A well known artist once stated that a commission is a situation where no one is happy.
Generally commissions take a minimum of twice the time to execute as a painting done for personal reasons, and ten times the aggravation. The reasons for this is that one is limited either by restraints of the commission or personal psychological ones having to do with having to please the commissioner, or “patron” (more on the patron in future posts).
However in the case of the commission I did for UNB Library commemorating the life of Alden Nolan I was led down a path of research into the “channeling” of Alden’s spirit. I was given freedom to choose size, composition, whatever. As it turns out this painting has had the most life of any commission I have done, and practically any single painting I have made, period. It has been reproduced and copies have been sold throughout library and university systems, and privately. It has been featured in an exhibit at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery entitled “Art Treasures of New Brunswick” curated by Virgil Hammock (see previous posts).
It’s latest emergence has been as the main image on the promotional material and posters for a travelling play entitled “Alden Envers et Contre Tous” written by Rick Merrill and performed by the Théâtre popular d’Acadie.
Alden had passed away years before so the project involved a lot of research. There was little in the way of photographic reference. In those times digital photography did not exist, and Alden and his family and friends were not big into picture taking. The painting evolved from conversations I had with people who knew him, looking at a couple of National Filmboard shorts of Alden talking about his work, and one or two press photographs. I really began to feel his spirit, having to do a lot I think with the quality of his writing and his life story, and somehow he managed to come to life in this picture. The final proof of it’s success came from Claudine, Alden’s widow. It was a situation where we both were happy.