Monday, 31 January 2011
I’m very lucky, I get asked to work on some amazing projects - ones that are close to people’s hearts, ones that really touch me, ones that introduce me to new ideas, ones that are full of joy or passion!
I thought it would be useful to blog about the process of commissioning a painting or piece of design work…
I thought it would be useful to blog about the process of commissioning a painting or piece of design work…
Usually when someone gets in touch they have some idea of what kind of piece they are looking for - sometimes it’s a fairly firm idea, a painting of a photo they have, or something similar to a painting I have done before but with key changes made, and other times they haven’t yet narrowed down to a definitive brief, although they have a few scattered ideas.
In those situations I see my job as being a kind of ‘curator’ pulling together ideas and suggestions for the client to dig into, and like a magpie pull out the ones that catch their eye or imagination.
I'm happy to be approached about a wide range of types of commissions... In the past I've worked on everything from landscapes, to fantasty pieces, to tea towel designs! Portraiture isn't my purest passion (I know some wonderful artists who specialise and excel in this type of work, so often try to pass classical portraits on to those masters of the craft) but I do sometimes take on figurative paintings which have a wider story to tell. Oddly I've not been asked to do many abstract commissions so far - which is something I'd love to do, I think the process of working with a client on that kind of project could be fun!
I contacted Nicki about commissioning a painting for me. The painting is something very personal to me and so it's very important that I commissioned an artist that would 'get' me. Straight away I felt that Nicki and I were singing from the same hymn sheet, she totally understood everything I asked of her and has included me in every step of the process so far ~ Angie.
I commissioned a painting from Nicki for my Brother and Sister-in-law's wedding present. Nicki took the time to visit the setting, Little Garve Bridge in the Highlands and took photographs from all angles to get the 'feel' of the place ~ Caroline.
I am always happy for people to call me on the phone, but for commissions I find email so useful! Both parties have a record of what’s been discussed and agreed, and it’s very easy to pass back and forth photo’s, swatches, sketches…
Discussing a commission is always a very individual process, client to client. Certain elements are essential to decide - a painting on canvas, or on paper? A piece of design work to be supplied in digital format?
In the case of a painting to hang, I usually work in either mixed media on paper (some combination of watercolours, pencil, pen and ink, Neocolor II pastels, gouache, acrylic inks, metallic or pearlescent paints), or in acrylics on canvas. Occasionally a particular piece calls for something different - acrylics on a panel for framing, or pastels on paper, or a simple pen and ink drawing... but whatever the clients ideas, I’ll happily work through the options for making it come to life.
I try to point out the practicalities to consider after the work has left my hands - specialist framing needed for pastels for example, framing costs for paper based pieces, or the fact a gallery wrapped canvas can be hung as is with no further thought or effort...
I emailed a few photographs of my dog and we entered into a dialogue about what type of style I would like it done in, and with what media. As I am completely clueless about art I completely trusted her judgement, which proved to be the right thing. She is truly an expert at her craft and incredibly professional throughout, while showing great personal involvement with her work and the process. We had long online conversations about the character of the dog and the aspects of her personality that I hoped to capture. Throughout the process I was kept informed and really felt that Nicki was giving her all to create an individual piece of art that would be treasured ~ Lynda.
The best bit has been that rather than an artist taking over my idea, Nicki has stayed in touch constantly and we've worked on it together, incorporating each others visions and bouncing ideas back and forth, opening our hearts to each other and baring our souls to give each other a better understanding of how the other one works ~ Angie.
A Picture Paints a Thousand Words…
A big part of the process for me is producing sketches and mock up’s for a client. This ensures the client has a firm idea of what I am proposing (often several alternate options) and also ensures I feel happy with how I will produce the final piece. Sometimes I need to analyse a photo or room scheme, and produce colour swatches. Sometimes I need to explore elements and abstract them, try different compositions, or try a few times to capture the right ‘vibe‘. The aim is to get both the client and myself to the point where we both feel fully satisfied that we can see the finished piece in our minds eye, and for my part, if given the go ahead, that I could plough straight into work without further preparation.
During this progress I’ll often ask a client to supply extra information to help me perfect the proposals. If it’s to compliment a room then emailed things like wallpaper swatches, paint swatches, photo’s of the room can help an awful lot! If it’s a portrait of a person or place then sometimes additional, slightly different snaps of the subject can be helpful.
When Nicki had done her initial sketch she showed me an image by email and I instantly fell in love with it and knew she was right for the job and gave her the go ahead for the piece ~ Lynda.
I sent Nicki a few photos to give her an idea of what I was looking for, we then discussed colours and the overall look. Nicki came back to me with a couple of sketches (that were breathtaking), we discussed more ideas, and also the decor of the room the painting will be hung in, I showed her the wallpaper of the room. Nicki went off and unpicked the wallpaper to define the colours she will be working with ~ Angie.
