Beginner’s Guide: Commission Artwork

I have been offering commissions for as long as I have been making and selling art. However I consistently sell more finished work from my portfolio than via commissions. I find people are more likely to wait for a piece they like to appear in my portfolio than to commission me for exactly what they are after.
I frequently hear comments such as ‘If you made one bigger (or smaller/blue/closer up/different area/different flowers), then I would buy it’. Just as often people say ‘I just have to find a photo of what I want’.
I think there are many reasons for this. One may be that people are generally kind and polite and want to say something encouraging to an artist when they like the work but are not ready to buy it. That’s fair enough. However for those that do want to buy I’ve written this to demystify the process of commissioning art.

Firstly, its important to remember that, in my case, commissions are priced exactly the same as finished portfolio pieces. The only difference is that, in cases of very specific personalised pieces, I may request a 50% deposit. 

The Idea
There are many examples of views you could commission as art. I have done views from back gardens, views of favourite holiday locations, views attached to significant memories..etc. 
If you have a wall space in your home that needs filling, you could specify a colour scheme and a size and leave the rest to me. Or you could give me a general subject/theme. It doesn’t even have to be a real place. Another option is to take inspiration from my portfolio. See something you like but want a different colour, size, detail?
Be as detailed as possible in your instructions and tell me everything you know you want, but don’t worry if you only have a vague idea – this is absolutely fine too. I can fill in the gaps in an idea as long as I know what is important to you.
The main image above was done for my son’s 5th birthday. He said he wanted a rainbow, a robin and four types of flower (which he specified). This was the result. Even very minimal information, however whacky, can be effective.

The Photograph
When you have an idea of what you want the next step is to find a reference photograph. 
One persistent myth is that this needs to be an amazing high resolution professional image. This is not the case. Most of my portfolio pieces are made with reference to photos I’ve take on my iphone. In fact I use my iphone propped up on my easel as a reference. As you can imagine this is a tiny reference screen! My phone is usually the one thing I have to hand when I’m out and about. I stop to take photos while on walks, driving around on chores or even on the school run. These are not professional quality photos as I’m usually in a hurry too.
If you have no photos to hand of the view or location you’re after don’t worry. I have several sources for reference photos and unless it’s a very obscure location I can usually find one suitable to use.

Bishopstone Poppy Field
Source Photo for ‘Bishopstone Poppies’. Taken from a farm gate using my phone.

Any photo you give me to use must be taken by you or have the permission of the photographer. If this is someone you know please get permission from them directly. If you have found an image online it may be possible to contact the photographer for permission, flickr and facebook are good for this. In my experience, unless it’s a famous professional photographer, most are happy to give permission for this use. I use flickr, pixabay, pixels, facebook and direct contact with local photographers when sourcing photos.
I retain copyright for all images of my work. Anyone is free to share my work as long as credit is given on each share. My name and/or link to my website is sufficient. 

Example of a Commission
Here is an example of a commissioned piece. The customer specified just the location (Arran, Scotland) as this was a favourite spot for the recipient. I sourced several images of key places on the island and then chose a more general view. As is common with gift commissions, I didn’t want to be too specific without knowing more. Something giving an overall view and capturing atmosphere would be best. I sent the chosen image to the customer for approval and got the go ahead. The commision was complete within two weeks. 

Arran view Fibre Art

I hope this has helped. It’s easy when you know how. Many of my commission customers are repeat customers as they’ve worked out it an easy way to get a unique gift!

Any questions, comments or feedback please feel free, I’d love to hear from you.


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