Friday, March 28, 2014

A Custom Order: The Customer's vs. the Artist's Vision

Initial sketch of California Birdhouse
I had an order the other day that is every Etsy crafters dream come true; a customer purchased more than one or two items! Lining up the items he purchased before packing and shipping them off I was amazed, no really stunned, at the variety of things he purchased. While I am all over the place in genre's of design, he managed to pick just about one of each of my genres. He managed to choose the items I was really proud of.

Then the customer asked me if I would be interested in creating a "California Birdhouse?" I thought about it and wrote back and said, "Yes," I will send you a sketch in a day or two and see what you think! He said that would be fine and so I proceeded as you can see above.

One of he first considerations for me was whether it would be square or round? I envisioned Hokusai's style of waves with surfers riding the peaks. Mt. Fuji would be replaced by the Hollywood sign and the other side would have mountains. One side of the roof would include the sun and a palm tree, the other Grauman's Chinese, THE Hollywood landmark theatre.

The customer liked the general idea and once receiving the sketch had his own ideas as well. He wanted a male and female (in a bikini) surfers standing with a board, he wanted the name of California to show up as well as some famous beaches. Though I had already sketched in the design on the birdhouse, I quickly figured out ways to do what he wanted and began painting.

The initial layout and beginning of waves.
I have never done anything like this on request though I guess as a graphic designer you are always creating something a client wants. Up to now I painted what I wanted. Now, suddenly, I was creating something within a client's parameters. What surprised me was how fast you become at finding solutions. It may not have been what I wanted, but it gave me a chance for another sale, gave me a new direction to consider and it gave me an opportunity to think on my feet.

As you can see, it is about one-third done. The sky is in place, the water and waves are in place though there is some detail yet to do on the waves. I have all of the people to add yet and some of the background that will make it distinctive and Californian. One side of the roof, extending down to the base will be one or two palm trees with fronds showing through the sun.  the other side will have an old fashioned bi-plane hauling a banner that reads "California" behind it, something that is quite common, even today, to beach goers. That covers the word "California!"

California Birdhouse about a third done
One side will have those standing surfers while front and back those California surfers will be riding those great Hokosai waves!

This is the first time I have put such work and preparation before creating a project. While I do sketch out every project and try to keep those sketches, because of the variety of things going on here that on the surface appears very simple, I wanted to record what I had done because it was complicated.

Luckily I had the Hokosai wave a screensaver behind this blog, as a print on the wall of my workspace and his book of "Thirty-Six Views Of Mt. Fuji" as a reference. Then I researched surfers, their poses and riding the waves. The bi-plane was easy and I have seen enough of them flying around with banners streaming behind them to know how to sketch that. The man and woman surfers standing with a surfboard resulted in another search. Palm trees are everywhere here. That would be the perfect addition completing not only one side of the roof, but one side of the birdhouse. However, THIS time, I wanted all the pieces together because once gathered the painting went on much faster.  It fact it has gone on faster than I thought possible.

As you can see, this is not completed but I wanted to share a work in progress. All too often we see the start and the end, but not the processes that went on in-between. If it all goes well, I may then try a round version as well. Even with the same elements they will not be the same. In fact, they may end up being very different sharing as a common element the beautiful but stylistic waves that I am making my own but were inspired by Hokusai.

If there is any lesson here, I would add that we should never be afraid of creating on spec or, taking a custom order. My eyes have been opened and I realize the nearly limitless range of things I could create! The customer even suggested that I create a series of state birdhouses of New York, Illinois, and Florida as they each have distinctive features as well. But first, lets get this one completed and then see where it takes me.

Please visit I am slowly adding some Halloween and Christmas items to the store for those early bird shoppers. Thank you for reading.

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