Posted on 32 Comments

Anatomy of a commission

Hudson Cropped
Hudson the Poodle

Here’s Hudson the black poodle. He’s a handsome chap. I was asked to paint a picture of him. Pretty straight forward, eh?

Well, the challenge was that the commission required that Hudson was to be portrayed not in this rural idyll but in New York City, waiting outside Malecon coffee shop where his owner popped by every morning for her coffee. Hudson is one of those super cool dogs that will just wait. He does not need to be tied up.


I was provided with a couple of photographs of the said restaurant but there were a couple of issues that needed dealing with. Take a look.

Firstly, there were signs and bicycles in the way of the front of the shop. There was no clear view. So I googled the restaurant in the hope that I might find some more useful photographs online.

Several photos of Malecon restaurants in different locations in NYC. The second problem is that Hudson in the original photos was sitting in grass and I could not see what sort of tail he has and what happens to it when he sits down, whether he tucks it under or not. So I searched for some poodles images. Did he have a long or short tail?

Hudson sitting on the lawn

So I spent a morning using a photo editing program called Gimp (an open source version of Photoshop) and adding poodle tails, taking out bicycles and playing around with compositions.

I finally decided that I lived the photo with the lit interior best. I thought the lights would make a more interesting image. I had a problem deciding where to place the dog as he was black and would not stand out against the dark background. Initially I placed him to one side in front of the plant container but finally settled on in the foreground so that he was the main focus of the picture.

So I send this final image to the customer to check that she’s happy with the composition and I have the right sort of tail for Hudson before I make a start painting. I also got her to agree to a rectangular canvas, rather than a square one, that way I could fit the dog and all of the shop front in easily.

My final problem is that I added a shadow to the dog to give the picture a more dynamism but there were few, if any shadows in the photos I had. I so searched the internet again for reference images.


So I did a lot of thinking about the likely direction of shadow that the awning would likely cast and the length of the shadow, drawing lines on the image I’d sent to the customer. So once, I decided on these things and also kept in mind the information I had in the original photos I got started. I began with the letters of the restaurant name as I this was the element that I was most concerned to get right. Once I had painted these in, I relaxed and enjoyed the work. As I was using a small canvas (41 x 33 cm) it was easy to turn and paint upside-down, side to side as well as right side up. Overall, allowing for dying times, the work was done over three days.

This is what I painted.

Hudson, New York

If you are interested in finding out more about a commission, click here

32 thoughts on “Anatomy of a commission

  1. I love the painting – it is so lovely. Well done! A great research and work behind preparing a lovely painting.

    1. Yes, with all paintings a lot of thought and preparation goes into their creation. A fair bit of time is spent before any paint get applied to a canvas. The bit with the paint brush at the end is the best bit, though. Thank you for taking the time to comment, Indah.

    1. Thank you!

  2. Wow, what an undertaking

    1. Thank you

  3. Familiar with your quandary! Your painting is a VAST improvement over the photos!

    1. Thank you, Alli. I always worry that people will look at the photos and think what I have done isn’t any good (crazy artist head).

      1. Yes, crazy artist head! Don’t listen to it! I always try to convince myself by noting that if the client had wanted a photographic rendering they would have had a huge photograph printed. Instead, they chose me, knowing already from looking at my work what my style is and what they were likely to get.

      2. Thank you, Alli. Well put. I’ll just have to repeat that to myself in future.

  4. Lovely job, Emma! Thank goodness for the internet as a source of reference material, eh?! I have also found myself on google maps, wandering up and down a street, along the path of the little yellow man, looking at a particular building from various angles….it’s fun, isn’t it?! 🙂

    1. Yes, sometimes, I have done that too for a commission of someone’s house in England too. if its a local commission, however, I will actually go to a location and take my own photos. I always prefer working with materials that I have created from scratch. The internet is always useful for scouting out new locations for paintings too.

      1. Absolutely, it’s always better to take your own photos when you can the thing that wigs me out with the internet is all this stuff about copy write – plus, if you take your own photo’s with an idea of what you are doing already in place, that definitely helps with the avoidance of visual wrestling that you have so ably described in this blog post! 🙂

      2. I agree. But its an interesting challenge to paint somewhere you have not been to.

  5. Brilliant result, Emma. The research work and then the editing afterwards is inspirational. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you, David.

  6. Lovely painting! Enjoyed reading the process in which you choose the final composition. Hudson – what a wonderful name!

  7. Goede uitleg bij deze niet zo gemakkelijke opdracht.Heel goed gedaan

    1. Thnak voor je vriendelijke woorden

  8. You are so amazing!

    1. Wow! What a compliment, Alex. Thank you.

  9. Your planning really paid off! The painting came out BEAUTIFUL!

    1. Thank you for the compliment, Chris.

  10. Oh gosh, this was so involved. You can use GIMP, figure shadows, remove obstacles and paint… kudos… I bet the customer loved the end product. I certainly do!

    1. Thank you and yes she did.

  11. Emma, you have a very good photographic eye! It was not easy to give him a soul at this restaurant; you have succeeded
    Much talent!
    Proud to know a beautiful artist!

    1. Thank you so much, Vanina

  12. great research.., and a great painting 🙂

    1. Thanks Cecile.

  13. Love it! Thanks for sharing your process on this commissioned painting. I love the end result, the reflection in the upper windows and lit interior beautiful touches..

    1. Thank you, Jennifer.

  14. Thank you, Jennifer

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