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Commission Art

Are people showing interest in your work and keen on customizing some of it to their personal requirements? If yes, then its high time you seriously consider taking up Commissions. Receiving requests to create commission art is the ultimate compliment for any artist.

But what does commission art mean? It is the act of requesting the creation of a piece, often on behalf of another. Artwork may be commissioned by private individuals, by the government, or businesses. Commissions can very often resemble endorsement or sponsorship as well.

If the thought of getting involved with a paid project is giving you cold feet then this post is just what you need. Here are some tips that will help streamline your commission process and help you build up a reputation as a professional artist:

Set a pricing methodology

There are two common methods for pricing art:

  • By the hour – Number of hours worked x hourly rate.

Your hourly rate depends on your experience and          skill level. You can add the cost of the supplies to this later on.

  • By size – Cost per square inch x no. of square inches in painting.

This method requires a set cost per painted square inch, which is determined by the quality of the supplies used as well as the degree of detailing in your work.

A few extra pointers while pricing your work:

  • When commissioning, a piece in specific dimensions, using specific materials and perhaps even specific subject matter, price by the hour.
  • If you are not particularly comfortable or skilled at drawing/painting the subject at hand, consider lowering your price to keep things fair.
  • If the work is urgent and demands long hours or weekends, consider raising your prices.

2. Time management

As a professional artist, time management and good organizational skills become absolutely imperative. As a general rule, I never set a definitive due date just in case I am unable to finish on time. I always tell my clients that the painting is going to take me at least a couple of days longer than the estimated timeline but make it a point to finish before D-day.

3. Provide information to prospective clients

Share information about your creative process and any terms or conditions connected to how you sell your work. Some important information you should definitely include is:

  • Ask questions and get a clear understanding of what you’re being requested to create. For instance, what art style do they like, what color scheme to use and what area of their house/work place will the piece be adorning.
  • Do you need anything specific from the customer in terms of high-resolution images, etc.?
  • Your mode(s) for accepting payment (bank transfer, card payment, etc.).
  • What percentage/portion of the total cost you will take as advance payment before getting started (this should be non – refundable so that if your clients back out, it pays for your invested time, labor, and art materials.)
  • Whether you undertake shipping (if yes then what will be your shipping terms/costs?)

4. Be prompt in responding

If a prospective client inquires about commissioning a piece, make sure you respond as quickly as possible or you may end up losing the opportunity altogether. Once you have started working on the commission, maintain an open channel of communication throughout in order to keep your client updated about your progress.This will prevent any confusion or misunderstandings.Also, don’t hesitate in turning down prospective clients if you feel that what they’re asking for is against your moral compass or beliefs.

My Commissioning Process

I have had the recent pleasure of successfully finishing a commissioned painting for a new set of clients, a lovely couple. Here’s what I made for them:

Recently commissioned

This project was a challenging venture as not only were the clients my patrons, but also good friends. Sharing the experience of my commissioning process while it’s still fresh in my mind:

  • The concept briefing –

My first meeting with my clients, an impressionable husband and wife duo with a profound interest but limited knowledge in art, was to discuss the subject matter and conceive the entire project. I was commissioned by them to paint a Vietnamese riverscape, taking reference from an image of a similar scene. They showed me a photo of the painting that they wanted me to customize for them and later on shared with me a high-resolution image of the same for reference purposes.

Here are some questions I asked them to understand what they had in mind, along with their answers:

  1. What is it that they want? Do they want an exact replica of the original or a custom-made version? – They wanted more or less the same thing but on a larger scale (a 2ft by 3ft canvas to be exact).
  2. What color scheme would they like? Do they want to retain the same colors as the original or make some changes? – They preferred to stick to the same color palette, only brighter.
  3. What size and surface would they like their painting to be? – As mentioned above, 2ft by 3 ft on a canvas.
  4. What medium would they want me to use? – They left this to my discretion owing to their limited knowledge of art, so I decided to go with oil paints as I felt these would be best for the subject matter in question here.
  • The artistic process –  

The next step was to explain to them about my artistic process. I gave them a rough idea of how I would go about working on the painting, starting from the initial sketch, the painting process and then the final touch up and finishing stage which includes varnishing the final artwork once it was totally dry. I assured them that I would keep sending regular updates in the form of photos on completion of each stage, so that any editing or adjustments could be made as and when required.

  • The framing –

I gave my clients the choice of either taking the canvas unframed or along with a frame. I made it clear to them that in the latter case, the cost of framing would be added to the price of the artwork. Since they were in the same city as me and were picking up the artwork personally, they told me to take care of the framing as well.

  • The costing and terms of payment –

I decided to price this commission by size as not only did it involve increasing the dimensions, but also including the cost of framing. In terms of the payment, I quoted an advance of 1/3 of the total cost of the commission, which would be non-refundable as it would cover the time, labor and materials I would invest into the entire project. Since there wasn’t going to be any shipping involved, I did not include this cost.

  • Estimated time for completion –

As mentioned earlier, when it comes to the timeline, I always give an estimate of a day or two extra from the anticipated time of completion so as to take care of any eventualities. I this case, I had to include not just this, but also the drying time (being an oil painting), varnishing (and drying thereafter) as well as framing time.  

Please Note – Unlike in my case, if you are not well-acquainted with the clients or haven’t worked with them before, I would advise you to put down all of the above points in writing and sign a contract so that there are no misunderstandings later on. If you do decide to go ahead with a formal contract, don’t forget to mention that you as the artist will retain the copyright to all works commissioned by you, including all reproduction rights and no artwork may be reproduced or altered without your written consent.

I hope you found this post helpful and wish you loads of luck in all your artistic endeavors! Do leave me a comment below if you have inputs  or wish to share your own experiences with commissions. Would love to hear about it!