I could swear that I have already written this post before but for some reason it’s not in my log, nor on the blog. I just finished the write up on Paley’s 10 year update and artwork and I thought it best this went up first since it should have been published almost 9 months ago. For the twin’s 5th portrait, you can see we went with group piece. The last time we did this was for their first portrait done by Kelly Vivianco.
This painting was a new adventure for us. I first became aware of Richard J. Oliver back in 2013. Gallery Nucleus was doing a group theme show based on the TV show Big Bang Theory. I received their collector preview a few days before the show and immediately emailed them asking to purchase the set or selected few of the 6 pieces (pictured) Richard did for the show. Looking back, I am not totally sure I was aware of the size of each piece. Unfortunately for me, the pieces were already sold. I did grab another pieces by Cuddly Rigor Mortis & Oliver Akuin from the show. Since that show I’ve had Richard in the back of my head for several years and kept him in my line up of artists to reach out to.
Initially I had reached out to Richard for the twins 4th and his quick reply to my email some how made it into my junk folder. In July of 2017 I reached out again and caught him while he was traveling abroad. I did get a soft yes and eagerly waited for his return. Two weeks later we talked about the piece over the phone and scheduled a photo sitting for him to get a good idea of the kids and us as a family. This was first for me allow an artist into our world in such a manner in the last 10 years of commissioning these portraits.. In the past we typically just send photo references for the artist to use. Now this is not the first artist to make such a request, sadly they lived abroad in Argentina, Thailand and so on. Luck have it, Richard lived in LA and had been planning a trip up SF to visit friends on his motorcycle.
We locked in a date and Richard arrived on his bike with a studio all compacted onto the back. We cleared an area in the living room and used our coat rack from the garage as a frame for the backdrop. From the photo you can see the backdrop itself is just a painters canvas drop cloth. Luckily for us most the paint on it was white. The kids wore basic clothing for the shoot. The clothes themselves didn’t change much in the final portrait. Richard instantly clicked with the kids, even Paley. He started the visit by interviewing Clem and I about our interpretations of the kids, their personalities and quirks. While he was shooting the twins he would throw out a question here and there to them individually.
Now to be completely honest, Clem and I were initially unsure about this process. To some degree as same-sex parents we are pretty careful about the details we share about our family and our dynamics. We live in a time, where a vast majority of planet don’t think Clem and I should be lovers, married and most certainly be anywhere around children, let along being parents to one. We live in age while progress has been made, there are still incidents where parents like us are are observed closer and run a higher risk of being targeted. Sitting down with Richard really extinguished those fears pretty quirk. The questions had us really looking at each other and made us think hard about who our kids were, in a good way. Then there were those questions when you and your spouse were completely in disagreement. We handled it pretty well over all but in a way it felt like we were on the Dating Game, a really funny and entertaining episode.
The session was over after a few hours and Richard went onward with his personal adventure. The next chapter was sketch process but for Richard is more like mockup process. Now I like to tote myself as being very hands off during the artists process. This time around, since Clem was apart of the interview process, I figured I should have him be involved in the creative process. Richard’s paintings share a very similar symmetry and styling and I wanted him to keep with that as much as possible. His photo mockups really showed that and we were in love, the problem for us was the posing. We got way to opinionated, the conversations did get off track for a few days and I am sure we were driving Richard a little nuts. We learned our lesson that less is more because in the end, we almost came full circle to Richards original vision.
The painting process itself went extremely fast. I get asked a lot how long does it take an artist to finish a piece and every time I say “honestly, it depends on the artist”. Overall I think there are two variables. First it depends on the artists current workload, most artists are extremely open about their current workload and honest about how long it will take. The second is how fast the artist paints. Now before you question about how much quality the pieces is because their fast, they’re fast for a reason, they have mastered their technique into a quick process. The reason for this is due to their workload. It amazes me each time how dedicated and precise artists are. Richard is one of those artists, the sketch process was just over a week. The painting itself was done in almost 2 weeks. From our experience, when working with an artist, when you keep within their aesthetic, they will be more on time, when you ask them to experiment (or do something different), that’s when you will see longer work times.
What’s amazing about commissioning pieces is how the piece morphs during the process. One of Richards goals was to include some imagery in the piece that would exhibit the twins individual personality. The rock formations were totally his idea. In the end, these rock formations have been a symbol for our family when we go on hikes or explore new places. We started having Paley build these formations when old friends ours gave us one of Andy Goldsworthy’s books as gift at our last Annual Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner in 2008. This family sadly lost their son in a tragic accident and now every time we go exploring we build a small tower in honor of him. In the painting the formations resemble them to a “T”. Lochlan’s formation is secure and strong with flat rocks being used to create a solid structure. The selection of those rocks are precise and follows a strong goal to build a structure that will not fall. While Margots structure is built on the hopes that form and beauty come with a risk to fall with the change of the elements. Margot and I are so similar in this way, we both build our towers to push ourselves and to balance the rocks more and more. Pushing that envelope is key!
This painting is now the largest portrait in our collection. We truly love this piece and it make a great addition to the collection. We truly enjoyed this new adventure of having the artist step into our lives. Another change is we okayed Richard to take the kids likeness and use it in future projects. To date he has already used reference photos of Margot in his paintings. Head over to Richard’s website and see if you can spot the pieces. I would post them here but where’s the fun in that.
What’s in store for the twins 6th? Well stay tuned, this piece has been in the making since 2016.