Friday, April 20, 2018

Commissioned ART

One of my favorite things about what I get to do as a full time working artist is commissioned work. Commissioned work is when someone hires me to custom create something very specific for them (a painting, a sketch, a mural, a design, etc.) I've been doing commissioned work for at least 20 years now and it never ceases to bring me joy as I continue to be challenged, inspired, and blown away by the unique blessing that collaborating with a client can be.

And collaboration is exactly how I see commissioned work. It's a collaboration (a conversation) between myself and the client to create something from nothing...something new and tangible from mere ideas and thoughts. A lot of artists prefer to not do commissioned work, as they find it to be too demanding or limiting for them (encroaching on their individual work and ideas). But I have found commissioned work to be essential in not only developing good business and networking connections but in developing growth in my own skills and abilities as an artist and in developing long lasting relationship with people as I work to make something that we can be proud of together. 

For me...commissioned work is more than getting paid for my's about loving people through art in a very personal way. And I'm all about the love! :) 

I'd like to give you an example of what I'm talking about...from a recent commissioned work I just finished. (I have my clients permission to share the story and some photos of our process) 


So, many moons ago I lived in Washington State. It was there, during my high school years, that I met my friend Julie. 

This is Julie.
Julie is an education training specialist at a local college where she lives. One of my favorite things that I like about Julie is her laugh and her loving heart for her family and friends. Speaking of friends...Julie has a friend named Kelli. 

This is Kelli. 
Kelli is a personal trainer and business owner who dedicates her life to helping people create a healthy mind, body, and soul through fitness training, dance, and creating a healing space for cancer patients/survivors that includes painting, music, and movement.   Kelli has a loving heart for people that extends into every area of her life. 

So Julie, being the loving friend that she is, had an contact me about a commissioned painting that she would purchase as a gift specifically for her friend a gesture of gratitude and blessing for who Kelli is in how she blesses others. 

Of course these days I'm located in Idaho State, where I have my art business revelatorART

This is me (Lisa). 
That's not Idaho in the picture...but it's where I'm moving to soon (but that's a story for another blog post). Anyways...

Julie messaged me through Facebook to ask me about the commissioned work. She knew my business logo was a Koru swirl (a tribal symbol I connected with when I traveled to New Zealand that has many meanings, with one of them being "new beginnings") and she wanted to talk to me about it because she had noticed that Kelli owned a Koru swirl piece of art. 

As we messaged back and forth through Facebook and she filled me in on her thoughts and ideas about blessing her friend (with whom I didn't know and had never met), Julie let me know that she felt Kelli and I would connect well as we seem to have a similar heart dedication to love on people through who we are and what we do. She wanted to hire me to paint a Koru for Kelli (in my abstract expressionist mixed media style) so she could give it to Kelli for the grand opening of Kelli's new fitness studio. 

I was more than willing to take on this commission and to enter the conversation of long distance collaboration (between myself and Julie...and more importantly, between myself Kelli) as I sought to create a painting that would represent Kelli and speak her heart through paint and canvas. 

The entire process (from that first message Julie sent to me to inquire all the way to the day Kelli received the painting) would take about 5 months. 

Once Julie and I signed the contract (that I emailed to her) together for the commissioned piece, (which this is my policy with clients for legal purposes of agreement on payment and deadline), I began the process of correspondence with Kelli (via Julie) to figure out the detail of what the painting would look like. 

We emailed back and forth to converse about the details. Part of the reasons it took so long was because you have to remember that this was a long distance commission and I had never met Kelli before and needed to get to know her in order to create a unique piece of art that would represent who she is and what she's about, something that would inspire her and her own clients (as it would hang in her new fitness studio). And I needed the time to begin preliminary sketches and computer mock ups to try and take her thoughts and ideas and what we were corresponding about through our internet communication and formulate them into something tangible in imagery. It's a part of the process that calls for patience and grace as both myself and my client work hard to learn from each other (to listen and be heard). 

This kind of work takes a lot of time even when I have the benefit of a client who is local with me and I can meet them face to face. Due to our long distance locations and the busyness of our schedules and needing to connect via Julie, this first phase of the process was a bit of a challenge, but we pressed through in order to be able to come up with something that we all would love and that I could create with paint on canvas. 

