Inside the artist Ray Monde's studio

How do you do an art commission for a client 18,000 miles away?

There’s no greater compliment for an artist to have someone recommend your work.

It says they like your work. It says they like your work enough to share your work with other people.

Is an art recommendation really that important? Yes. It’s not like recommending a sofa or a brand of milk. They like your work enough to stake their own integrity on your art. This is a big deal.

Courtcliffe Acres by Ray Monde showing Wayne Tunnicliffe and Jimmy Court at home
Duffy’s Lane, (Courtcliffe Acres), Ray Monde, collage and synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 2018.

The first commission that birthed the next one.

A couple of years ago, James Courtenay reached out to me on Instagram to see if I could do a commission of him and his husband, Wayne Tunnicliffe at their property in Kangaroo Valley.

While I was apprehensive at first, it was a turning point in my art – blending my suburban gothic oeuvre with portraiture. Now, through them, I’ve been working on another commission for another couple.

Pencil sketch by Ray Monde of two men and a dog on their balcony filled with plants
Preliminary scamp of Jaigo Jungle

First up, a quick sketch based on photos.

Unlike the work for Jimmy and Wayne, I couldn’t visit Jamie and Diego to sketch from real life. I was in Seattle and they were in Sydney. We were all under COVID-19 lockdown.

Instead, after some preliminary photos to get a sense of their space, I asked for a series of very specific shots of pots, plants, chairs and their dog.

Jaigo Jungle 22

Cutting out separate elements to create the composition.

In the past, I drew rough outlines on the canvas. I worked over these using small pieces of paper and binder medium.

For this complex piece, with lots of smaller elements, I created lots of little bits and moved them around, to get a better sense of shape and composition. I learnt this trick from Matisse from The Cut-Outs exhibition.

Pink flamingo cut out by Ray Monde inspired by The Cut-Outs exhibition Matisse
No flamingo was harmed in the making of this artwork

Building up textured collage to get it just right.

It was a slow process. I hadn’t anticipated the level of detail needed to create all the smaller elements of pot plants, watering cans, side tables, garden ornaments.

I became obsessive over the shape and color of succulents and was particularly drawn to their structural form. A huge credit to Jamie and Diego for having such a great eye to bring together such a grand collection of plants on a Sydney apartment balcony.

Work in progress image of two men on lawn chairs on their balcony by Ray Monde
Work in progress shot of Jaigo Jungle

Evolving techniques to grow.

While I can’t show you the final work just yet, the big lesson for me in this is that we have to constantly adapt what we’re doing to suit a new set of circumstances.

Before I moved to Seattle, I was pushed just to get the work done. What I’ve realised now is that it’s only through experimentation that we grow. Try new materials, try new ways of creating, try different ways of using your tools and materials and new things will burst out.

It’s particularly important these days when the world we were accustomed to has changed a lot. The only way we can all move forward is by adapting, taking what we have and doing something different.

There’s dark times now, but when the bright times come, they will be particularly brilliant.

 

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