How to Successfully Commission an Art Piece

With any commission request that I’m getting as an artist, my main goal is to make the client happy. I guess any ambitious artists want their art pieces to shine on the walls rather than end up in the closets. So, for me, the crucial part of any commissioned art project is to clearly understand the customer’s request and then deliver beyond expectations.

However, I’ve noticed that the success of any project is to a great extent determined by a customer. I am sure any customer would love to get the art piece “from the dreams”, and to help the customers with little experience commissioning art pieces, I’ve come up with some useful recommendations. If you follow these tips, the chances are high that the next painting you commission will become your favorite.


8 Steps to Follow When Commissioning Paintings


1. Pick an artist whose works you love

Choosing the right artist is a crucial step. From my point of view, the artist’s paintings should be the key decision factor. The artist might be very famous, expensive, and recommended by your close friend or highly respected art critic. All these things still don’t guarantee you’ll like the art piece created for you.

Instead, look for “your” artist, the one whose paintings impress you. The commissioned art piece is very likely to be as good – especially if you follow the below recommendations. 

2. Don’t ask the artist to stray far from their style

The artist who does hyper-realistic portraits might not be as good in impressionist portraits and vice versa. Allow the artist to work in a style they feel comfortable with and enjoy the astonishing results. If you don’t like their style or just want a painting in another style, get back to recommendation #1 – choose another artist.

3. Discuss payment details

When commissioning an art piece, be ready to pay a deposit in accordance with a percentage of the cost of the artwork (typically 30-50%). At the same time, you can always suggest a payment plan or a trade. Maybe the artist wouldn’t mind breaking the payment into several installments. It never hurts to ask.

4. Agree a “brief” with the artist

It’s very important to discuss all the details before an artist commences the commission. The things you may want to mention in your “brief”:

  • painting’s size,
  • technique or medium (i.e., oil, acrylic, watercolor, pastel),
  • support of surface (i.e., canvas, paper, cardboard, wood),
  • timeline,
  • shipping details.

These are just some common things to consider. You may want to discuss much more details specific to the art piece you are commissioning.

5. Provide high-quality reference images

If it’s relevant, make sure you provide high-quality reference images. Most importantly, the images should be in high resolution and with good lighting. This is much more important than you may think. We all tend to imagine artists who can paint brilliant paintings using only their imagination (and they sometimes can), but if you really want the person on the portrait to be recognizable, make sure to provide their high-quality image to the artist.

6. Ask for a sketch

Many artists start their paintings with a sketch, either on paper or in Photoshop. Ask the artist whether it’s possible to see this sketch before they commence the art piece.

I like to share my sketches with customers. This way, I can make sure that I got their request right, the painting’s composition and all the proportions look fine to the client. It might be the case that the client wanted the painting to be one way but after seeing a sketch realized they want it slightly different. It is always better to spot these things at the sketch stage rather than correct them when the painting is ready.

However, be aware of the fact that a sketch is not a finished painting in miniature. It doesn’t necessarily include all the details and reflects the mood. The sketch is created to plan the composition as well as color and light spots. Remember that this is just a starting point, while the finished painting will be at the same quality level as the other paintings by your chosen artist.

7. Don’t control the artist too much

It’s fine to articulate your request clearly with details. It is also fine to ask the artist for some minor changes. However, if you take too much control over the painting process, the result might lack this unique spirit you liked about the paintings of this artist. 

Moreover, the artist might feel as if they are “losing” the authorship of the painting. When too many detailed requests come from the customer, it becomes hard for the artist to keep nice composition and color interplay and the painting often gets only worse with every new correction request.

8. Allow some time to get used to the painting

When you order a painting, you are likely imagining it in your mind. So do the artists when they start working on the commissioned pieces. And even with all details discussed, it might happen that your and the artist’s images will not match. Here I’d like to refer you back to tip #1 – if you like the other paintings of this artist, this one is probably as good. Just give yourself some time to see it as the artist sees it.


Get an Art Piece You’d Love

If I need to wrap up my recommendations in one sentence, I would say: pick up the artist, whose paintings you like, discuss all the details in advance, and then let the artist do their job. 

Hope these were helpful. If you have any questions or want to share some tips from your experience, don’t hesitate to comment below. 

Thanks for reading, and good luck with your next art piece!

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