I asked Kelli a bunch of questions in order to get to know her...everything from favorite music to favorite quotes and colors to what motivates her to do what she does. For me, it was a fun process to learn about Kelli and to try and come up with something for her. 

I work in the computer first before setting a brush into paint and onto the canvas. It helps me get a picture (an initial idea) ahead of time of what I'm to me a rough outline (to use a writing metaphor) to know where to speak from. It helps me with knowing what colors to use and how the design should be. I pull from the thoughts and ideas of the client, I pull from images and textures I find that might help with inspiration, and I pull from things I create and come up with. It's not an exact replica of what the painting will actually end up looking like, but it's a foundation to work from. It also helps the client in being able to picture what their painting will possibly be able to look like. 

I'll never forget the day I received the email that Kelli sent saying that I had "nailed it" for her in my computer mock up of the Koru that would best express who she is. The above photo is the computer mock up of the Koru swirl as a dream catcher with various dancers (adults and children) and tribal feathers moving throughout, and specific words and phrases that would mean a lot to Kelli (life mottos and inspiring messages). This mock up helped me in creating the central focal point of the painting. 

Once the correspondence part of the process was completed, I could enter my studio and gather my tools around me and begin the process of creating the painting. 

The easel. 

The brushes and tools.

The acrylic paint. 

The latex house paint.

The cut outs of the printed and painted imagery of the dancers and feathers I would glue within the Koru. 

Once the painting started I didn't stop until it was finished. I listened to Kelli's favorite music while I painted so that my heart and mind would be fully connected to her (as best I could be) while I painted. I truly see the process of creating as a conversation and so I was having a conversation with her as I painted...I spent time listening for the details that would speak life. 

Dance Your Dream
c. 2018 Lisa Marten
24x30 mixed media on canvas
For Kelli from Julie painted by Lisa.

Once I finished the painting I contacted Julie to let her know. Being that Julie was the one purchasing the painting for Kelli, I had her ask Kelli for me if she wanted to see a photo of the painting before she received the painting in person or if she wanted to wait to be surprised....and she wanted to wait to be surprised. 

So I too had to wait to know what her reaction would be. 

The next part of the process was shipping. Once a painting is given to a client or shipped off to a client it's no longer mine...I have to let go and let it be free to be with the one who called it into existence. 

It only took a few days for it to arrive to Julie and then she took it to Kelli to give to her at her studio. 

Sidenote: one of my favorite things about commissioned work is when I am able to give the art piece to my client and I can see and hear their reaction to the unveiling of their very special and unique customized piece of art that I was able to create for them. It's not just about "they like what I made"'s more about "oh wow! i got it right! i got them right!" and they are experiencing "I see you, I hear you, you are understood, you are loved." 

Because this commissioned work was all done long distance I asked Julie if she could take some photos and video for me when she gave the painting to Kelli so I would be able to know how this collaboration turned out. 

This is Kelli with her painting. 
She loves it! 

I received this internet correspondence from both Julie and Kelli the next day in response to our creative journey together. Needless to say, this made me smile so hugely and made me cry. It was such a positive and inspiring process to  be a part of and it will be one of my most memorable experiences with a client(s) and a commissioned piece of art. Such a life giving moment! So worth it! 

To know that in a small way I was able to love on and encourage 2 people-one whom I've never met face to face (just by being who I am as an artist)-who love much and love well...who in turn love on and encourage so many others on a daily basis, is one of the most rewarding things in life. 

I love love love what I get to do! 

So I'm gonna keep painting LOVE! 

*if you or someone you know is interested in hiring me to do a unique piece of commissioned art, please contact me at: and we can begin to enter the conversation of creative collaboration together. Much Love! 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Creative Collaboration: Intentional Inclusion: Invite. Invite. Invite.

