My first commission arrived about a month ago. Completely out of the blue and for something I had never even thought about, let alone tried before! To paint a Remo Buffalo drum.
I wasn’t sure whether to accept, especially when he said he wanted me to paint whatever I liked, intuitively!
Stephen is a friend of mine, and I had already painted a small painting for him, but I was still shocked at the trust and confidence he had in my abilities. Mostly the thought screaming in my head was “What if I mess up?” I asked for time to think about it.
So off I went, to Google drum painting. I became quite obsessed. I loved some of the painted drums I came across. I collected images I particularly liked on Pinterest. I’ve always related Shamanic drumming to Native America but I was surprised to find out about Celtic art on drums. I like the simplicity of the Celtic art but I knew this drum should be in a more Native American style.
As I seemed to have now accepted the commission, it was time to be courageous and go and collect the drum.
I must admit I did have a little wobble and hid the drum away for a few days!
Eventually, I sat with the drum, looking at it in detail, feeling the texture of the surface to be painted, gently tapping on it with my fingers and hands, listening to the sounds it made, letting ideas float through my mind.
Snake, dream catcher and feathers.
Lots of rough sketches later, I had one I was prepared to show trusted friends; a snake head on the skin of the dream catcher and a feather lying across the bottom. The general consensus was that I could do better!
To be honest, I had cheated. I wanted to paint a snake curled around the dream catcher but I was afraid that my abilities weren’t up to that. So I just sketched a snake head.
Back to the sketch book, I did manage to get the end of the snake wrapping around the dream catcher frame with a space on the top left for a feather. Something wasn’t quite right, it looked unbalanced.
Abandoning feathers, I balanced out the snake. It was right at last.
I was shaking when I pencilled the design onto the drum, even more so when I put on the first layer of acrylic paint. The surface was smooth and non-absorbent, so the paint slid around a little but dried exceptionally quickly. It was very different to painting on paper. I had no way of practicing, I just had to learn as I painted.
The dream catcher was completed and a fairly detailed second layer of paint was on the snake when I realised I had no idea how to suggest the scales! Time to experiment on paper. I found that by drawing a grid of scales over the paint in white gel pen, then painting over the top gave a good idea of the scales. On the drum I got so carried away with the shading detail on the snake, in places the paint was too thick to allow the gel pen to show through. But enough was showing to give a good representation.
I had been completely absorbed in the painting. When I was finished I was really surprised. I was very pleased and very proud of what I had accomplished. And, once of got over the nerves, I had enjoyed every minute.
What happened to the feathers? First I was going to paint a few around the sides, but the surface was very textured and I knew I wouldn’t be able to capture a feather’s delicacy. The inside of the rim was painted a matt black, perfect for a simple representation of a feather in the faithful white gel pen!!
Steve was speechless when he collected his drum, in a good way.
It’s a couple of weeks since I completed the drum. And I miss it! It had absorbed me totally for several days, the research, the sketching and the actual painting. I already have a few more ideas for drums. I’m seriously wondering whether to purchase a drum instead of a canvas for my next project.