commission: his heart in texas

His Heart in Texas (detail image) 24"x24" mixed media collage, 2011
(Detail image)

In my experience, Texans and New Yorkers are the people most boisterously proud of their states.  The rest of us, we seem to like our home states just fine? For example, I love Montana. Big sky state and all that. I’ve exchanged childhood stories, memories, local history, or random anecdotes with others about our hometowns and home states, but it never seems to have the fervor of those from Texas or New York.  I have no issue with this, it’s more of a casual observation and relevant to a recent commissioned piece I finished earlier this month.  My client wanted a gift for her husband.  While she was originally from Florida, her husband was from Texas. Like most others I’ve met from The Lone Star State, his home held a very special place in his heart.

His Heart in Texas (detail image) 24"x24" mixed media collage, 2011
(Detail image)

I created a 24 in x 24 in mixed media work based on the theme of Texas.  To be honest, I know almost nothing about Texas; I have never been there. Beyond Austin, I’ve never had any desire or inclination to visit.  Therefore, when I was approached about creating a work based on the state of Texas, I was looking forward to the challenge.  One of my favorite aspects of creating commissioned pieces is exploring themes I wouldn’t normally choose for myself.  I like to be pushed beyond my normal artistic themes, and grow creatively.  This work presented an additional challenge because my client didn’t want to hang an annoyingly-super–yay-Texas artwork in her house.  I could tell the idea of an all-Texas themed piece made her a little nervous, even though she knew the piece would mean a lot to her spouse.

His Heart in Texas (detail image) 24"x24" mixed media collage, 2011
(Detail image)

Before I began, I asked for reference images that captured the atmosphere and character of Texas.  Taking both humans into account, I also asked her what elements she appreciated which would work with the Texas theme.  From here, I had enough of an idea to begin the work.

 

Image 1:  I used acrylic paint to cover the canvas; I wanted the colors to imply vast blue sky at dusk.  The lower portion was intended to be the start of hills as well as finish setting the color scheme for the work.

Image 1
Image 1

Image 2:  I used a translucent paper for the form of Texas, although this will later be subtler with layers of paper and textures added.  I also began to create texture in the lower left of the work with woven fibers and a thick layer of matte gel applied with a palette knife.  The drawn tree and circular gold patterned paper helped to develop the landscape.

Image 2
Image 2

Image 3:  I developed the landscape further.  I also added pages from a vintage elementary school textbook.  The pages were about adventures of cowboys, and a history lesson on how Texas became a state.  The client’s wife loves animals in general, and has a passion for horses.  Therefore, the addition of horses seemed to be a perfect element to make the aesthetic more appealing to her, while still working within the Texas theme.  During this stage, I also added more papers and fibers, continuing to develop a strong textural feel within my determined color scheme.

Image 3
Image 3

Finished Piece:  To finish to piece I added another textbook page in the silhouette of Texas, as well as some vintage style tourism marketing for the state.  As a couple, I know their faith in an important part of their lives.  I attached a stamp of the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus into the crowd scene on the page.  I also added a small ornate bronze cross at the end of a thin rough brown chord.  I felt this helped to symbolism their combined devotion.  I tied small pieces of the chord to it to create a look similar to barbed wire.  I also added green woven fibers to the fields for the appearance of fencing, and developed the night sky.  After a few additional touch-ups the piece was finished.

His Heart in Texas, 24"x24" mixed media collage, 2011
His Heart in Texas • 24 in x 24 in • Mixed media collage on canvas • Carly Swenson • 2011

4 thoughts on “commission: his heart in texas

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  1. Nice job describing the process! My favorite thing about going to a museum or art gallery is to get my nose really close to the art, so I can look at it and try to decipher how the artist created the piece. You took a lot of the guesswork out when you not only described the making of this piece, but also included process photos! The honesty is admirable; your talent is apparent; you’ve managed to say something good about Texas, which is growing rare today (take me, for example, I could badmouth Texas presidents and presidential hopefuls all day long).

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    1. I know exactly what you mean! I love that, looking closely at brushstrokes and layers in a work. Thank you so much for taking the time to even read my post, and thanks for your kind comments. That is actually part of why I looked forward to this piece, in my mind–all I can really think of when I think of Texas was George W.–and that is not a positive association for me (but that is a rant for another time). So I was excited to delve more into what people love about Texas and their pride in the state and make a piece my client loved.

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