The Story

A few months ago, I was contacted by a lady in San Francisco who had come across my website. She asked me if I’d be interested in doing a customised painting for her and her fiancé’s wedding invitations. They were due to be getting married in Granada in September 2016, she’d seen my work online and thought it would be lovely to have one of my paintings as their invitation. I, of course, jumped at the chance! It’s always exciting to make a painting for someone but to be part of their wedding was really something special!

Planning the Composition

After emailing back and forth to work out all the details, I set to work! They sent me photos of places they’d like to feature and told me little extras they’d like to include in the picture. As I was lucky enough to actually be in the city I was painting, I went for a wander with my camera one day at dusk (they are getting married at dusk) to take some photos and get a feel of the different places. With this information I set about working on the composition.

It was a bit tricky at first to merge all the different places and viewpoints to make one piece. So I did different sketches and emailed them to the couple for comment, then developed the composition more, until we arrived at the final one!

The Painting Stage

Now I had the final composition plan the next step was to trace it onto my painting paper and get to work adding colour! We had already discussed the colours that they wanted, both in general and for specific areas. So I began adding colour layer by layer and gradually building up the image. I think my favourite part of this process is watching the colours move on the paper and blend together. There is something so captivating about the wet paint, I just love it! The most frustrating part is being patient and waiting for it to dry between layers or sections so you don’t just end up with a massive murky-brown mess!

I sent the couple photos of the painting at different stages so they could see how it was progressing and make any comments. Commissions are a delicate thing. When someone contacts me to commission a painting it means that they like my work so much that they want me, and only me, to paint something for them. However, they often naturally have very specific requirements or ideas about the final product they’d like to achieve. I always ensure the person is clear on my style and what they can expect of one of my artworks before agreeing to a commission. The success of a commission all hinges on the narrow middle-ground in which the client and I meet: they must respect my creative instincts while I must respect their preferences and ideas. It is very much a relationship of trust and communication is key.

The Ink Stage

Finally, when the painting was done, it was time to add the ink details! This is the part when I draw in outlines, windows, leaves and things to really bring the painting to life. It is usually faster than the painting part, and thank goodness because I was working to a deadline! The couple were now in Granada to spend the holidays with the groom’s family and we had arranged to meet at my printers’ with the finished painting to finalise the details for the invitation.

Finished!

Watercolour and ink on Arches hot pressed 300gsm // 140lb watercolour paper.
31 x 41 cm // approx 12 x 16 inches

Can you recognise any of the places or spot the added details in the painting?

Details

The Invitations

After sending a photo of the finished painting to the couple I met them the following day at my printers’. We discussed what they wanted for the invitations and arranged everything. The printer scanned the painting and he and I did various colour tests on different papers until we decided on the best one. We also digitally changed the “double joy” symbol to red for the invitations as per their request.

The digital reproduction is never the same at the original painting due to the many layers of watercolour in the original as well as the fact that some pigments just don’t convert exactly from paper to computer and back to paper again via the printer. For this reason, whenever I make prints from my originals I choose the version that I think looks best alone without having the original beside it. Of course they are similar but, as it’s impossible to make an exact reproduction, I think it’s important to produce a print that is beautiful in its own right, especially bearing in mind that most of the time someone who sees a print will never see the original.

So, once the print was ready I met the couple in town that evening to show them the example invitation print-out and hand over the painting. And that’s it! All is now ready to go for whenever they want to print the invitations and they have their original commissioned painting ready to hang in their home as a reminder of their beautiful September wedding in Granada at the foot of the Alhambra. I am so excited to be a part of it!