The murky world of commissioning Art.

©2011 - Cathy Read - Historical Spaces - 38cm x 28cm - Mixed media

Have you ever seen a picture and thought, I like that but it needs x or I’d prefer y? Commissioning Art may seem complicated but it isn’t.

People like pictures with a personal connection.

You see something you admire, but it’s not quite right, it lacks the personal touch. OR you like the idea but want to reflect yourself or something personal in it.

Welcome to the murky world of commissioning art, let me tell you a story

©2011 - Cathy Read - Historical Spaces - 38cm x 28cm - Mixed media
©2011 – Cathy Read – Historical Spaces – 38cm x 28cm – Mixed media

Alison and Mike* came to see me at my first Open studios and really liked my style and this painting of the British Museum caught their eye. They liked the subject but really wanted something larger.

We arranged to meet and discussed the particular features they wanted to include

It turns out that they visited the British Museum a lot as a family and had many happy memories from the trips, Particularly of their daughter running up the steps. They really wanted something that captured that memory, including the steps. Would it be possible to achieve this? I agreed it would be possible.and we discussed their exact requirements in more detail before agreeing the price.

Beginning the Commission.

I arranged to take more photographs at the museum whilst they found a suitable image of their daughter. Using these, I created a drawing which would be the basis of my painting. A photograph of the drawing was sent to Alison and Mike* for approval. I needed to be sure that it was what they were looking for. To check that they liked the composition.

The next stage was finishing the Painting Preparation, in this case masking over the lines. I sent them another photograph when I’d finished. This is done for the customers interest at this stage, rather than with any intention to alter things.

Once that was dry, I started the painting. over several sessions. When completed, I sent Alison and Mike another image for approval. It helps to be sure in a commission. There were a couple of small tweaks required, these were all possible and I was happy to do them. Due to the nature of my painting not all adjustment are possible or advisable. Some re-masking was necessary which was worth it to finish the piece.

Alison and Mike were delighted with the finished painting.

We arranged framing and collection of the painting once it was completed.

 

Things to be aware of when commissioning Art

  • Commissioning art is not the cheapest option but can still be affordable
    • Prices will vary but expect up to 50% more than a similar sized painting by the same artist.
  • Commissions can be risky but with a good contract you can manage the risk

Commissioners risk: That you won’t like the finished result, the secret to this is making sure you explain exactly what you want. If you’re not sure, then make sure the artist knows you are not sure. Artists cannot read your mind.

Artist’s Risk – non payment: if the commissioner doesn’t like it, they might not pay

  •  remember the artist has invested hours of their time in the piece that they could have invested in other work. Depending on the commission, they may not be able to sell it to another buyer, especially true with portraits.

These warnings might sound scary but, if you communicate well with each other and have a clear agreement, they need not be.

The upside is, like Alison and Mike, you will have a painting you love and that probably wouldn’t have existed without you.How cool is that!

How to minimise the risks when Commissioning Art

  • Get to know the artists work before you commission.
  • Have they done a lot of work in this style, or only 1 ore 2? Ideally go with someone who’s done lots.
  • Like Alison and Mike*, see the artist in action if they do courses, demonstrations or open studios.
  • Be clear in what you want, try not to change your mind, especially as the work is nearing completion. Be prepared to pay more if you do. Changes can be made at a later date, if possible, but may be expensive to do. Some artists will specify the number of corrections allowed in the fee before additional charges are made.
  • Make sure the artist will communicate well with you before engaging them in work.
  • Arrange to see the work frequently
  • Understand that all art can be subject to variations depending on the techniques used. e.g watercolour can behave unpredictably, glazes can respond differently in firing.

Ideally, have a contract or signed agreement then you will know where you stand.

Remember you are paying for the artists time as well as the finished result.

Many artist’s, like myself, ask for a non returnable deposit. So you might pay 50% of the fee upfront with the rest payable on completion/collection.You then pay the balance if you are happy with the result. Or you can walk away. I’ve completed many successful commissions and I’ve never had this happen but it is an option I allow for in my terms and conditions.

Done well, commissioning Art is a win/win situation

Like Alison and Mike*, You have something unique that you love plus you enable the artist to create more of the type of work that you love.

If you would like to know more about the commissioning process then please email me cathy@cathyreadart.com or you can ring me on +44 7818240116 for an informal chat.

 

*(Not their real names)

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