(Many thanks to Art and Success Subscriber Pam Robinson who recently wrote to me about her slightly stressful (!) experience accepting a request for a commissioned piece. I was so moved by it that I asked if I could have her permission to post on my blog and she said, "yes"! I have turned down commissions myself that required me to paint a theme or style from my past, but I think it depends on how much latitude we are given as artists - I'd love to know your experience with commissions so feel free to post below! Thanks for your story, Pam Robinson! Your commissioned piece is amazing!)

"Hi Pam,

What you’re saying in your newsletter really resonates with me. I’ve been wondering what it takes to paint my best art and why I have this fear surrounding it. Actually, until you just gave me that word I didn’t know I was fearful. For years I have done exactly what you describe. I make any and every excuse not to paint, although I’m miserable if I’m not painting. I don’t know what I’m afraid of. Failure? I guess so.

I took on a commission last year that all but convinced me never to pick up a paintbrush again. I was so fearful. I was commissioned to paint a wedding gift for a good friend to give her sister. She had a good budget and gave me freedom to do what I wanted. It sounded great! Then somehow we decided (with the bride) that the painting would be the bride and groom walking in an orchard toward the barn they were married in. Whaat? I’m a landscape artist. I don’t even know how to paint figures! I quit in the middle and my friend talked me down off the ledge and made me promise to finish. I persevered and pushed through and finished it, but I hated it. I hated the painting, and I hated painting it. I think there are about 5 paintings under the final piece because I kept doing it over and over.

When the day came to present it to the bride and my friend, I almost passed out. I had to meet them both at a local frame shop to help pick out the frame. I couldn’t bear it! We all stood around the back of the shop where they do the framing. (I’ve had all of my work framed there so I felt comfortable with the framer.) The framer ended up unwrapping the painting for us and everyone gasped. My cheeks were hot! The two other ladies working in the gallery came to the back to see. They all LOVED the painting. The bride cried. The framer said, Do you mind if I take a picture of this to keep in the gallery? I’m sure I could get you lots of work! I said, oh hell no! Haha! No way! I appreciate it, but never again. And I didn’t paint for a whole year.

What’s wrong with me? That should have felt like a success. I was paid and everyone was happy.

That’s where I was when I discovered oil and cold wax medium. The “play” part of it really appeals to me. I’ve been down in my studio creating the ugliest paintings and then trying to use all my skills to bring it back to something I want to look at. And that’s it.

It’s been soooo fun! It’s helping me discover what I love. Thank you!

Pam Robinson