I love creative collaboration! 
There is something so incredibly fun for me to connect with other artists through our creativity. I'm not really sure when exactly the love of creative collaboration started for me...but I can definitely remember 19 years ago, the first time I was invited to paint side by side together with another artist on the same canvas (thank you Jillian McEntarffer!) The experience introduced me to new mediums, color palettes, painting styles, and techniques and it opened up a whole new viewpoint on how to make art, how to grow as an artist, and how to build relationship with other artists. Yet it would take immersing myself into an art community a few years later where collaboration was not only encouraged, but very much a part of the DNA of who they are (thank you Jessie Nilo and the Art Family of VineArts Boise!) I've been a part of creative collaborations with other artists, creatives, performers, speakers, writers, etc.) in all various forms for the last 14 years...and it's now very much a part of my DNA in who I am. 

Intentional Inclusion.
Invite. Invite. Invite. 

Most visual artists prefer to create on their the comfort and seclusion of their studios. It's rare to find a visual artist that will embrace creating in some other setting that has other people around (especially other artists).  But that is exactly what I love to do!

Yes of course I value my alone time in my art studio as I work on commissioned paintings or projects for clients or as I work on paintings for upcoming art exhibits I'm showing in. But I also value time spent with other artists as we work together collaborating on visual art or performance art together (regardless of if it's for a specific project that we're involved in or if it's to have fun together creating and learning from each other).  The intentional invitation to collaborate together is something I highly value. 

I learned from one of my college professors-mentors in Seattle 30 years ago that the process of inclusion is empowering (thank you Dennis Leggett!). He intentionally invited 2 students (male and female) from each year (Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior) within our department of study to join him as a small group that would meet once a month together until we all graduated (as Seniors graduated, new Freshman joined the it just kept going). Together we met with him and oftentimes his wife on campus and in his home, we went to coffee, we ate together, we did book studies together, discussed topics and shared ideas, we went camping together and we hung out together. We were mentored by him and we mentored each other. It was the most memorable part of my college education. 

The big lesson he tried to instill in us all in the 4 years he had with us was that when you intentionally invite people to come along side of you to learn about what you KNOW, to get in there and experience together with you and FEEL what you do, and then to be released to DO it themselves in their are helping to equip, encourage, and empower them to be who they're supposed to be with their unique voice (to be an important part of the bigger picture that creates legacy). This is mentoring, discipling, coaching, teaching, parenting, pastoring, ministering,'s collaborating. Intentionally coming alongside one another is a beautiful way of building relationship and helping each other grow. 

Yesterday I was able to hang out with my dear friend and fellow Artist and Art Minister, Jessie Nilo in her studio to collaborate on a canvas with her. We've painted together numerous times over the past 14 years (everything from murals to backdrops to live speed paintings) but last night was a first...we created an impressionist portrait painting intuitively plan, no audience, no agenda...for the main purpose of having fun together...connecting in conversation and creativity. 

Though we're both visual artists and have worked with each other for years, we have very different backgrounds as to how we learned to paint and we have different painting styles, medium preferences, and typically choose different subject matter to paint. But regardless, the process of collaboration calls for integrating our individual artistic voices into one shared voice that comes through what is created. 

Collaboration really is like having a conversation with someone (regardless of if you know them or not). There's moments of sharing, moments of listening, moments of responding, moments of pausing. There's give and take, learning and teaching, giving and receiving. It's all a part of it. 

We put some music on and began randomly applying archival tape to the black canvas (for some texture) and then as we talked and listened we applied acrylic paint through abstract expressionist techniques. The colors we chose for our palette were colors that neither of us would've normally chosen to paint with (I think this was a purposeful challenge to ourselves to go beyond what we know). 

Upon gathering together, we didn't have a plan of what we were going to paint. She had recently purchased an art book of photography and we both looked at it while we ate our dinner and talked. It gave us some inspiration and direction. Keep in mind it was all very free form and organic in how we approached this creative process. We kept our brushstrokes loose so we didn't get caught up in perfection of trying to copy the photograph. This allowed us to be free to intuitively paint the portrait together with our unique styles. 

Here Jessie is applying paint with her fingers (this is not her typical way of painting-though I often use my fingers!) Also...can you see the pink splatter in the upper left corner (that was my signature technique added). 

Here I'm applying some gold under the eye to create a highlight (portraits in paint are not my typical subject matter-though Jessie often paints portraits!) I was impressed with how many colors we used in this portrait. 

