The Client Is Not Always Right
On Sunday, I officially started on The Great Van Project. The project is, thankfully, still in its initial stages. And, a lot has changed since my husband/client and I had our first Project Meeting two weeks ago.
In working with clients and customers, one long-standing rule is often touted: The customer (or client) is always right.
“The customer is always right” is a mantra urging service staff to give high priority to customer satisfaction. The slogan was popularized by pioneer successful retailers like Harry Gordon Selfridge, John Wanamaker and Marshall Field.
Good advice for the most part, but as I’ve quickly learned in my experience on this project, it ain’t necessarily so!
At our first meeting, my husband was quite insistent about using 12 x 16 stretched canvases for the project — a whopping total of 30. Since that time, I’ve been doing a bit of pricing, looking for the best value, and I’m certainly glad I didn’t order any canvases because now our materials list has changed entirely.
From the beginning I had suggested canvas panels, and this led to one of the extremely rare, uh, disagreements my husband and I have ever had. In discussing the project, he often used the term canvas panel, thinking it was interchangeable with stretched canvas, and he was not altogether pleased when I pointed out that these are two different things. When I showed him the difference between them, he picked up the stretched canvas and not-so-politely told me that he didn’t care what it was called, this — and only this — was what he was talking about, and if I was going to make such a fuss about it, maybe we should just forget the whole thing! Yeah, he was having a bad day.
Being the kind, loving, understanding, forgiving wife — and believing the old adage that the customer or client is always right, I sucked it up, agreed to use the canvas panels, and we moved on with the project.
Until Sunday. That was when I did a little shopping for the project. Since acrylic paint is not my medium of choice, I definitely wanted a chance to practice making clouds with it, plus I wanted to get a feel for the exact colors — there are lots of blues for skies — my client husband was looking for.
I picked up several different blues, a lot of white, bought a nice new set of brushes just for acrylics, and then — for practice only — I bought a cheap set of 11 x 14 canvas panels from the children’s art section. Super cheap. Super practical when I’m doing practice painting of any kind.
When I took them out of the bag, my husband eyed them suspiciously. “These are for practice, that’s all,” I assured him. He still looked rather unsure, but nodded and left me to my easel.
I painted a blue sky background using two of the different blues. Next I started adding a few fluffy white clouds. The illustration here shows the canvas panel at this stage — with just one application of paint. Later, I will add a bit of gray to some areas, along with more white to give the clouds the brilliant look I know my husband wants.
Acrylics dry quickly, of course, so by early evening my husband was able to take this painted panel out to the van. He held it up against the headliner and gave me his approval. He also had a sudden realization — using canvas panels instead of stretched canvases might be a much better way to go. Oh, how I wanted to say “I told you so!” But being the kind, loving, understanding, forgiving wife that I am, I smiled and agreed, offering my approval for his decision.
I wasn’t happy with the color, though. So, I hurried back into the house and dug out an old painting, one that’s been reposing in my “maybe I’ll paint over this someday” stack of canvases.
This “mountain lake” scene was one of my first oil paintings, done in January 2017, only a few months after I started using oils. Although it’s not a great painting, I do like the color of the sky, so I brought it out to the van and let my husband hold it up as a way of comparing the colors.
This is also a much larger painting. It was done on a 20 x 24 inch canvas panel. (The image here seems to be cropped a bit.)
As he held the painting up — and gave approval on the color for the sky — his appreciation for canvas panels (as opposed to stretched canvases) grew. He realized at once how much easier it will be for him to install canvas panels, and how easy it will be for him to cut or crop panels where necessary. He also came to the realization that it will be fine to use larger panels rather than the 12 x 16 size he had first requested.
So much for the theory that customers and clients are always right. When it comes to retail issues, maybe so, but in specialized areas such as art and design, clients may not always know what’s best. Some will gladly listen to suggestions; others, like my husband, may be a bit more insistent about what they think they want. In cases like that, it’s up to us — as the artist or other professional — to give them enough information to help them make better decisions. Only by letting my husband handle painted canvas panels (in two sizes) did he finally come to understand the reasons why I had suggested them for the project in the first place.
Feeling quite pleased with himself at that point, my husband set the colorful mountain scene painting along the side of the van’s interior. At once I saw the gleam in his eye. I knew what was coming next.
So, yeppers, the project has expanded. I’ll not only be doing a custom sky and clouds on the ceiling, but also painting landscape scenes for the sides. He’s happily looking at reference photos, and he’s more excited than ever about the project.
Actually, I’m excited now, too. I really think I can do this, and I’m looking forward to seeing the finished exterior.
My next task: Laying out a plan for the canvas panels to determine exactly how many we’ll need and how they will be placed. Once that is done, I can come up with a basic sketch of the clouds for my husband’s approval. I won’t be working on the sides yet, so that part of the project can wait a while.
Wish us both luck in completing this Great Van Project and be watching for updates!