Commissioned Works

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“Mt. Room Redux”
6’ x 8’
This painting of Mt. Rainier was painted for my son.  He is gradually taking on more and more responsibility for running his mother’s business.   The business is a private event space in the historic Rainier Brewery and more specifically what was in their old tasting room.  The room was called the Mt Room because it featured a large oil painting of Mt Rainier.  The painting has long since disappeared.    So I painted a new one for Sam.
Instead of attempting to replicate the old painting from photos, I decided to do the painting closer to the manner of Sam’s graphitti art. To be sure, I used oil paint and brushes.   But I painted it with deliberate speed and as much youthful braggadocio as my 61 year old bones could muster.  
Was this the old bull trying to out do his son at his own game?   Or a father trying to honor and gift his son to show respect for his recent leap in maturity…spending more time developing a business and less time defiling others’ property?    Hard to say.   Probably some of all of that.  
Whatever my motivations, the painting is clearly fresh and satisfying to look at at.   And, perhaps most importantly, Sam loves it.  And whatever else I may have felt while painting it, that makes me very happy.  
Oil on 3 canvases
6’ x 18’
This was commissioned by an architectural firm that specializes in interiors for restaurants and hotel lobbies.    It was commissioned for a new hotel lobby restaurant at a SilverCloud hotel in Tacoma.  

“Collie Dog”
48” x 32”

“Fishing Boat”
Oil on 3 canvases.  
Total dimensions:  14’ x 4’
“Tacoma Smelter”
5’ x 8’
This painting was commissioned for a restaurant near where this historic landmark exits.   The people who commissioned it wanted the painting to look like an old fashioned tinted black and white photograph. 

“Giant Salmon”
4’ x 12’

“Jeff: My Lawyer”
48” x 32”
“For Ray’s Boathouse”
Oil on multiple panels
14’ x 14’
5’ x 8’
This was commissioned for a big family restaurant that wanted a modern painting styled after an artist named Wayne Thiebaud.   The designers had to push their client a little but in the end they were very happy with the result.  Hopefully Mr. Thiebaud is not rolling in his grave.  
38” x 26”
This is the kind of commission an artist like me dreams of.   The woman who commissioned it is a lover of my art.   She owns several pieces and all of them are top notch.  She asked me to paint a portrait of her daughter and gave me no limits or restrictions.   Olivia was a great model.  She let me take pictures of her and she came and sat patiently for me several times.  We actually struck up a nice little friendship.   
I have always been inspired by the portraiture of one of France’s most beloved 19th century artists, Ingre.   His subjects appear so clear and present in his portraiture.   And yet they also seem relaxed and lush.   With most portraiture you usually see one or the other.  Thanks in no small part to Olivia’s patience and her mother’s trust in me, I was able to create this little gem for them.  
“For Bryan”
6’ x 8’
Bryan is a good friend who has commissioned several paintings from me. He is unsure of his tastes and equally unsure if he sees the difference between art and decoration or even the need for such distinctions.  In some ways I agree with him.  This distinction is arguably unnecessary.  
In any case, Bryan was very particular about how this and a second piece would be constructed and look.  He was not as controlling as some clients but much more than one would think necessary from a guy who knew and appreciated my art and work ethic.  I think these pieces may have meant more to him than he was admitting to himself…thus placing them clearly in the “art” department rather than in the “decorative” department.  
It was a joy to come up with is way of constructing a painting, to go on hikes near his beach home to collect the items and to paint them.  I often wondered why I haven’t done more works like this.  Maybe I will some day.  
The combination of realistic items placed on display with the landscape functioning almost like pedestals for these precious icon like objects while melting into an abstraction further highlighting the realism of the featured objects works.   And was very satisfying all around.  

“Twin Spirits”
24” x 36”

5’ x 5’

This is arguably one of the most challenging commissioned works I have ever done.  It was commissioned by the man in the painting for his wife who was terminally ill with kidney failure.  The painting took months to create and all the while everyone was holding their breath for his wife to pass.   
But that was only the beginning of the challenges.   They both wanted her to be seen from behind as a fairy….with wings.   Not costume wings….real wings.   And they wanted her to appear as she did when they first met many years prior and before she was diagnosed with kidney problems.  She looked quite aged at the time of the painting and was barely able to walk more than a few steps much less pose even for photographs.  Modeling from life was simply out of the question.   
They also wanted him physically wrapped around her somehow, to convey his support and subservience to her Prior to her illness they did BDSM role play with her as the “top.”   They also wanted to appear heavily tattooed although neither of them had any tattoos.  
He was particularly adamant that the tattoo on his leg.  It had to be a very certain thing.   So, I decided to design the tattoo on paper until he approved it.   Then I rolled the paper into a tube about the same diameter as his leg and used that as my model.   He was also willing and able to model from life for me.   And as a result, he arrived on the painting early and looking exactly as himself….almost disturbingly so.  She was a real challenge both on and off the canvas.   Getting herto look youthful and like her and seen from behind yet showing her face without too much weird twisting etc….wow.   
Then came the additions.   He wanted to surprise her by having me paint their bulldog into the piece even though that was not part of the deal. Yes….ok…fortunately the dog was a patient model.  I painted him from life quite quickly……but after she saw it…and loved it she wondered if I could paint him sitting on her favorite purple velvet chair.   Yes.  Ok.    Then….could we please include a favorite doll and could there be smoke and incense and maybe an actual miniature fairy.    I finally said no to the kitchen sink and army of toy soldiers.  
In the end they were happy.   Very happy.    But then something strange and miraculous happened.   A kidney donor appeared at the last minute.  She had a successful transplant and a renewed life ahead of her.   But…wait for it….yep…they got divorced shortly thereafter and she wondered if I could paint him, the best part of the painting in my opinion, out of the piece.    Ummm…  
What I will do, if I can find her, is do a new painting for her in trade for this one.  This piece is a monument to perseverance for me.  I would love to own it myself.    
“Tree Carvings”
7 Spanish Elm trees
The smallest is 12’ tall.   The largest is almost 30’
The story was simply too painful to write until now.   It is 2022 at the time I am writing this, almost 7 years after completing the work.
In 2008 or so I overreached…. Twice.    My first overreach was expanding my Little Red Studio theatrical “thing” into a much larger space with financial responsibilities I could not sustain and square footage too large and too raw for my financial and energy reserves.   For a year or so I struggled to make it work.  I rallied my core of volunteers.  I borrowed copious sums of money with no collateral only possible at that time and just worked my ass off.   Somehow it was all starting to work.   
But then a little piece of additional Realestate ,that was the choicest piece on the property, became available.   To make matters more complicated, the building was sold around that time by the owner who adored our arts community and other than charging too much rent, did everything he could to support us.  Until he sold the building.
At first the new owners and their attorneys tried to evict us on the flimsiest of reasons because we were in the way of their plan to raze the building.  Well, I was about $100,000 in hard debt and had a community that had just given countless hours of volunteer labor to make the place suitable for our shows.  We were pissed and frightened.  
Eventually we worked out a deal where in we would not be charged rent with the caveat that we would leave in 2 years and get $80,000 in payment.   ……unless 2 years went by and we were still there at which point we would owe back rent and receive no money.  Ok.   A little scary but ok.  
Then the economy collapsed.   The new owners were a development company and had up to that point a large client lined up to buy a bran new building in that spot.  That client backed out.  And our new owners wanted to renegotiate. 
In the meantime, they had given us a sweetheart deal on the new juicy real estate.    We were using it as our lobby.  
Well, once the deal was town up our landlord wanted us to stay and pay rent.   In exchange, if we managed to stay up to date for 2 years they would award us a $185,000 payout to leave.   We had shifted our business model in such a way that paying all that rent was now not possible. 
I just needed to survive 2 years.   I worked hard to sell art and did in fact sell a lot.  More than at anytime during my career.   I even sold pieces I swore I would never sell.   
And, I sold “ shares” of the $185,000 that was promised at the end of 2 years.   One of the people that bought $25,000 worth of the payout was the man who owned these trees.  Not so incidentally he had also bullied me into leasing his antiquated theatrical lighting rig at $500 a month.   It was money I could not afford and was woefully incorrect for our needs.   However, he had put in serious money and I got my first real life lesson in crony capitalism.  
In the middle of all that, a man named Roland Crane came into my circle and decided to be my art dealer and financial advisor.   At first he was effective and helped me sell some of the paintings I mentioned.   He also was the inventor of the lease buy-out money raising idea and its chief sales person.   
At some point things were beginning to look up and for a few months it looked like we might make it.   However, the rent kept going up due to built in rent increases as well as the landlord reloading back rent that had been unpaid due to the previous agreement.  I was not careful enough in examining the new deal and overlooked that provision.  
Before things started going south the tree owner asked me if I would be willing to carve his 7 trees in exchange for the 25k he had put in to the Studio.   I would have loved to do it but I was already running a bistro, a theater, an art studio and showroom, a tiny spa and had two young children.   I just couldn’t.  
Eventually it all collapsed and we had to pay or vacate.  We vacated to devastating loss.  All the development of the theater and bistro was calculated at pennies on the dollar to reduce indebtedness to the landlord.  I left with approximately $340,000 in debt.  I was 5O years old.  The economy was in the toilet.   I had not had a job in 30 years and I had 2 young children.   And….I was exhausted.   
In that moment the owner of the trees approached me again.    This time with an ultimatum.  He had not only taken his lighting rig out of the facility before we turned over the keys, he had taken property that belonged to other people and was holding it under threat that if I did not carve his trees, or return his money he would not return that sound equipment….worth between 3-5k.  
My intention was to dig in, work my ass off and pay everybody back.  So even though the tree owner was unscrupulous in his manner, I was glad to get this off my ledger with the one thing I did have, moxxy.
We met at his place.  Apparently he had hired another artist to carve the trees but after attempting the job had given up proclaiming it was too difficult.  The tree owner had a very specific idea of what he wanted.   There was very little room for my input, and by the way could I please carve two large lions in marble to flank the front door.   Sure…why not.  
I set to work.  First there was scaffolding and other logistical concerns to workout.  Then tools and sketches and clay models.  I had never carved anything from wood so I needed practice.  I also need cash to pay my bills and service a considerable amount of debt.  And … kids…they needed time too.  
I was also keeping my little spa going which was providing a small but very important trickle of cash.   
The work was grueling. And since the trees were still rooted in the ground it meant I needed to commute to the location.   More stressful was the fact that being trees in the ground, rather than a log at my studio, there was absolutely no room for error.  These trees had to be carved right the first time.  
Fortunately for cell phones, I was able to book appointments and contact therapists from the scaffolding on location.  This was nutty as all hell but it worked.  When calls or texts would come in I would shut off the chain saw and brush off the sweat soaked saw dust and be the spa receptionist.  “This is Jeff at the Little Red Day Spa, how can I help you.”
For all his bullying and startling lack of self awareness, the tree owner was very helpful with the actual work.  He offered his expertise for engineering issues.  He provided and oversaw the scaffolding and helped ward off unwanted attention from the neighborhood.   He was also patient with the progress which was slow at first.   And, this the thing I appreciated the most about his, he trusted me to do a good job.  
Eventually I got more confident with my tools and ability and with his vision.  And he was very happy with my work.   In fact his home acquired a kind of local notoriety that was exactly what he had most hoped to achieve with this project.  Hey….you are the guy with the dragon house!
That sort of thing.  
After several years, untold thousands of hours of work, it was complete and everyone was happy.   Almost.
After about a year the tree owner appears on my doorstep and asked when I would begin work on the stone lions. 
I would have loved to tell him to go fuck himself.   But instead I firmly explained that I was not going to carve the lions.  That, yes, I had agreed to carve them on that fateful day in his living room.   And that while we had no written agreement I didn’t want to get all legal with him.   Instead I asked him to go home and consider the value of what he got, to consider the kind of duress I was under when he asked …ney….demanded that I do that.   That he also consider how challenging it was.   That I had persevered to the end while others had quit.  That he had had an opportunity to earn money from his lighting rig that we nanotubes knew belonged in an antique store.  That he had had a place to come perform his stories as an honored guest for years.    And that if all that didn’t add up to 25k worth of value to please come back and we will have a legal conversation about this matter   I stated that my preference was that we all leave this encounter satisfied.  Oh….and he could keep the audio visual equipment he had confiscated because the owner of it had subsequently died.  
That was 7 years ago.  I have never heard from him since.  To his credit, he did give it careful thought and presumably decided that he had got his money’s worth.   
Fortunately for me, these tree carvings with eventually rot and be gone.  I did not sign them because they were not my visions.   I include them on this website in the section on commission work because they took such a large portion of my time and energy at a very pivotal moment in my life.  
I was happy they were done and that the tree owner was happy with my work.  Most of the neighbors were happy to have something “cool” on their street and we all moved on.  
“Portrait Of Doctor Charlie”
6’ x 4’
This piece was commissioned by the owner of the building that Little Red Studio and Little Red Bistro were housed for a few years.   When he sold the building which sent the Studio into a downward spiral from which it never recovered he commissioned 2 paintings as a kind of gesture of conciliation.   This one, of his partner, and a portrait of Mother Theresa.  
They were both satisfying to create and did bring some much needed funds to help survive the ordeal.  