We both couldn't believe what we were able to create together in ONLY 45 MINUTES! It was such a fun experience collaborating in this way together. 

Little known fact: our fastest time painting on the same canvas together and completing a painting was about 5 minutes! That was a couple of years ago when we painted live as an illustration during part of our Pastor's sermon (and we had rehearsed painting the image a few times before we did it live). 

c. 2018 Jessie Nilo and Lisa Marten
16x20 mixed media on canvas 
(acrylic paint and archival tape)

Imitator: (noun) follower, model, example of the manner, style, character, resemble or simulate, to make or be like 

After creating this piece we kind of thought the image looked a bit Christ-like...but not actually Christ. And we were reminded of the encouragement of Philippians 2 which speaks a lot about being imitators of Christ (loving people and being in unity together). 

"Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus."  

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Abstract Expressionism Layers

Some of my artistic influencers have been expressionist painters like Vincent Van Gogh and JMW Turner...abstract expressionist painters like Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner...and mixed media artists like Rick Bartow and James Castle. I'm also influenced by my fellow contemporary abstract expressionist artists and collage artists that I've viewed at various galleries around the world and on social media. Their work is very different from each other but one  thing they all have in common is their use of layers. Their mark making is intuitive. They work in layers applying color with various mediums utilizing texture, abstract shapes, and emotive action that express story with what they paint. This is the heart of expressionism. This is also what I do.

Here is some documentation of the abstract expressionist mixed media collage layering process with the canvas that was on my easel today....

Stage one of mark making...
Graphite pencil sketching.

and charcoal sketching. 

Stage two of mark making. 
Latex house paint and acrylic paint brush work.

More layers of brushwork.

And more layers of brushwork.

Stage three of mark making.
Layering with more sketching and brushwork.

And more sketching and brushwork...creating definition.

Stage four of mark making.
Brushwork and sketching creating top layers of action and emotion.

Stage five of mark making.
Splattering of paint.

Stage six of mark making.
This is the focal image for the painting...pomegranates on a round table. I printed out 3 different images of pomegranates in black and white and pasted them together. I also printed out a round table top in black and white. I brushed on matte medium to protect the paper and ink. Then I painted with acrylic paint on top of them to bring some color to the imagery. 

And here's the story for this painting...

Gather: Taste and See
c. 2018 Lisa Marten
24x30 mixed media on canvas
(graphite, charcoal, chalk pastel, acrylic paint, latex house paint, paper, ink, matte medium)

This painting is all about being welcome to the table...communion in community. This is us...friends, strangers, allies, enemies, races, genders, religions, ideologies, economic backgrounds, nations, cultures...humans...experiencing the same hunger, the same needs, the same feelings, the same hopes and joys, and the same pain and sorrow...we are all welcome to gather around the and share together. The big question...when given the choice, can we let go of our differences to sit next to each other and listen to one another with caring hearts over open conversation together...can we share who we are, what we have, our experiences and where we're going with each true communion. The pomegranate is an ancient symbol prosperity and fruitfulness. It's also a spiritual symbol of brokenness and resurrection. In Christian tradition it's a symbol of God's uncontrolling Love for us. This painting is all about the Love freely offered to us every day. It's up to us. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Mark Making and Art Abiding

I wanted to show you some more of my creative process as I'm painting in my studio. There are various stages of mixed media layering and texturing and mark making that I engage in as I create an abstract expressionist painting. 

I start with an image that will be my focal point and theme of the painting. Once it's printed out from my computer (usually in black and white). I apply a layer of matte medium to protect the paper and seal in the ink so that I can paint or draw on top of it without ruining the image. 

For this specific image, of two people embracing, I chose to apply some brown acrylic paint to  give some depth to it (and to try to create a more neutral skin tone to be inclusive to all ethnicities). 

Then I cut the image out. And in this case I needed to tape sections together (because the overall image is larger than my printer prints). 

Here's some of the progression. 

Once I finish prepping the focal image I'm ready to begin painting the abstract background on the canvas. 

