Commissioning art can be a rich, meaningful experience. My patrons tell me their portraits bring joy to their lives. Some have said it would be the first thing they'd grab if the house was one fire (I'm assuming that's after the kids.)
But my years in business have taught me that there is a lot of confusion surrounding the commission process. Most people have no clue where to begin or what to expect.
So if you're considering commissioning art, here are some helpful tips to get you started.
1. Get a referral. You wouldn’t look for a doctor or a therapist in the yellow pages. That’s because you need someone trustworthy and dependable for personal matters. Look for an artist who has worked with your friends and ask them for guidance and insights.
2. Ask the right questions. Before you commit, make sure you have a clear understanding of the artist’s process, pricing, and timeline. In addition, ask less obvious questions such as:
- Do you work from photos or from life?
- Does the price include the frame?
- What happens if I don’t like it?
3. Get it in writing. I never, ever, accept a commission without a written agreement, signed by me and my patron. Contracts give clarity and protection.
4. Trust your gut. A good artist is a good business person. They deliver on their promises, meet their deadlines, and provide great service. Their process is clear and simple. Only work with an artist you like and respect (this goes both ways).
5. Too many cooks. You wouldn’t go into the kitchen at Iris and tell Kelly English how to make his dishes, would you? No. You’d be escorted off the premises faster then you can say bread puddin.’ If you like an artist’s work, trust her creative vision.
Have you ever commissioned an artist before? If so, what was your experience like?