Being commissioned for an original work of art is quite an honor. However, sometimes this honor can turn into a challenging art commission.

Recently, I was asked to create a duck-hunting oil painting.  was a challenging commission for me. Although I am not a hunter, way back in the 80s and 90s I painted duck stamps and illustrated for Ducks Unlimited and the Nature Conservancy. So I was excited about this art commission.

As I began to question my client about his wishes for the painting, he became very specific about what he wanted. For example, he wanted his recognizable Illinois duck blind on his recognizable pond with blue skies, puffy white clouds, decoys to the left of the blind, the wind and water blowing from the left, mallard ducks landing from the right, and all in a 30×20 vertical format! 😅

At first I was excited, but as I began to paint this art commission I felt hog-tied by all the constraints and became uninspired. I then made an important mental shift, yes, I had to do my best to keep my collector happy but I still needed to reflect my own artistic vision! Keeping his wishes in mind, I did it my way.

Like I said, I am not a hunter so I researched about duck hunting. Did you know there’s actually a method (some might say an “art”) to how the hunters set out their decoys to attract ducks? It’s called a spread.

So I figured out how to depict a decoy spread, then I designed where the live ducks would be flying in and I changed the time of day from bright blue skies to a beautiful morning. I painted what felt pretty and happy to me.

Lucky for me, my collector loved it!