There are several layers in the process of painting...but I usually start out with sketching on the canvas with graphite and charcoal.

Next I begin painting with large brushes using latex house paint and also acrylic paints in loose brushstrokes. I typically start with the darker colors first to create depth and then move towards the brighter colors. The more water I use with the paint I can create washes and drips texture.

Here's some of the progression.

From there I just keep continuing the layers of color and texture. 

I used rags and paper towels to add texture in some of the areas...creating smoothness or creating a brushed away effect. 

I used a palate knife to apply the paint to create a thicker texture in parts of the painting (for this one I used it mostly in the center area).

I intermittently sketched on top of the paint with graphite, charcoal, and chalk pastel to add more depth in some areas and to create a unique sketchiness in other areas. 

The process of applying the various layers can take several hours (usually a full work day and sometimes into the night) as I work until it's finished. Switching back and forth from painting to texture to sketching to painting to drip effects to more sketching to splatter to texture to painting again is all a part of the process. 

The moment I know the abstract background is finished I can move on to the next step. I apply the focal image with the matte medium (this time using it a glue), smoothing it out with a small plastic squeegee and then apply some finishing touches with paint to get it to integrate into the background. 

With this specific painting I also used some paint sticks to splatter latex house paint onto the canvas as a finishing touch to give it that extra something...(it's kind of my thing to splatter paint). 

Here's the finished painting:

Abide With Me
c. 2018 Lisa Marten
24x30 mixed media on canvas 
(graphite, charcoal, chalk pastel, acrylic paint, latex house paint, paper, ink, matte medium)

This painting is all about the LOVE. 
It's not just the feeling of's about the security, the safety, the peace, the trust...that knows us, that accepts us, that believes in us. It's the belonging. It's being home within that embrace. It's abiding in love. In order to truly experience the embrace, we need to be open and willing to be intentional, to be close, to be vulnerable, to be who we are...together. It's a risk...but it's what we all need and long for. It's what makes us human. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Revisiting a Previous Painting to Create Something New

This is a painting I created live during my art exhibit opening titled Hands and Feet that I had last year in October at Awakenings Coffee House in Boise. I had titled the painting Look At The Ravens: You Count Far More. I created it to the live music of local musician Jake Nielsen. It was such a fun collaboration with him in that live moment for the audience to experience with us together. The painting has been sitting in my studio ever since and I haven't known what to do with it. I could sell it. I could give it away. Or...I could do something new with it. 

Today I chose to do something new with the painting. And so it took it's place on my easel ready to be transformed. Ready to collaborate with me and with God, with the paints and other mediums, with the brushes and other be a part of something bigger than itself. 

Here's a video of a paint layer being applied.

Here's another video of a paint layer being applied.

Here's one more video of a paint layer being applied.

Here are some detailed spots showing the layers and texture.

The addition of latex house paints and acrylic paints applied as a wash over the previous image begins to give the painting a new direction. 

Here's video of a paint layer being applied by palate knife.

The addition of latex house paints and acrylic paints applied with palate knives give some additional texture to the painting.

Video of me adding a charcoal layer.

The addition of graphite, charcoal, and chalk pastels gives the painting more action and the implied look of a sketch (a work in progress). 

Here are some detailed spots showing the layers and texture. 

Once I knew that the painting was nearing it's finish, I glued on a paper image that I had printed with matte medium (which protects the paper and ink so I can paint on top of it) and then continued adding paint and texture to integrate it into the painting. It's an image of my hand intertwined with the hands of some of my friends. I took a photo of us connected like this a few years ago and I wanted to utilize it in this painting as the representation of the theme.

Better Together
c. 2018 Lisa Marten
24x30 mixed media on canvas
(graphite, charcoal, chalk pastel, acrylic paint, latex house paint, paper, ink, matte medium)

This painting is all about we as individuals matter. Who we are is important and as we allow ourselves to be who we are meant to be we come to realize that we're also a part of something that is much bigger than ourselves. We're part of this big beautiful thing called humanity. We can accomplish so much more when we come alongside each other, when we work together, when we allow for collaboration, when we join in community, when we help each other out. We're actually allowing for ourselves to be the best that we can be...together.