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Buy Original Art - Commissioning Artists

Updated on July 28, 2011

Commissioned Artwork by Chadwick & Spector

Commissioned work by Chadwick and Spector:
Commissioned work by Chadwick and Spector:

How to succesfully get what you want

There are so many artists that work in all different types of art, from sculpture to jewelry, painting and glasswork. The most important step in commissioning an artist to create original work for you, is to decide what you are looking for.

  • Decide what you want and where you will put it. Make sure what you want is realistic. Figure out your budget, then start searching for your artist.
  • Good places to find artists are: Art consultants, galleries, on-line artist websites, art fairs, family or friends of artists, and Universities. Depending on your budget, you'll know whether or not you're looking for someone who is already successful or if you should find someone that's first emerging in their career.
  • Contact the artist and make a meeting.
  • At the meeting: Bring images of other works that you like or a palette that you're working with, along with dimensions that you want. Make sure to let the artist know what you don't want: Colors you don't like, styles you don't like, materials you don't want. Sometimes its easier for people to say what they don't want, than what they do want.
  • How do you know if it's the right artist for you? Make sure they are open to communication and listen to your suggestions and ideas. Make sure they can repeat them back to you and that you are on the same page. In the case of commissions, artists should be a bit flexible in how they work. Of course, artists always like when you purchase what they've already created, so it does take a special kind of artist to make specialized work.
  • Make sure the artist you choose is someone whose work you already like: If you see the skill level of a student, but you're looking to have someone recreate a Master work, you may be disappointed.
  • Commissions are a two way road: You are supplying the money and the idea, but the artist must be allowed to follow a vision and be inspired. You may get 80% of your original vision, but if the final artwork exceeds your original vision, then both you and the artist are happy.
  • After the meeting: it is common practice to ask the artist to create a few preliminary sketches. This means - very basic pencil or charcoal sketches of what they think your interest is. It is also common for the person commissioning the artist to pay a little bit of money toward these sketches, with the understanding that the money will either a). go toward the final balance of the artwork, or b.) if it doesn't work out, then this covers the artists time for the sketches.
  • If you like the sketches, but don't wish to work with the artist: This is a very good time to purchase the sketches from the artist at an agreed upon price, so you can have someone else create them. This is common practice, though the artist may not be quite so warm towards you, if this is what you choose. Also, make sure if you do use their sketches that they are paid and communicated with, or you may be looking at a lawsuit.
  • Contract: You can type up your own, or download them from the internet. A legally binding contract should include the following details: contact information, preliminary sketches, payment schedule, completion date, insurance, shipping and installation, termination agreements, ownership and copyright, maintenance and alterations, and where the work is produced.
  • How to visit your work in progress: Keep an open mind. What the artist does during their creative process may not look at all like what the finished work will be. I have made work for people and sent them photos of the process after the work was completed and they refused to believe that the under painting was the same work of art that they ended up with - but it was! Also, don't hover over the artist - give them space. Its not about dominating or owning someone - its about collaborating with them to get what you want. If the artist has a deadline, you can be sure they will be working towards it. More often than not, artists continue making other work simultaneous to their commissions. So, they may get to it when they get to it. But, it will get done.
  • Money. Commissioned works are normally a little bit more expensive than regular work that the artist normally produces. This is because they are going out of their way to accommodate you. Don't be surprised if in your meeting the price goes up a bit from what you may have seen online. And, on the other hand, prices may go down from what you saw in a gallery, since galleries usually add on 40 - 60% onto the artists asking price.
  • How to visit a finished work of art - When the day comes that the artwork is finally finished, its like seeing a newborn for the first time. Again, keep an open mind. The artist is as nervous as you are. Sometimes artwork takes a bit of time to grow on you. I recommend making a list of all the things you initially asked for (size, color or materials) and start by determining if your initial requests for the basics were followed. Hopefully, you'll love it. But in the small chance that you don't. take it home anyhow, or wherever you are installing it and sit with it for a few days. Observe it as you walk by, or sit near it. See what happens during different parts of the day. Some materials may surprise you by only coming out in low light. See if it grows on you, or what changes you would like to have made on it. In most cases, artists are happy to help with small changes that will make a big difference to the owner.


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    • Laura Spector profile image

      Laura Spector 8 years ago from Chiang Mai, Thailand