West Indies Display Background

"A rush job"

A lady from Cleveland was considering ways to expand her interior decoration business specializing in faux paintings. She was searching for artists with an interest in working the commissions that she would negotiate. So she visited my work site and gave me her marketing pitch. My art experience was somewhat more sophisticated and I had no real need for decorative work at that particular time. So I thanked her for the offer and wished her luck, but that I was not interested.

However, she was preparing to promote her business at The Cleveland Home and Flower Show -a huge event, and wanted to have a sample of the type of commissions she wanted to attract. So she asked me to at least do a mural for her display background. Being busy with the Gordon Square Theater commission (see The Gordon Square Ceiling Mural in the Murals page), I politely declined again. But she was a persistent lady!

She pulled out an Architectural Digest magazine from her bag and showed me a picture of a beautiful Mogul style villa built in the West Indies. It had surf and palm trees -I hated painting palm trees, but the elaborately carved columns supporting an arches were attractive. The shows was only a few weeks away so it had to be a rush job. I finally settled to paint the images as long as she took care of preparing the panels. She agreed and, a couple of days later, I stopped by a warehouse were a three-panel construct was waiting for me.


West Indies Display Background 2002. Artist's acrylics on three 4 x 8 ft. (1.22m x 2.44m) plywood panels.

The 3/4" (19mm) thick plywood panels had been hinged together so that when the wings were pulled at an inward angle, they stood up without additional support. As I had instructed, they had been primed on both sides. This was needed to avoid warping and cupping of the plywood due to uneven moisture content on the outer veneers. I immediatelly set to work on the painting, which was mainly done during evening hours. A week later, the job was done.

The only photograph of the painting is the one shown, which is not very good at all. It was a Polaroid taking by me before completing the piece as a reference photo. The intricate column details on the columns are barely visible and the color looks awful. But at least it gives a general idea of what the job looked like. Also, when composing the image, I had to keep in mind that a display table was going block the view of the lower third.

I have done dozens of similar jobs, particularly when I was starting out in Puerto Rico, and only thought of them as disposable backdrops -like theater sets. They were forgettable, so I rarely took pictures of them. The clients also thought of them as disposable, and consequently, reasoned that they could be done fast and cheap, always trying to negotiate a ridiculously low fee. But the artist's work was still the same, and I soon learned to avoid this type of clients.

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