How to work with an Artist

How to book a commission and work with an Artist

Get the most out of your commission

Will Dallimore, commissioned Artist
How to work with an artist and commission unique Art.

Unique Art, created just for you is an extra special gift. But how do you work with an Artist? It can be incredibly rewarding and satisfying, especially when the process is smooth and easy! However, if you have never experienced the process before, it can feel intimidating not knowing where to begin. By following some simple steps, it can be a wonderful experience that you will cherish forever.

What do you want?

Knowing what you want is probably the first and most important step. Artists are visual people and need some direction to follow in order to provide what you really want. If you are unable to communicate what it is you see in your own mind, or have no idea, it can be very difficult to work with an artist.

When you sit with an artist, the basic questions you should have to have the answers to are:

  • What you want the work to look like?
  • The subject matter, canvas size, colour and artwork style
  • Why you want to commission the art, who is it for, what is it for?
  • How much you want to spend?

You will want to be as clear as possible in what you want, be as specific as you can. If you have seen their work before and want something similar, let them know and mention the piece. If you wish to commission a portrait, who is the person and do you have great reference for them to use? If you want to capture the memory of that hidden beach you found on holiday, did you take any pictures? Describe your idea as fully as you can and write it down before you meet with your chosen artist. You can even include the senses and mood of scene. As much detail that you can get set in your own mind before your meeting, the better!

Why do you want your new art? Is it a gift for a loved one? Is it to brighten a space or add to the ambience of a room? Are you celebrating a special occasion? These are all great questions to ask yourself as they will help define your idea AND create a stronger connection to your chosen creation.

Lastly, how much are you willing to spend? Art can range in price from a few hundred dollars to many millions! There are as many reasons for this as there are artist. They may be starting their artistic journey and looking to add to their portfolio and experience. Others may be well established and have a track record of sales and a following of trusted collectors. Knowing why an artist charges what they do may not be relevant to you, although it will help you to define your budget and what is possible for you.

Research and selection

OK, you now have a good clear idea of what you want, only who do you choose to create it! It is time to do some research. If you already have an artist in mind, great, only do they paint in a style and subject that is in line with your vision? If you want a portrait created, an artist creating primarily landscapes may not be the best fit. If you would like a soft watercolour landscape, a digital artist would not be of use. An abstract artist is not likely to create a realistic painting to your satisfaction. Researching who has the talent and skill to create your vision as you see it, in the style you want is important.

If doing an online search, use keywords to describe your idea, such as portrait, pet, landscape artist etc. It can be helpful to include the medium or style, such as acrylic, oil, fantasy, and realism. Another option is to talk to your friends, who do they know who is an artist locally and would they recommend them? Make yourself a list of potential Artists and narrow it done from there.

Another great point by Gwen Seemel is whether an Artist creates much commission work.

“A lot of Artists hate commission work. I tend to think that if an Artist hates it, she-he is doing it wrong. Needless to say, if an Artist isn’t happy doing commission work, she-he will not be doing the best possible work”

Once you have narrowed your artist choice down to a few, check whether or not they actually create art on a commission basis! A final question to ask yourself is an obvious one, do I like the art this artist creates!? If once you have narrowed the field and you are unsure whether you actually like what they are able to create, remove them from your list! You are the one who will have the art in our home to view every day, make sure that you are getting what you want and like.

Contact the Artist, meeting, discussion and relationship

This is where the fun gets rolling! It is also a time to be patient and do your best to keep the enthusiasm in check. Often, when we know what we want, our emotions take over and we often get tunnel vision. Diving in with a heart filled with passion can make you miss some important signs along the way.

So, let’s keep it simple, first off, make contact with your artist. What is the best way to contact them? Personally, E-mail is preferential as studio time is precious. Others may welcome a phone call or leave a voicemail if they are in the throes of creation! Be polite and patient. Some good initial points to ask are:

  • Are they currently accepting commission work? Time is important to an Artist. They may be in the middle of show preparation or have a solid calendar of bookings.
  • Are they interested in creating your vision? This is where you give a specific and concise brief of what you wish to have created. It will help them figure out if they will be a good fit for you.
  • What would they charge to realise your vision? Remember your budget!

