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I was recently hired through my agency The Drawing Arm to do a spot of live painting for the perfume brand Jo Malone London. It was hands down the nicest smelling job I’ve ever had.
This was a job where I had to step out of my comfort zone, literally and figuratively. Three days of live painting in a large department store. I’d never done this before, and wasn’t sure what to expect…
The job involved painting London landmarks on Jo Malone perfume boxes which were available for customers to buy over the Mother’s Day weekend. When I arrived I was directed to a cosy little table at one side of the department, covered in a mountain of boxes.
I was actually pretty relieved, as in my mind I had imagined a table set up in the middle of this huge store with all traffic focussed on me like some kind of celebrity book signing! This was a lot more low key, and looking back it’s funny how the mind takes something you’re worried about and creates all these exaggerated images in your head.
When the call came in for this job I was actually already in the midst of two other commissions for two separate studios abroad. It was the first time I had to juggle two jobs let alone bring another job into the mix.
I thought about it and realised I could make this work with some good planning. The two studio commissions were on 9 hour time zone difference so I scheduled my time effectively and prioritised work by who wanted what when.
It involved me getting up pretty early, doing a few hours of work for the studios, then travelling to the city to do the live painting, then travelling straight back to do more work for the studios for a few more hours. I thought it was best to make the studios aware of the situation and reassured them that I would be working over the weekend to make up time and ensure everything will get completed for them.
I hadn’t used paints for a while but I agreed to the job in spite of this. I knew that if I could do the designs using a pen then I’d be able to adapt to using a brush to make the same marks.
With that said I felt it was important to not jump in cold, after all people would be looking over my shoulder watching while I paint these landmarks. I took a little time the night before my first day to try out the new ink and brushes I bought. It didn’t take long to get used to working with them and I realised it would just be a matter of getting faster at doing it.
There were 3 specific designs they wanted me to reproduce on the boxes. On the first day I got a few requests from customers asking for bespoke designs (like the gondola and the flower) but for the remaining days I was told by the agency, that the people at Jo Malone wanted me to stick to the 3 main designs. Once I had done a few boxes it became quite simple to just reproduce them. I started to approach each design more methodically and that results in speed.
Working freelance, one of the perks is being able to work in your own space, away from watchful eyes. and to a certain degree, your own schedule (as long as you get the work done by when you agree to.)
I’m not used to having people watch me work but I realised I had to suck it up and reminded myself that I’m a professional godammit. I couldn’t help but get into my groove when everyone was so complimenting about the paintings. It was actually really fun to interact with customers and other members of staff and talk about what I do. I feel it’s made me a better artist for taking on the experience and challenging myself.