What to Expect When Commissioning Artwork

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

I am wrapping up 2 commissions and another is underway this week. I've been offering custom work for about 8 years, and I thought I'd share some of my thoughts about what it's like to commission a custom piece of art.

The Motivation

So, you've been inspired to purchase new art for your home. There are two main reasons that you'd want to opt for custom work over an original that is already available for purchase

  1. You have a specific place in mind to hang your art, and you just can't find the right piece for your space.

  2. You have a specific idea or reason in mind for a painting. Examples would be a family portrait, pets, your home, a favorite location, a vacation memory, or having something created as a gift for someone.

The Idea

Once you decide to have a custom piece created, you'll want to begin brainstorming ideas. Often, clients will reach out to me and share that they are interested in a commissioned piece from me...but don't have any idea yet what they want. This is totally normal! I have a detailed process I take clients through that will help us identify their idea and concept.

If you already know who you want to work with, reach out to them early in the process - let them know what you are thinking and work together on a concept.

If you are unsure who to work with, you can begin researching artists. Some good places to start are:

  • Instagram

  • Outdoor Art Shows and Fairs

  • Local Art Centers

  • Artwork Archive

  • Ask Friends Who Have Artwork that You Like for Referrals

  • Share what you are looking for on Facebook, and see if you get and recommendations.

  • Ask Me...I certainly could talk to you about it...and I also have a vast network of artists that I work with and would be happy to connect you with someone that specializes in what your envisioning.

How to Decide What You Want

Art has the ability to create meaning and connection. Creating a commission is a chance at layering in connections through art that are important to you.

The commission below titled "No Place Like Home" is a painting of the backyard of a home that the clients used to own. The piece is full of memories, including the depiction of a memory playing baseball with their son that the client shared with me during one of our meetings discussing the home. No one would know it was there, except the client...and that brings meaning and connection to the piece.

No Place Like Home [Commission] Private Collection

When the client came in to meet with me about the idea of doing a painting that combined 5 of their favorite things about Phoenixville, PA, we had very different ideas of how the finished painting should look. The client wanted to do 5 separate scenes, but I shared the idea that we should consider doing a compilation of all 5 scenes into one. It was so much fun creating bringing this one to life, and grateful that the client was open to trying it this way.

Farmer's Market [Commission] Private Colletion

When narrowing down what you want for your custom artwork, ask yourself:

  1. How do I want to feel when I look at the piece?

  2. How do I want to feel when I'm in the space with the painting?

  3. What aspects are most important to me?

  4. Are there any ways that I can layer in more meaning?

Something I always tell my clients during our conversations about picking a concept: "You'll know it when you see it!". Really, when the right concept is presented, you'll feel it right in your gut.

Establishing Rapport and Managing Expectations

A main concern you may have about commissioning art may be, "What if I don't like it?!"

Working closely with your artists, and choosing an artist who has an overall body of work that you connect with is the key to a successful outcome.

  • Don't expect an artist to change their style to create your piece. You will not like the results...and the artists will not enjoy the process.

  • Share all your thoughts about the vision of the piece early in the process. There is no such thing as too much information. Artists like to be able to let ideas sink in and form.

  • Let the artist do their thing. While I am always open to my clients following along with the progress...I always issue a warning that my work doesn't come together until the end. I usually recommend waiting until the end to view the work. I always hold space for the client to share their feedback before the piece is completed. Ask your artist upfront what type of feedback you'll be able to provide during the process.

When you go in with a clear understanding of the process, managed expectations, and have provided the artist with all of your thoughts about the project, you'll be blown away by the results! As artists, all we want to do is provide you with a piece that will bring you joy and connection.

How Much Will it Cost

Art is energy. It has the ability to transform a space, a home, a mood. When you are feeling inspired, you show up for yourself in amazing ways. This is why I believe that art truly has the ability to change lives.

So, how much are you to willing to pay for transformation?

I charge a premium for commissions because they require more work than art that I create from my own inspiration. I promise...every penny invested in your custom piece will have been worth it. Most artists charge a premium for custom work.

Go in with a budget in mind. Be open with the artist about what your expectations are, what your deadline is for the work, and what the size requirements are. Don't be afraid to discuss money early. Some artists even offer payment plans to help make the process easier. Also, keep in mind that you'll probably be asked for a deposit before the artist begins work on any concepts.

The Artist Perspective

For me, working on commissions is always an adventure. I love the way they challenge me, force me to come at things with a different perspective, and push me out of my comfort zone. Each custom piece I do leaves me with something new...and I absolutely cherish the idea that I have been part of a legacy that will be passed on for generations.



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