Once you have made initial contact, your artist has replied and you are discussing details, it can be a great idea to meet. A face to face meeting is a great way to develop a relationship with your artist. It helps to ensure that you will have an excellent working dynamic. If you do not gel and communication is difficult, you may not have the greatest of experiences through the commission. A face to face also helps you to get on the same page, discuss your idea fully and review the whole process. Building a solid relationship with your artist is another important step, it will make or break the commission process. Knowing that you can trust them to create what you want is a key step.

Creating art for someone you like and get along with is much easier on both parties than if each meeting is strained and challenging. You want to receive the best they can do and they wish to provide the best they can do! Artists are interesting creatures, some are mellow, easy going and open to ideas and direction in their art. Others are fiery, passionate, have a definite idea of what they create and keep a tight rein on their artistic licence. The face to face meeting will help you to figure all this out, well in advance.

Overall, communication is key to the success of your commission and relationship. Once the creation stage is in process it is a great idea to agree on some check in stages. Feel free to ask for more information and answers to questions along the way. However, from experience, some stages can be challenging for an artist and progress may seem slow. Again patience and communication will help the process to flow.

Contracts, copyright and reference

Woohoo! You have found a superb artist, you both get along great, your idea is beginning to take shape, your budget is set and you are excited to have your artist begin painting! Hold up there for a minute, we are at a critical point, a very important step that will ensure you get what you want.

Get a written agreement!

This is such an important stage to get right. If your artist is all fired up and is looking to get going, get this figured out first! Contracts insure that both parties know what is to be expected, followed and adhered to. An Artist with no contract is a red flag. Don’t do it! Make sure you have in writing all that is discussed and promised. If your artist has no written contract, provide one yourself.

Business mural of Forward Law logo
Forward Law Business Mural, Kamloops

Here at WiRD Art, we have had contracts in place for commission art for many years. In 2014 we created a business logo for a Kamloops lawyer firm, Forward Law. One of the partners, Courtney Aubuchon is a good friend and after presenting him with our contract, he returned a fully revised version!

Study your contract to make sure that it includes:

  • Both your name and the Artist name
  • A Date
  • Subject, style, medium and full description of the Art to be created
  • Completion time and stages of completion (if requested)
  • Delivery instructions
  • Payment
  • Copyright (more on this below)

Once you are satisfied, have read through and agreed all points with your artist, you can relax knowing that you are both covered. At this stage, a hardcopy, signed by both parties becomes binding. In today’s modern world, e-mail is just as binding. An e-mailed confirmation of agreement from both parties is suffice.

Commissioning art is similar to any other service based business, knowing that you are both covered and in agreement ensures that neither party will be taken advantage of. Again, it comes down to trust.

gaby in progress
Great reference produces great results

A quick note on Copyright as there are many more resources on the web which deal in depth with copyright. In short, when an item is created, such as a painting, the person who creates it holds all the rights and copyright to the creation, namely the Artist. You may be the purchaser yet, unless agreed upon in the contract, the Artist holds all rights on what to do with the image. You own the original, yet copies, prints and other forms of use of the image is decided by the Artist. Making copies of your new art without consent of the artist is a breach of copyright and breaking the law. If you are unsure as to your rights, ask your artist or contact a professional for legal advice.

At this stage in the process, reference images will be needed. If you are wanting an exact replication of the image, it MUST be your own property, a photo that you have taken or have express permission to use. As with the above note on copyright, you must own all rights to the image for an exact copy. If you have images from another source, be aware that your artist cannot make a direct replica as that is an infringement on the rights of the image owner. We have written another article on ‘The importance of good reference, which outlines all that you need to know, in order for your artist to have what they need to create for you. Show the reference to your artist and discuss with them what it is about the image that speaks to you and the elements you want to be used.

Revision and Work in Progress

Custom Harley Davidson Paint
Cory’s Angels, a good reference image is a must

Phew. Now that you have your contract set, you are both on track, you reference is arranged and your artist is painting. It is a good day you are fizzing with excitement about how your art will finally look! This is the real part of Art, the development, passion and energy are flowing. Have you arranged to have sneak peeks at the development of our new art? Some artists offer work in progress shots, others do not. They may be self-conscious of their work and don’t like to feel that they have someone checking over their shoulder. Maybe they don’t like to reveal their process or are easily stung and hold on tight to their artistic licence.