At this stage, armed with all the essential info - size, medium, sketched out plan, colours agreed, and all other info gathered - I can quote a cost for the commission. I try in most circumstances to give a flat, round figure for the job fully completed, including all necessary packaging and shipping. I find it helps everyone know where they stand.
Once I have offered a quote for a commission, I leave it and all the information and sketches with the client to ponder over… At this point the client will not have accrued any costs, and is more than welcome to walk away if they are not sure about the project, or the material I have produced.
I feel this is important - you wouldn't buy a car without having a good idea of the cost, or without knowing the number of seats or the colour of the paint. Without that vital info you simply can;' make a decision - although I do love it when a commission is given the go ahead, and I can tighten up the ideas and sketches, polish the whole thing into a finished painting. I think that process can be quite exciting for the client, and for me too! A kind of magic happens that you can't fully predict at the quote and discussion stage.
I always say that every commission project needs to find it’s right time, and it’s right pair of hands to make it come to life… These things have a way of working themselves out, and I’d no more wish to take on a project a client wasn’t 100% sure and happy about, than I would take on a commission I didn’t think I could complete to mutual absolute satisfaction.
Some projects seem to come to fruition quickly in a mutual frenzy of excitement, some are slow burning and come together a little further down the line at a more relaxed pace, and others don’t happen - which is fine and as it should be. I enjoy the different dynamics, and even those commissions I prepare for and don’t end up carrying out I always enjoy the process and learn something from!
Timing is always crucial to discuss, if the piece will be needed for a very fixed date - such as a birthday, wedding or anniversary - or a looser deadline - like the completion of a room. Sometimes I am able to begin commissions more or less right away, and at others times I operate a waiting list type system. A lot can depend on the complexity and size of piece, if I have other deadlines I am working to, and if I need to order special materials in for the project, or make special site visits or prep‘ sketches from life… I’ve discussed projects that have only had a few days to complete, and ones that are not needed for a year or more - whatever the circumstances I’ll do my best to help if I can, and be as honest about what I can and can’t do.
If a Quote is Accepted…
If a client decides they are happy with my quote and the information I have provided, then I get them scheduled into my work plan, let them know when I can start, get materials on order… I usually at this point ask for a small deposit payment (or closer to the time if the commission isn’t due to start for a few months). Something around 20-30% as a token of the clients commitment to the project.
As I Work…
As I work on the painting I like to provide updates - photo’s and thoughts - to the client. For those that wish this can be done privately via email (a good idea if the painting is to be a gift), but many people like to share the progression of their project with others, as I post updates on my Facebook page and blog - it created quite a buzz of excitement for everyone I think. This is of course entirely up to the client to choose!
If I need to make changes to the agreed plan with a painting, am running behind or ahead of schedule, or need further information then by keeping in regular touch with the client I can keep guiding the project to completion. Within reason of the originally agreed brief, I’m always happy to tinker with the painting if the client has comments or suggestions as I work.
She shared digital pictures with me throughout the process and when I asked for some little details to be tweaked re the colouring she was happy to oblige and tweaked away until I was 100% happy ~ Lynda.
When the Commission is Complete…
I show photo’s to the client for approval. Sometimes this comes back right away as a happy yes, other times we agree little tweaks and changes that can make it even better. This exchange of thoughts can often take a few days - and is really important!
When both the client and I are fully happy, I invoice for the final payment (by PayPal / credit or debit card / cheque). Once this is received I get the painting packaged up and dispatched to the client. Sometimes this can take a few days - for example, I always give acrylic paintings a good few days drying time to ensure they are perfectly dry and the paint hardened enough to be sure there will be no sticking to packaging.
I love to know that a parcel has been safely received and what the client thinks. I am always a little nervous, but the buzz of getting that happy email and hearing all the client has to say is a pure joy!
When the finished article reached me, in plenty of time for my gift deadline I almost cried with delight. It totally captured her and the Cornish landscape I love so much perfectly. My husband was bowled over by it and it now hangs in pride of place where it can be admired by all. Nicki is an absolute joy to work with, caring, friendly, honest and professional. She is an amazing artist and a truly lovely lady and I am looking forward to working with her again with another commission I have in mind for the future ~ Lynda.
I honestly don't think I would be able to find another artist so in tune with her clients and so committed to achieving what the client wants ~ Angie.
The landscape that was completed was just completely amazing. You could feel the atmosphere of the river and surrounding area. Everyone that has been lucky enough to see the finished painting has been astonished at the detail that Nicki put into the painting. Having the painting of the place that they were married was just the icing on the cake for them and it is something that they will treasure always ~ Caroline.
To Commission a Painting....
If you are thinking of commissioning a painting, just drop me a line! I'm always happy to have a chat about any project to see if we can make it happen, with no obligation.