Last year I had the fortune to work on a commission to paint a game of rugby. The piece, commissioned as a birthday present, focused on the client’s husband, from a photo of him mid-game. I take on a few portrait commissions through the year, amongst my self-led artwork. Commissions tend to be head and shoulder portraits, not only of people, I’ve even painted horses by commission, but this was a really exciting and unusual piece to work on. I had painted one rugby piece before, shown here in the studio, but this was something else.
While studying at Morley College, I’d seen an amazing rugby painting first hand, which was front of mind while working on the commission. The college has quite an impressive art collection, including a large Bridget Riley in the reception area. In the depths of the college, there is an immense rugby painting by Lawrence Toynbee, 1922-2002, who specialised in sporting themed paintings. His work captures all of the movement of the game, in a lovely loose style. Here is one example of his work.
Beginning the commission, the client and I discussed and agreed on the size and deadline and which particular paintings of mine she liked the most, in terms of a direction for this piece, for example tight or loose brushwork. I wanted to paint this on board, rather than canvas, loving it for its smooth surface and the ability to push paint around. My first task was to draw out the scene in willow charcoal, which has a lovely erasable quality. I applied a grid to both the photo and board to make sure everything would be correctly placed and sized. I don’t always use a grid system but starting out correctly on something that needs to be accurate like this is invaluable – I didn’t want to finish the painting and realise something wasn’t right.
After fixing (spraying) the charcoal sketch (so that it didn’t lift with the wet paint), the real work began – a game of blocking in the shapes and tones. I very much value the client’s good opinion so wanted to keep them involved, showing the sketch and early stages along the way.
The painting took about three weeks, in between other work and such. The time allowed me to stand back and evaluate in between sessions. I got complete joy painting in muddy knees and a tangle of limbs. After painting this, I wouldn’t hesitate to take on another!
The finished piece
Glory Days © Sheri Gee 2022. Oil on gesso panel.
Such a wonderful commission to receive, I found it enormously joyful to paint. If you’re interested in commissioning a painting, do head to my Commission page to read more about the process. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions.