past season.

Often I am asked, "Well, how do you handle a commission...don't you feel confined?"

I always respond that a commission does not confine me, but certainly does challenge me in a different way than when I simply begin a painting without request.

A commission request may consist of painting a scene that I have painted before. Or it may revolve around my choice of a scene based on the client's request for a perspective of, for example, a farmscape, a flower garden, or the Manitou Islands. A commission may also be based on an existing painting that the client likes, but has been sold.

Painting on location, both plus and minus
One of my challenges during the commission process evolves from painting predominately on location. Because I paint on site and the weather—light, temperature, humidity and colors—changes from day to day, I cannot duplicate a painting purely by the nature of how I paint...nor would I want to do so.

Rather, each painting has its own story whether similar or not to something already painted on a previous occasion. During this fall, I painted two large commissions reflecting my ongoing Kissing Manitous subject matter. I was surprised by how different each painting feels. Yet there is a kinship between them.

I began the first of these two in September...the other in early October. The first has long slow marks...the second has shorter, quicker strokes...probably because of the wind and cold that I felt. Of course, the sky was different and the cornfields went through many changes of color and texture, ultimately being chopped down to the ground and then plowed under.

Staying in charge
With a commission I must struggle to keep myself in charge of the painting. I would not allow a painting to go out the door unless I was fully pleased and confident with every stroke of paint.

Most commissions are established based on the client wanting the artist's interpretation. Lucky me! I certainly attempt to do so, but there is a bit of a concern in the back of my mind: I contemplate if the painting is what was envisioned and wanted by the patron. It is important to mull over such concerns, but essential to ultimately put them out of my mind. Such contemplation does help me make sure that the painting is fresh, not only visually in my eyes, but intuitively in my mind.

When I feel that I am getting close to finishing a commission, I always give the work a break in time so that I can freshly analyze the painting—whether from the window as a I fast walk by the gallery...or when I stop in the gallery for a more thorough examination.

Process still means challenge
Painting a commission is not just a series of steps from making the stretcher, stretching the canvas and priming it, to painting, but a test of my ability to conceptually understand and create. Palette and subject matter, weather and mood—all drive my ability to create and render a successful commission.

Traditions and history
I have always loved two things about painting: Doing larger scale paintings and the pursuit of being prolific. Yet, whether I paint a smaller sized commission or a larger scale piece—on wood, paper or canvas—I strive to tap my emotions and the base of knowledge that have grown and evolved into my own style of Expressionism. As I often state, I want my bold strokes and bright colors to reveal my energy and emotions.


Kissing Manitous in Fall
Acrylic on canvas
60" x 42"

Commissioned by
Dan & Ann Snyder
Los Gatos, California

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© 2006–   Brenda J. Clark  |   P.O. Box 1041  |   Leland, Michigan  |   231.492.2196  |

Paintings may not be reproduced without permission from the artist.