A Custom Fit

During my winter show in Breckenridge this year, I had the opportunity to meet many wonderful locals who appreciate the great Colorado outdoors the way I do. I was also fortunate that in addition to selling paintings in the gallery, there were also some commission orders placed.

Roger and Darlene Crane were one such couple. They had built a beautiful new home on the Blue River and needed something tall to flank a picture window to complete their living room. We measured the space and I came up with a few possible sizes, which I mocked up in Photoshop. They opted for two 6ft tall by 2ft wide paintings.

Their home decor reflects the nature around them they love so they knew they wanted one painting to represent the river and they wanted a wood element in the second painting – possibly with a wood trail like the ones on treasured hiking trails near their home. This was a pretty tall order, so to speak, so I wanted to share my process with you.

Step 1: I made some initial thumbnail sketches with ideas that would help relate the two paintings. They would be separated by a large window, so it couldn’t be a continuation of one scene. Since we knew one would be the river, I sketched that first, then drew a concept for a companion piece that would show what happens under the river. As an alternative, I sketched a third idea of a person walking on one of the boardwalk trails, but I had no reference photos for this one. This was the one that was chosen so I searched through my photos for how to make a more interesting mountain background with a wood trail lined with trees. To relate the two paintings, I decided to use the shapes of the river and the boardwalk as a sort of parentheses that would curve toward one another.

Step 2 was to create small scale paintings on paper to help prove out the concepts and get approval on final design and color direction before we moved to the panels. Once approved, the scale paintings became my guide. At this stage the Cranes were able to provide input on cutting back on the yellow-green and add more reds, for instance, which was quite helpful.

About the panels: The easier route would have been to stretch canvases. But since the Cranes were interested in a wood element in the painting, I suggested we actually paint them on wood, which would bring the wood grain and imperfections, such as knots, into the piece. I purchased three 2×4′ plywood panels and decided that one side would have the 4′ panel on top of a 2′ panel, while the other side would have the smaller panel on top. This was to keep the piece from getting too symmetrical and reinforce a sense of intention to the format. They liked the diptych format.

Step 3: The panels were gessoed and stained with background colors. I like to work from dark to light, so I drew in the dark areas first and worked my way through the two paintings. They were a lot of fun to paint!

Step 4: My darling hubby provided the woodwork to complete the edges of the paintings with 1x2s all around to create cradle frames. I discussed the paint color for the sides with the Cranes, who suggested we use their wall color, which was perfect. We were able to order the color locally at the Sherwin Williams store, and I was able to pick it up the same day. I used a wood filler to fill tiny holes, sand and paint the sides with several coats of China Doll. The paintings were ready for delivery.

In the end, Roger and Darlene got paintings that look like they were made to fit their living room space and it was truly a joy to see it all come together in the context of their beautiful home with views of the stream and trees beyond. It was also amazing to invite their input each step of the way on things like color choices and overall direction. If you’d like to discuss an idea for a custom painting, let’s talk. I’ll send you a cost estimate and we can co-create the perfect art for your home or office space.

Leslie Jorgensen Fine Art
120 W 1st Street, Salida, CO

  • Gorgeous paintings and thanks for the walk through of how you created these. It looks amazing in their home and I’m curious if they’ll even look out the window when they’ve got those wonderful “Parentheses” to look at! I can see why you are such an incredibly sought after artist and why people would commission you to enhance their living area. The only thing that room seems to be missing is a comfy ottoman, don’t you agree?

  • These turned out AMAZING Leslie… and they go so nicely in those spaces! Wow! Love them! 😍 CONGRATS!! ❤️

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