Spring is in the air....albeit intermittently. Wedding dates are coming up, people are cleaning out clutter to make room for new thoughts and new things. The 'feng' of houses is being rearranged for renewed 'shui'...or however that goes. And the commissions are still coming in. It's exciting for artists as well as buyers....getting that one-of-a-kind work....made specifically for you, or someone you know. But the whole process can become very frustrating very quickly for both parties (artist and buyer) if you are unsure how to go about the process.
Don't groan. I'm not getting into 'how-to' blogging. I just got to thinking about this whole process today after the past few months of working on commissions for first time buyers and seasoned collectors. I am NOT an expert on the subject.....but here are some things to keep in mind to help you get what you want when you are commissioning a piece of art.
- Have you seen the artists' work? Do they have one style or several? Do they have a variety of media they work with? Do YOU have a preference for what media you want your commission to be in? (Using my work as an example...I work mostly in acrylic. I also work in acrylic/mixed media, watercolor and ink, pencil, pen, pencil crayon and chalk pastel.) If the artist has a website, take a look. Get to know their style. Maybe it won't suit what you want. If they don't have a website, ask them to email you sample images.
- Be specific about what you want at the BEGINNING. Don't be afraid to tell an artist you do or don't want certain things in a painting. I know a popular phrase is 'good art won't match your sofa', but let's face it.....you spent a lot of money on that couch, or bedding....and that painting better look friggin' awesome above it (either) or it's going to drive you nuts! It's ok to say no to certain colors, or ask them to take something out of or add to a painting (like, I don't want this street scene to have all the power lines showing.....or please make the lawn look nicer in front of my house). If you know the artist's work and you REALLY want to give them free reign, let the artist know that too!
- Do you like their use of color? (Is it bright? Muted?) I LOVE using bright color sometimes, but if you look at my work, my use of color is not always realistic. Sometimes I love amping up a red on a brick wall or a blue sky, or sometimes I like changing the color completely...like painting snowy scenes using a light purple or yellow just because I can....and really, snow is most every color EXCEPT white.
- Ask about payment. Don't be shy! For myself, I ask for a 20% deposit before beginning a commission. This is to help pay for some supplies I might need to get started (specific canvas size, extra gel mediums, new paint colors, etc), and to show me that the customer is committed to paying for the painting when it's done. When the painting is done and paid for in full, then I let the customer take it home. Sometimes, exceptions are made, like payments on larger pieces. I also charge based on the size of the painting. It keeps my pricing consistent, and there are no surprise costs at the end. Other artists might do it differently. Ask.
- Deadlines. Be specific about when you want/need your piece by. Deadlines keep us organized. Also, if you need it done by a certain date and an artist isn't able to get it done by then, you know and can make a plan 'B'.
- Be a part of the process. Some artists make full sketches before they do a painting, or will gladly update you with the progress of the work with photos via email. If you want this, ask! If an artist doesn't usually do that, at least you know OR maybe it's something they didn't think of, and they'll be happy to send you updates along the way!
The more information you give an artist up front, the better. If you have reference material (photos, color schemes, paint swatches....or even a photo of WHERE you want the piece to eventually hang) let the artist know. Giving an artist 'free reign' to do what they like....and THEN telling them AFTER they have mostly finished the painting that you don't like certain colors....or wanted it to have a certain look....is very disheartening and frustrating, and depending on the media or the type of commission...if you don't like the outcome and choose not to buy it, the artist might be stuck with something they can't change or sell.
Commissions are fun and a good challenge. Ask questions. Don't be shy. Every artist handles commissions differently and I'm not speaking for all of us. These are just a few examples of things I have been asked or wished I had been told/asked before I started a commission. So far I have had the good fortune of being able to satisfy all (as far as I know) of my commission customers. I have had to tweak paintings multiple times in order to do so, and sometimes this can't be helped. In some cases though, the desired happy outcome of "I LOVE IT!!" could have been reached a lot sooner if there had been more conversation at the beginning.
I hope this helps if you are thinking about commissioning me or ANY artist to create a piece of art for you.