From experience, progress shots are another important and delicate step to include. Why? It provides assurance to you that your work is on track and has actually begun. More importantly, it allows you to ensure your vision is in fact being followed and realised. Feedback is very important for the artist to course correct if you feel something is not quite as you envisioned it would be. This is where the delicacy can come into play. Artists, as I have said, are interesting creatures, reacting in differing ways to perceived criticism of their work. Again, be patient, polite and kind.

There will come a stage where revisions and corrections may not be possible without a complete start from the beginning. Be aware of this and make sure communication is open and available from the outset. It is OK to ask when this stage may be reached. Revisions are a part of the process and your right, however, be aware of excessive adjustments. Too many can strain the relationship with your artist and even cost you money!

In our view, work in progress shots are a great way to share the journey, see how your artist works and watch your art unfold. It is exciting to see your artist realise your vision!

Payment

How much do you value your own energy and time? What is a week of your time worth to you? Just like any other professional, an Artist is hired to do a skilled job, which you may not be able to do. Whether part time or full time, the expectation is that their time and energy is respected, just as you would expect for yourself.

The first commission agreed to by WiRD Art was a learning curve. Once the thrill of being asked to create a painting and it was delivered, the realisation of what it actually cost sunk in. The hourly wage came in at $2.50 an hour, not including the materials used! Art can be affordable, easy to purchase and fair exchange of value must be followed.

A good friend of runs an automotive body shop, where they have a great sign on the wall. It says:

“We can provide work that is Fast, Cheap and High Quality. However, you can only have two of the above. We can work fast and cheap, but it won’t be quality. We can do quality and fast but it won’t be cheap. Or we can do quality and cheap, but it won’t be fast.”

If you absolutely MUST work with a particular artist, yet your budget does not reach their value, it is ok to wait and save. Some artists, such as WiRD Art, may even provide an installment payment system, allowing you to start the process and pay down the balance as you go.

One of our favourite quotes comes from Picasso:

Legend has it that Pablo Picasso was sketching in the park when a bold woman approached him.

“It’s you — Picasso, the great artist! Oh, you must sketch my portrait! I insist.”

So Picasso agreed to sketch her. After studying her for a moment, he used a single pencil stroke to create her portrait. He handed the women his work of art.

“It’s perfect!” she gushed. “You managed to capture my essence with one stroke, in one moment. Thank you! How much do I owe you?”

“Five thousand dollars,” the artist replied.

“But, what?” the woman sputtered. “How could you want so much money for this picture? It only took you a second to draw it!”

To which Picasso responded, “Madame, it took me my entire life.”

In short, respect the time and energy an Artist spends on your project. Many years of learning lead to your creation, value that experience and trust in their skills.

Summary

We hope that this has been of help to you to guide you along the wonderful road to getting your own custom art. Custom artwork is something special where the process of getting to your final solid vision is as much of the experience as owning the art. Enjoy the journey, get to know your artist, have faith and trust that they can create your vision and have fun along the way! Artists are interesting people to get to know and it is always an honour to be asked to create for you. Respect their skills, time, energy and experience, the end result is worth it.

For more information on how to commission Will Dallimore for your next Art creation, click here.

Reference

Gwen Seemel – http://www.gwennseemel.com/index.php/blog/comments/commission_an_artist/

Melissa Findley – https://wickedeye.wordpress.com/2009/06/10/a-%E2%80%9Cnewbies%E2%80%9D-guide-to-commissioning-artwork/

Aryn Chris – http://arynchris.deviantart.com/journal/How-to-Commission-an-Artist-214212067

David Airey – http://www.davidairey.com/picasso-and-pricing-your-work/

Disclaimer: The views above are solely of the artist and this article is intended as a guide only. WiRD Art and William Dallimore are not responsible for following any legal advice in this article, always seek a professional and conduct your own in depth research into the above information, e.g. contract and copyright law