We are always through-the-roof excited to begin a new painting that an interior designer commissions for a client. And, while each client is different and each painting is one-of-a-kind, the story of how this painting developed offers insight into the process of how we serve their needs and desires.
We began with a four-way telephone discussion: the two designers, Robin Baron and Yudi Kaufman of Robin Baron Design, the artist Jerry Teters, and me. The designers vision was a large, 5 x 4′ white-on-white painting that would hang in a specific space in the living room they were designing for their client, Ryan Serhant, of Bravo TV’s Million Dollar Real Estate. They envisioned a canvas with the kind of rich texture that is Jerry is known for, with hints of purples, gray, pinks and perhaps chartreuse coming through to read and complement the colors of the furniture and wallpaper.
The designers provided a few photos that showed furniture fabrics, pillows and the rosy underside of an over-sized coffee table that incorporated some of the colors they wanted the painting to reflect.
Jerry was gleeful to have the right size canvas on hand, with an earlier painting that he was ready to paint over: An under painting gives a head start to the texture that he builds and manipulates as he works. With gesso, he brought the canvas back to a pristine white and then applied thin layers of color.
When that dried, he used a gel medium to continue to build the surface so it would accept the layers of white he applied and scraped off, reapplied and moved around as a subtle pattern and sense of movement appeared.
Allowing the paint to dry was key to achieving the effect of color peering through. Without patience, the white would become pastel and the contrast would be lost. Another challenge was to find the composition under the white and, when necessary, paint on top of the white layers to bring the color forward and create balance and movement.
One of the final steps was to go over any areas of white that weren’t crisp, pure white and remove any shadows or tints of color that weren’t deliberate to meet the designers’ specification of bright white, not cream, not off-white. The final painting, which is almost impossible to capture in a photo, glows and unfolds gradually the more you look at it.