My life as a Freelancer

I took a risk at Easter. I left teaching, in order to give my time to painting and to music composition. So far, it’s been the best decision I could have made, because I’ve had more work than I know what to do with. In fact, I’ve been so busy doing paid work for other people that I haven’t actually had any time to do things for myself. But that is the reality of freelancing – you have to follow the jobs.

So I’ve completed the music for another TV series, this one about an ex-soldier who suffers terrible PTSD, and whilst in a fit of unknowing rage, murders someone. It’s about how we treat those who have mental illness as much as about his need for redemption. It stretched my musical language, as the director wanted things to be quite atonal and confusing for much of it. I will post a link to it when i know the details of showing times.

At the same time, I was working on a large commission for a client in the States, who wanted a view of Carmel Beach from Pebble Beach Golf Links. That was a challenge, as there were no clear photos that I could find of the exact view he wanted, so I created the view from a number of different photos. The issue with that, as any artist will tell you, is that different photos might have been taken in different weather conditions, at different times of the day. So creating a picture which feels realistic, with the light falling from the same direction, is a huge challenge.

Then, I was busy preparing paintings for taking part in the Warwickshire Open Studios. I never have as much work on show as I’d like, especially because my painting style is pretty detailed, so each painting takes a fair amount of time to complete. But There were a good ten new paintings available to buy, as well as some older work, and in addition I’d had coasters and mugs printed with some of my artwork. And I have never sold as many originals as I did this year. It’s been a wonderful experience, confirming that I made the right decision at Easter.

I’m sure things won’t always be as smooth. there will be times when the work dries up, and people don’t buy my artwork. That is what most freelancers go through I’d expect. But that’s not coming yet – I have three painting commissions to complete before Christmas, and there is always the work on The Moons of Jupiter to return to in my music, as well as the small matter of a TV film to compose for, based on the life of St Bernadette of Lourdes. So at least in the short term, I have more than enough to keep me busy. And so I am more than content.

Life Changes

Well, since I last blogged, there have been some changes. Well, one in particular. I took the step in Easter of this year of leaving teaching. So I am now (and have been for the past one and a half months) a full-time creative freelancer.

So what is it like? Well, I’ve been fortunate. Since I walked out of the school where I’d taught for the past 12 years, I’ve been busy. I was commissioned to paint a large canvas of the Golf Links at Pebble Beach in California, and was also sent the first cut of my next TV series to score – all in the space of a couple of days – both arriving out of the blue in the same week I left teaching. It’s as if the man upstairs knows that I’d need a bit of reassurance that I’ve down the right thing.

So that’s what I’ve been busy doing these last 6 weeks or so – these and writing some four songs for the school – my last gift to them – to use in a production about the Coventry Blitz in 1940. So now, I’ve completed the songs, completed and sent the large canvas, and have almost completed the TV score. I have another TV score in the pipeline, and I’m also extremely busy creating some new artwork for the Warwickshire Open Studios, starting (if all goes to plan and the pandemic doesn’t throw us another curve-ball) on the 19th June.

So I wouldn’t really have time now to be a teacher.

Having said that, what I am discovering is how much harder it is to maintain momentum and motivation when there is only me pushing. I think that’s why I love doing commissions – both art and music – they are difficult to get right, because the customer is always right and they always have a fairly fixed view in their imagination of what they want, but it’s not always easy for the artist or composer to find that. But there are time limits placed on such ventures, and so they have their own momentum.

But I’ve only been doing this for a month and a half, so I ought not to be too hard on myself. I will develop a routine. It will come. In the meantime, I leave you with some of the artwork I’ve been working on recently.

Wild Horses – acrylics on canvas
Diorama – the Shambles, York
Diorama – Bibury

A Special Commission

Every commission is special. Of course it is – if someone asks you (and pays you) to paint a particular scene, or pet, or person, its because the subject matter is important. That’s why I love to paint commissions. It’s terrifying at the same time, because you just never know if what you produce will quite fit the bill. That’s especially true of portraits – painting someone you’ve never met in the flesh, but whose face is known and loved by the recipient. I always ask for a number of photo sources if possible, so that I can build up an image in my mind of how the person looks from different angles, in different lights.

So I thought I’d share my latest commission with you, with the permission of the buyer.

This is a beautiful cottage in North Wales, owned by the person who asked me to paint it. They live most of the time in Coventry, but this is their second home. And it is just idyllic – I’ve visited there and it’s a very healing place to be. But with the present covid-19 situation, and ever-increasing lockdowns all over the UK, they haven’t been able to visit the cottage much.

So this painting reminds them of their beautiful home away from home. And I’m pleased to be able to give them that link with something which feels quite far away at present.

But every commission, as I said, is special. Here are some of the other commissions I’ve painted over the past couple of years.

Venice, special to the couple who commissioned it as they honeymooned there. Painted from their own photograph.
A glacier somewhere cold! Special because the couple spent time there on one of their first holidays away with each other.
Joseph, special because this was a gift, commissioned by his uncle, for his parents.
What a cutey! I’m not surprised the parents wanted this one immortalised.
Winston, special because he was one of a kind – certainly to his owner! He’s since popped off to kitty-heaven, so this is even more important as a memory holder.
This was painted to be given as a gift by the three children to their parents on their wedding anniversary.

This next one was interesting – I was contacted by someone who wanted a copy of an old watercolour doing. The only photograph he had of the original painting was tiny. He also sent a number of photos of the house as it is now – it happens to be the house where he lives. So I merged the watercolour, as unclear and small as it was, with the details from the present day photos.

And So commissions are always special. They always mean something to the buyer. And I feel very privileged to be able to contribute to that special memory, that special occasion. Scared, yes – will it be what they envisaged? But when I am painting these pictures, I am always deeply aware of the emotional resonance which they may carry. There are some which are even more special. They gain resonance with time, and with events. So I’ll leave you with this one. This is a mother and daughter portrait commissioned by the husband of the daughter. It was a lovely portrait to paint – the love between the two is very clear. And faces with a bit of history to them are always fascinating to paint.

But not long after I completed this, the older lady passed away. I hope my portrait brings joy, even if tinged with sadness.