Posted on 20 Comments

New York Commission

Commission by Emma Cownie

This is a commission piece I have been working on this week. The brief was to paint this beautiful sunlit New York apartment. I was sent a number of photos to work from, the plates and dishes had to vanish, so the main focus of the work was the light and shadow on the patterned table cloth.

A number of New York water towers could be seen outside. I was quite intrigued by these water towers. I had no idea that they were a feature of the Manhattan skyline. I looked up some more photos of these urban water towers and was quite blown away by how many there are!


NY Water towers

Sadly the water towers are not a big feature of the painting, but you can see two of them quite clearly from window on the right hand side of the painting.

Original photograph

I love the clean lines of the shadows cast by the window on the table and the parquet flooring and decided that clarity was essential in the composition. So I played around with the original image using an open source program called Gimp (which is a lot like Photoshop) and simplified the image. I “cleared” the table and removed the sleeping hound on the carpet. The resulting images was far from perfect but gave me a claener image to work from.

Empty Table
After  “Gimping” – an empty table

I further simplified the image by painting a plain rug. I also lighten certain parts of the painting, such as the wall behind the table. In this way I wanted to create a feeling of airiness and light.

New York Apartment, November Light
New York Apartment, November Light

I also lightened the red chair on the right hand side so that it could seen more easily seen and its beautiful curves more easily appreciated. This way it became an integral part of composition, with the red theme in the buildings on the left window, reddish shadows on the wooden flooring being balanced by the red carpet, chair and red in the painting above it.

The shadows have exciting dynamic to them; with the cool shad

ow across the table cloth contrasting with the hot shadows cutting across the floor. My favourite part of the painting was the slice of sunlight on the table leg.

The client, I am pleased to say, loved it. She was very generous in her praise, saying “it is more truthful, beautiful than real life!”

Want to commission your own unique piece of art? Click here.

20 thoughts on “New York Commission

  1. Love this. Am fascinated by how you Gimp to remove the extraneous items. How did you fill in the blanks behind the crockery? Ceri

    1. Gimp has a wonderful facility where by you can “clone” parts of the image and put it elsewhere. Its very fiddly but can produce decent results. I only did this as a rough version for me to paint from.

  2. That’s lovely, Emma! And a fun change of subject

  3. Thanks so much for sharing your process with us, Emma! Loved reading about it!

  4. Wow! I am even more impressed about your art now.

  5. The first time I visited New York I also took notice of all the rooftop water tanks. The city is a regular “tank farm”! Here’s some trivia you will appreciate about the tanks–

  6. I was born and rasied in New York, so this felt like a visit home. The water tanks–yeah. I remember them like old friends. There’s something Edward Hopperish about the final image. (Is it okay to say that? I love Hopper.)

    1. I love Hopper too so that definitely OK!

  7. Gorgeous painting, Emma! I love its crispness and the play of light and shadows.

    1. Thank you, Gabriela

  8. If only you could Gimp life, Emma. I have a little clutter I would like to disappear. 🙂 🙂 Seriously though, you’ve done this beautifully and turned a fairly non-descript image into something lovely. How interesting about the water towers too!

    1. I quite agree, I’d magically reduce the clutter (books and more books) in my house!! Thank you, Jo. Yes, its funny how something you take for granted can be quite fascinating to outsiders. They remind me of the tin man in the Wizard of Oz, for some reason.

  9. I love this type of post – showing what you had to work with and then seeing the finished product. No wonder the customer was thrilled! My favorite part of the painting is how bright this room becomes in your hands. I am now thinking about images I would love for you to paint for me.

  10. Thank you for your kind words. I’d be very happy to oblige! To discuss further you can email me at

  11. Een niet zo gemakkelijke opdracht maar meer dan geslaagd.

  12. […] quality reference photos as you can.  I can edit or combine images on request. Here’s an example of a project where I did this last year. If its a pet portrait, what sort of background would you […]

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