“The Red Room: Matisse”
5’ x 10’

“Pittsburg Steel”
6’ x 6’

“Seated Couple”
Oil on canvas
6′ x 5′

I don’t usually include commissioned work in this online portfolio.  However, this piece is very close to what I would have created without any constraints of the commission.  In fact, I would be hard pressed to say what is causing me to qualify that statement with “very close.”   I think it is that I always paint pictures of people I know or that I choose for a particular project.   These people came to me and asked me if they could pay me to paint their picture.  

Perhaps by the time you are reading this I will have created a section in this archive of commissioned works.   But at the time of this writing it has not yet been created.  I include here because it was part of how and why my work shifted to more realistic portrayals and less singularly about the figures sculptural presence.   In fact I would go further and say it was increasingly about these particular individuals than about their sculptural presence.   This is a likeness of two particular people.  And not so incidentally, the 2 people who were paying me to do the work.

“Landscape: Franz Marc”
24” x 24”

Cast resin
30” x 15” x 15”
This piece was created for a prominent seafood restaurant on Seattle’s tourist row along Elliot Bay.  It was commissioned by an architectural firm that specialized in restaurant interiors.   I created the piece in clay then had a professional mold made and cast in resin.  I then treated the surface of the cast to look like bronze.   The restaurant has since undergone a subsequent remodel but this piece is still there.  

8’ x 10’

“Annie Get Your Gun”
6’ x 4’

“Head massage”
30” x 20” x 20”
This piece was commissioned for a massage studio long before I ever dreamed of owning a spa.  This was the second version and was approved.  I made a waste mold off of the clay and caste the final piece in plaster.   I have no photos of that and have no idea where the piece went.  I would love to see pictures of it.   If anyone has seen this piece somewhere please let me know.  

“The Titanic”
6’ x 4’

“Baccanal Dance”
Fresco and plaster casts
8’ x 8’
This was actual fresco and plaster casts applied to the wall in the dining room of a little Italian Restaurant in Bellingham WA.   This was me being desperate for any kind of work and allowing me to be talked into doing a lot of hard work for almost no money.   It was a complete artistic and financial flop.   Fortunately the restaurant closed a year later and was converted to a Chinese restaurant.   The frescos and plaster casts were thankfully destroyed.  
“Copy Picasso’s Family of Saltimbanques” 
8’ x 7’ approximately
One of the ways I learned how to paint was by copying paintings I loved.  My only regret is that I often sold them or as in this case, did them on commission.  And as is typical, I copied this painting at the same size as the original.   
I have a long complex history with this painting.   I have always loved it.  But my understanding and appreciation of it moved to a different level in the early 1990’s when I was finally solidifying my identity as an artist.   Among other factors that were influencing me was the reading of John Richardson’s biography of Picasso which included unusually astute observations about Picasso’s work and it’s relationship to earlier artist’s work.   At some point in the book Richardson is making a case for the influence that Edward Manet had on Picasso especially with a painting called “The Old Musician”    
At the time I was reading this biography and absorbing these ideas, I was visiting my family in Harrisburg PA which is only a few hours drive from Washington DC.   After showing some respect to family I took a train to DC to see my favorite Picasso at the National Gallery.    And to my astonishment I discovered that the Museum also had the Manet painting I was reading about.   I spent the rest of the day going back and forth between the 2 paintings until the museum closed.   I was so broke at that time that I could not afford a hotel so I stayed up all night in the train station reading more about these great paintings.   I remember being the first guest at the museum the following morning and making a beeline to the Picasso.   
I was in my early 30’s at the time but remember feeling like a teenager in love.   For the first time I really understood terms I had been struggling with for a decade: painterly vs. linearity.   Thee are artificial distinctions but nevertheless define very different ways of creating and making an image.   And no less artificial than art itself.    I felt “certain” in more ways than I ever had before then.   I was certain for the first time what these terms meant and where I fit in that fluid spectrum.   And with that certainty I felt powerful and more certain than ever about how to shape my future.  
Later, when I returned to Seattle I was excitedly sharing this newfound understanding with my neighbor.  Ron was my elder by about 15 years and was a carpenter who loved art.  His wife was wealthy and as such Ron  mostly dabbled at carpentry.  Mostly he hung out in my studio chatting about art while I painted. At some point I said I needed to do a full size copy of the Picasso to really dealer into it an understand it.  Being broke meant stretching a large canvas would be difficult.  Ron offered to pay for it in advance and buy the painting for $500 when I finished it.  To me, at that time, he might as well have offered me a million dollars.  All I wanted to do was dig into that painting and I did.   
I never copied the Manet.   Perhaps someday another neighbor will offer me a canvas and a few hundred bucks to do it.  

“Architectural Features”
Early 90’s

These are not really sculptures. I never thought of them as art. But I include them here because creating these was an important part of how I learned about concrete and mold making. It’s also how I fell in love with concrete as a material and began to dream about making art with it.

I was 31 or so when I made these. I was working in a shop owned by a nutty old Italian guy who had a flair for business and an even flair for being an Italian but had no artistic skill whatsoever. He did own a shop making concrete statuary and art. He hired me to make sculptural originals in clay. He then has his team of guys make molds and cast them by the hundreds.

Once in awhile someone would want a custom project. In this case I designed and built the fireplace surround and other features for this house. I even cast these pieces and was involved with the instal. I went on to do some of this work for my own clients but did not love it enough to create my own business doing just this work. Still, without these opportunities provided for me by Marco I would never have have learned so much about concrete.