When taking on a private commission my starting point tends to be with a narrative or story which has some sort of special meaning to the client. This can be a well known tale, such as a legend or some piece of folklore, or a poem, or song, or even a family story or anecdote. There are times when clients don’t have a particular tale or story to give me but through talking and finding a bit more about them, a theme that they like can often be found. The important thing for me is that it isn’t too prescriptive, so that there is plenty opportunity for me to play with ideas and images.
The first query many clients want clarified is that of cost and size. I have found that most tend to either consider the budget they have available or the space they wish to hang their picture in as a staring point. The final price really needs to be worked out on a case by case basis, not only taking into account size, but also the amount of research required and detail in the piece. I’m very happy to discuss this with the client.
When taking on commissioned work, I aim to produce a piece which is individual to the client and for this reason I don’t reproduce existing work or images. As my work is often based on stories, I like to work with the client and come up with a narrative or idea which is special to them. I then develop these ideas into a final image.
I like to send the clients a plan of their piece before embarking on the full colour version. The plan is just a line drawing in which I work out the composition of the piece but it gives the client the opportunity to tell me if I’m on the right track or if there is something that needs to be changed. As it’s a photocopy, there is no colour but I usually scribble some notes which give an idea of the colour scheme.
Depending on other work projects, the whole process usually takes 2-3 months. I am open to discuss any ideas and projects without obligation to make an immediate commitment.
Examples of past commissions
The Seal Wife
This piece was commissioned by a client familiar with my work who wanted a gift for his wife’s 50th birthday. Because she had roots on the seafaring islands of Shetland, he proposed drawing on the tradition of Selkie folk tales. Selkies are seals who can magically transform into human form by taking off their skins. The tradition of Selkies is very popular among fishing communities; if you treat them kindly hopefully they will protect you and your family.
The client comments…
“Kate Leiper is one of the most talented young artists working in Britain today. Intellectually and imaginatively never still, her painting reveals the enormous wealth of her learning, her restless search for the great truths of being, and her sensitive, emotional, and keenly perceptive northern soul. In ‘The Seal Wife’ we are lured into a world of fantasy and faery, which beguiles and enchants. She also delights, with the unexpected, but gloriously witty and life-affirming discovery of the golden wedding ring, incongruous, but simultaneously just right, in the submarine blue of the sea. It is a painting of great depth and meaning. It tells a haunting story with great compassion and understanding. This is just one of many Kate Leiper’s works which have moved me deeply and at which I have greatly marvelled. Here indeed is an artist to be fostered and cherished.”
I discussed several themes with a couple wishing to celebrate their marriage and learned that they were drawn towards the legend of ‘Halcyon Days”. The ancient Greeks believed that the Halcyon (a type of kingfisher) built their nests on the sea and when there was a storm, the god Aeolus would control the winds, ensuring that the water always remained calm around their nest and protect the vulnerable young.
This piece represents the promise the couple took to look after and protect each other, their marriage and their family, no matter what stormy weathers they have to cross in the future.
Gifts from the Sea
The client here was looking for something for her husband who was about to celebrate a significant birthday. They were both keen sea kayakers and had spent many happy holidays paddling around the seas off the west coast of Scotland and wild camping on the islands. He loved oystercatchers and whenever they beached on land and he heard it’s call, it gave him a sense of home coming, no matter where he was. During my research I discovered that the name for oystercatchers in Gaelic means “the page or servant of St Bride” . Among the many legends surrounding St Bride, two stood out for me; St Bride would send out oystercatchers to announce the arrival of Spring and she also sent them out in stormy weather to guide sailors safely home.
The Twa Dugs
This client owned an old Greyhound who was wise to the world and content with his life. He was appalled when the family acquired a very lively wire-haired Daschund puppy, a dog that looked like him but with short legs and a tufty coat. The old Greyhound would often cast a look of dismay as he struggled to come to terms with the loss of his peaceful life.