The Process of Commissioning Art, Demystified
Updated: May 4, 2022
Hanging art in your home is incredibly personal. No matter the piece, it is expressing your personality, what you find interesting or beautiful, and often, how you see the world. And because art is subjective (not every artist is someone's cup of tea, nor needs to be), and expresses such individuality, a piece of art commissioned specifically for you (or somebody you love) is so very special. But let's be honest, when we think of commissioned art, we all tend to picture hoity-toity art collectors, doling out buku bucks to an artist at their beck and call.
It's time to demystify the process of commisioning art, because it's quite frankly, not that complicated, not as expensive as you might imagine, and truly just about for anyone.
Each year, I usually make available spots for three to four commissioned projects. I recently finished up a project that will soon be delivered to the collector. Follow along as I walk you through the process for the creation of the work above. Hopefully I can help take the mystery out of working with an artist, to create something incredibly special for you or your loved one (because art makes such a lovely and unique gift!).
Choosing an Artist
The artist you choose is important. Every artist has an area they specialize in. I bet you can guess mine! It only takes a short time on my website or Instagram to know flowers are my thing. Does that mean that is all I am able to paint? No, but if you are looking for an artist to paint your classic collectible hotrod, I'm not your girl! But if you love things of nature, flower or not, these are the things I'm inspired by, and therefore will paint better. I had someone contact me a few months ago, to ask me to paint their grandfather on his John Deer tractor. Could I paint it? Probably. Am I the best artist for that? No, because It's not my passion. The good news is, artists are a very cooperative community and I was able to give this collector the name of an artist friend of mine who specializes in tractors. They would do a lovely job.
For the piece above, the collector has been following my work on social media for quite sometime. They know my style, my tendency towards certain color palettes, and it apparently resonated with them!
Working With the Artist
When this client requested a commissioned piece, I started by asking lots of questions. My goal is to get a very clear understanding of what they are envisioning in their mind. I need to know colors they love ( and don't love). Do they want bold drama, or a soft romantic feeling? Where will it most likely hang? How big are they wanting it to be? Are there special elements that they want added? (for instance, this client wanted one of my bird nests with four eggs, one for each of her kids). And If it's a floral, what are their favorite flowers?
One thing to note: sometimes an artist, who is thinking about what will make the best composition, will make suggestions that are different than what the client originally had in mind. For instance, this collector had never been drawn to large flowers, she preferred dainty ones. But if this vase had been filled with lots of small flowers, it would've been a visual overkill. The viewers' eye needs a place to rest, and a compositon needs some "weighty" items to anchor it a bit. The client was awesome to work with in that we were able to discuss some "larger" flowers, like the purple Iris and the tulips that would still have a delicate feel, yet provide the needed weight for the painting. I then made sure to add as much of the more dainty flowers that she loved, wherever possible. All that to say, in commissioning a piece of art, you can trust the artist to only make changes that are necessary to creating the very best painting possible.
When I felt I had a good idea of the desired direction from the client , I got out my sketchbook and drew lots of small thumbnail sketches to workout the general composition of the painting, including small samples of the requested flowers. Sometimes I will also do paint swatches so the client can see the direction I believe the colors will go in. I then show the client the sketches to make sure we are on the same page.
A couple things to keep in mind at this point, if you are commissioning art: Thumbnail sketches are usually loose and rough. They are an idea of a direction and never exactly what the finished piece will look like. The same can be said for any pictures that are sent by the artists to the collector, that show the progress of the work as it's being painted. I always ask if they want to see me post to social media, the painting in progress ( or send them private pictures if the painting is a surprise gift for someone). A lot of people LOVE to see these (this client was all for it!). It can be fun to watch the painting come to life! Some do no like this idea, because they want to be surprised with the end result, or they recognize the the process can ( and will be) be nerve wracking, because every panting goes through what I call "the ugly phase". This can be unnerving for the collector to watch! There is no right or wrong in this - a collector just needs to be aware that the end painting really doesn't come to life until well, the very end!
The Big Scary Question: Pricing?
This is where people often think commissioned artwork isn't for them. Why not? Because they don't liven a mansion and they don't own a yacht, of course! And this false belief is only compounded by the fact that too often, in the art world, the price of art is often shrouded in mystery because important things like price tags aren't displayed, making us all think it's above our budget. The truth it, many many times it's quite simply not! Yes, if Rembrandt were living today, it might be out of the ball park for most of us to commission him to do a painting for us. But in today's world, there are so many talented artists who make a living doing what they are passionate about, and charge a reasonable rate to do so. Of course, I can only speak of my own little art business - but let's get down to brass tacks: Paintings that I am commissioned to do typically run between three hundred to nine hundred. All my work is priced according to size ( anywhere between an 11"x14" all the way up to 4'x5'). and the average commissioned pieces I do are around four hundred. More specifically, I currently charge .97 per square inch (with minimum cost of 250.00). There you have it. No second mortgage required! For a reasonable price, most people can have, or give, one of a kind pieces of art that expresses the individuality of it's owner. Hopefully this helps to take away the unattainability feeling of art collecting.
Still have some questions? By all means, contact me, I'm happy to try and answer them! Interested in commissioning some art? Let me know if my style is your style! I will have two openings for late Summer, early Fall commision projects.
I consider it a privilege to be asked to be a part of bringing unique, beautiful art into someone's home. This recent project was a joy to work on! I will leave you with this- the last element to go on this painting. In the beginning discussion we had about what this painting would include, she had said she wanted to have a butterfly.
( the collector was probably wondering if I had forgotten it! But she was so great about trusting me throughout this process!) And this is the last video post I made before she saw the final painting in person...