Commissions are scary.

They’re also the coolest thing about selling your art online.

I’m by no means famous. I’m not even sure that I could call myself “well-known”, but I could perhaps definitely say that I’m pugnacious. However, that’s not really relevant to art. 

Once in a blue moon someone will come across my artwork and say something like “Oh, I really like that, but could you do one where it’s a dragon and it’s tearing through flesh and also possibly blue?” (Ok…that happened once.) This time the conversation went “Oh, I really like that, but could she be a betta fish instead?”

And that’s how I received a commission to paint a betta fish mermaid for a beautiful young mom who lives in Israel. She said it was a gift to herself to remind herself that she’s beautiful, which…I mean…no pressure or anything. It was based on a painting I did a few years ago I called “Curvy Mermaid”, seen here.

That painting sold shortly after I completed it, and I’m kind of glad. My skill set has improved since then, as well as my understanding of different art tools, and I was eager to give a curvy mermaid another go. 

I started with a watercolor pen “sketch” in my Moleskine watercolor sketchbook.

I used one color of blue, and I searched around online for a few different examples of non-traditional mermaids. The lady in question loves betta fish, so I wanted to try and marry the fish with the character. I liked the direction, but obviously there are some issues. The bust is off-kilter, and I wanted the hair to feel more like sea foam – floating about her in big, natural curls. Also… I have decided that me and hands….ugh… I need to do a lot of work on hands.

On the whole, though, I liked it, but more importantly the client liked it. So, it came time for a pencil sketch.

While very similar, this lady has a bit of a different feel. A bit more “peaceful earth mother” type (Ocean mother?*) than the va-va-vavoom character from the watercolor sketch. But, I liked that. I liked that she has more of a timeless quality to her looks. The hair was much better. The eyes sat too high on her face, and I….ugh…the hand. Oh god the hand. A few tweaks with a good eraser, and it was time to start painting.

I’m not going to pretend like I have any fancy paints. I don’t. I have a nice, robust palette of Artist’s Loft. That, with some patience, and a good brush, does pretty much everything I want. Betta fish are very colorful, so I made sure that she stayed in hues of purple, pink, and a bit of sea blue. These tones were reflected in her skin tone, note around the edges of her forehead and shoulder. Not enough to make her look alien, but enough to make her look otherworldly.

The fins have all the same colors, but I flipped the prominence of them so that the blue stood out an it more. 

I used paint to fix the eyes, and I loved the idea of doing these exaggerated eyelashes. I don’t know that they’re perfect, but they were fun. All told, I loved the way she came together. I love that she looks divine and otherworldly. Strong. Beautiful. And…well…I still hate that hand, but I’ll live with it. 

What was cool is that, as I was posting updates of this mermaid to social media, another lady contacted me and said “Could you do this, but Ariel?”


She’s in Ariel’s traditional color palette, with a few curvy additions. The eyelashes aren’t quite exaggerated in the same way, and her makeup is a bit more mature than Ariel, but the client was very happy.

If you’d like a unique painting commission, email me!

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