I fell into doing commissions by accident. My grandfather, many years ago, asked for a bookcover for a self-published novel and offered some pay for it. I would have done it out of the goodness of my heart, and I did… he commissioned several more after that. At first, I found the process to be upsetting – my first draft was rejected! ;) It was the beginning of a long long process of working with my own ego, and I’m glad that art gave that to me, and still does. In a Buddhist sense, the ability to work with one’s own mind is paramount. And the teachings regarding compassion encourage people to take on new challenges and work for the benefit of other beings.
No other medium offers me as much possibility to work towards helping others than art. In particular, the commissions I have taken on have brought me such joy, simply by being able to provide for the communities I have been part of, and to serve others. And so much learning. Commissions take time, because they require a lot of focus, and research/study. For a recent commission, I helped Vermont non-profit Lake Champlain International create a watercolor that would embody their mission: protect the lake & Vermont’s water supply through advocacy & partnerships with the local community, fishing and farming communities. The phrase “Clean water, healthy fish, happy people” was a rallying cry for the organization, and a unifying message that I had hoped to capture in the work. I used the Burlington VT library (& UVM) as a resource and found books to teach me more about lake ecology, environmental impact, and the Brook Trout – Vermont’s state fish, a symbol for the organization. When I learned that the Brook Trout can only survive in incredibly healthy waters, and no longer exists in Lake Champlain, I realized that we have LOST quite a lot to pollution. So the artwork I created by seeking historical imagery of maps, fishermen, the brook trout itself, and the boats that grace our lake, was intended to show a vision.
A vision for a healthier, cleaner lake. One that James Ehlers, the organization’s founder, has been championing for years. And one which, I think we can all agree – is worth it. Look for the image to soon be sold on T-Shirts & goods to benefit the organization. And also look out for James Ehlers as he runs for Vermont Governor this year, so much good luck James!! Support his campaign - find him on Facebook .