I got the contract emailed, the art consultants paid me to get started, and I began happily painting away. No, it's never that simple, is it? My car at the time could only accommodate ONE 48x60 canvas at a time, so my husband, who has an extra large truck bed, had to drive me to the art supply store to buy the two canvasses. I really enjoyed the initial stage of painting. As you can see in the photo below, my favorite method to work involves toning the canvas and then wiping away the light areas with rags. This places all the shapes, establishes the value range and light source and creates interesting, exciting little marks and suggestions of foliage. After this initial stage, it's as if everything is in there and I just have to pull it out.
After many hours, starting with the background and working forward into the hundreds or thousands of blades of grass, it was check in time. Per our contract, I was to send a photo of the project at the halfway point. Imagine my absolute horror when I received the following email from the art consultant: "Rani, it looks beautiful, but you do realize it's supposed to be horizontal?" What? Let me read that again! And slowly it dawned on me: I had just assumed that, since they had based this commission on my vertically-oriented diptych, this would just be a larger version of it. I had not read the fine print in the contract due to being in such a hurry to get it signed and returned, and it clearly stated two horizontal 48x60s.
Well with no time to waste, I grieved for about a minute and then moved my Big Giant Mistake Diptych to an unused bedroom with the other unsold 48x60s (yes, there are others!). Had to go buy two new canvasses. But wait! My local store only has two, and one of them is damaged! Had to hunt some down online...I live in a rural area and had I not been able to find two that large, I would have had to get them in Atlanta with another day used up. My sweet husband and his big truck drove me down to a store in Albany Georgia which had what I needed. I painted my hands off: it was difficult having to paint individual blades of grass several feet tall on such a large painting. I painted the edge of a metal yardstick and pressed it onto the painting to make the stems of the weeds straight...and there was twice as much grass to paint now because of the horizontal orientation. But I finished in time! We drove down to the new, vast hospital complex and met up with the art consultants who were on their last day of hanging the artwork. Though a diptych, the two paintings were going to be hung in their own niches separated by a section of wall. It was very gratifying to be present while they were hung and the art glowed coming down the hallway. It was a successful project, not my first, but my largest, and I'm looking forward to more. I have proposals in place with the same hospital's new cancer center and with the same consulting firm for a hospital elsewhere in Florida. We shall see.
But what happened to the Mistake Diptych? Some paintings have tortured lives. After making myself finish the vertical version, I consigned it to a gallery in Jacksonville who was excited to offer it to a big client of theirs, the Mayo Clinic. Unfortunately, after thirty years in business, the gallery suddenly closed and declared bankruptcy. I was lucky to get most of my paintings back and did retrieve the diptych, but one of my paintings was unaccounted for and I was never paid, as were many of the artists at that gallery who lost numerous works. "Leaves of Grass III" was featured at my recent show at Lagerquist Gallery in Atlanta, and I've got my fingers crossed that it will find a home!
The moral of this story: Always read the fine print.