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The moment I was asked to paint an Indian Chief commission It took me by surprise as I’ve never painted an Indian Chief before. The request came out of the blue in mid-November, just before Adelaide had another outbreak of COVID and we experienced a short lockdown.

My immediate thoughts were “Why would you think I could paint this?” Of course, I was thinking this thought in a nice way, but I was bewildered for a moment. Then the positive person I am swung back in, and I thought more about the request, then I had to look at this as a compliment. I was actually thrilled by this challenge, if I look back to my social media post at the time.

This comment from my art collector


“I have faith in you to do a good job, you’re a professional”


gave me confidence in one way but then I had to block out the tingle down the back of my spine that told me I was out of my depth.

Those sneaky little thoughts that came into haunt me

  • Do you have the confidence to take this on?
  • What if I can’t do it?
  • Just get on with it!!
  • What’s the worst that could happen?

The process started with discussions over the canvas dimension options. When you work with an artist you get more flexibility because even though the original image that the painting is based on may be portrait, we can paint a little more background to fill up a square canvas and give the look a different mood.

The first thing I start is to make sure I have the outline to scale. I lay down the darkest colour first to get the features in place. Once I had done this for the Chief I was relieved with a comment from my client.


“That looks amazing already”


I then went about adding the shading in the same dark colour, working from dark to light, layer by layer.

The first colour I decided to add was red. I felt like red was a drama colour and would add impact to the flow of the process.

Then as I added a few more colours – blue then yellow, the look softened a little and the details started to appear.

More and more colours mean’t more and more finer details in place

My client was watching the progress from afar and the next comment made me feel happy.


“That looks great, thank you so much”


Bit by bit layer by layer, I took my time with the process as I was enjoying the way I was bringing this guy to life.

As I got down to the finer details I realised how unclear the photo was that I was referring to, so I start to adlib which at times was fun, but at times was frustrating and at times was confusing.

I do a lot of standing back and thinking about it before moving on…

Shading in the background was relaxing in one way, but I had to be careful not to overpower the main subject and not to splash any paint on the main painting. I finished the background after about four layers.

Making the decision to finalise was interesting. I could go on forever, a little dab here and a little dab there. I decided it was ready to check in with my client. I held myself back after this comment.


“I think it looks fine now, looks amazing”


I’m happy to stop. Why take the chance of ruining it?

Adding a matt varnish finishes it off and adds a little protection

I feel relieved and proud. Proud that I’m happy with the end result. Proud that I’ve produced a result my client is happy with. Proud that I got through the process unscathed.
I started feeling confident with my commission artwork, not immediately, but not long after finishing this commission, I started to think I would like to do another commission. I started feeling like I could bring other people’s visions to life

I enjoyed the process because my client seemed to be chilled while following the progress with me on social media. We also communicated privately via messenger.

If you would like to check out some of my finished commissions please check my commissions page.

If you have an artwork vision you’d like me to bring to life please contact me.