No, I haven't been to Tuscany yet, but it's on the list of places I want to go. I did just finish painting a commission from someone else's trip to Tuscany. It was their first ever solo trip. She was having a hard time choosing a photo for me to paint, because she's been a lot of places: Vietnam, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Newfoundland...
So, how do you pick what to paint?
Honestly, I am a terrible person to ask. This, and interior decorating questions; like where to hang stuff and what goes with what. Nothing in our house matches! If you don't like where a painting is, move it. If the painting doesn't match the nearest piece of furniture, oh well. Is there too much color? Hell no! The more color, the better! (Although 75% of the most popular Instagram accounts would heartily disagree with me, I'm sure. White, white, baby. Neutrals. Yeeeeeea! No. Life is just too short for so much white. Also, I live in Canada and it's very white-ish 6 months of the year. You should see my winter wardrobe. I am in no danger of getting hit by a vehicle at any time of day. The colors I wear are pretty obnoxious. Let's not talk about the ever-growing collection of fleece lined leggings.)
Maybe it's because she is my friend that I was very candid with her in an effort to make her choice a bit easier, or maybe it's just because it's how I am; speaking first and worrying profusely afterward if I sounded brash or rude or flippant. But what I told her is a thing that seems to ring true through a lot of my painterly friends and photographer friends too. It's not the perfect picture that makes 'it' awesome, it's the moment behind it. The captured moment. The unplanned thing. The backstory.
Clearest example; wedding photos. I have a few friends who are stellar photographers and photograph weddings. Their photos are great, the brides are gorgeous, the little kids adorable, the families poised and smiling. But every once in a while, they capture a moment almost by accident. Sometimes purely by accident. Someone mid-laugh. A glance between an engaged couple on the way to the next nicely treed area for a good backdrop. Maybe someone tripped. Maybe a husband dipped a wife back while she was unprepared and she screamed and then laughed trying to right herself (me). Things like that. Choosing what photo to have someone paint should be like that too. It doesn't have to be THE MOST PERFECTLY EPIC VISTA OF OUR HONEYMOON or the most perfect perspective or lighting or any of that. What's the story behind the photo? Which photo do you have of a dog or a trip or hike or anything you decided to take a picture of, which has the story your brain immediately retells you as soon as you see it, and it makes you smile? Or it makes you laugh? The photo that makes you pause and you can remember what the air smelled like and what it sounded like and how you felt when you were standing there, taking the picture. That is the photo you should commission someone to paint. The one with the best backstory. Anyone can capture an epic vista, (Sorry to my photographer friends, or any photographers reading this. This is not a case of 'my kid could do that!', please don't misunderstand what I'm saying.) but no one else saw it and felt about it the way you did. These moments can't be manufactured. Not really. They either happen or they don't. You caught it or you didn't.
My friend Jocelyn sent me a great photo from her first solo trip which was to Tuscany. I hope the painting I created from it gives her the same goosebumps she got when she stood on that old stone veranda and looked out on the hillside below.