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How to Commission a Work of Art

Commissioned art work is a common way for artists to make money by creating paintings. In a commissioned painting the patron or commissioner has an idea based on what the artist does, and the artist creates that painting for them. Commissions have been done for centuries- Michaelangelo and his commissioned work for the Medici family financed much of his career!


1- IDEA: A commission starts with an idea and a collaboration. This idea is something that a patron is connected to, whether it is subject matter, mood, color or message, or sometimes all of the above!

2 - PROPOSAL: They tell me their idea, size and time frame and I produce a price proposal based on these details.

3 - SKETCH/DEPOSIT: Then, for a small deposit I create a sketch of that idea in watercolor. If at that point the patron (commissioner) wants to edit the image I can do that. After an adjustment or two, we agree on a concept and image.

4: 50% OF TOTAL TO BEGIN PAINTING - If the patron is still interested in the commission, I will obtain a 50% deposit of the total amount of the commission before I start. Next I work on the painting until it is finished. I will send images to the patron to show the finished product.

5- FINAL 50% PAYMENT: Final payment is due once the painting is finished. After receiving the final payment, I organize shipping, or delivery. The art work is installed by the patron and the commission is complete!

Seems like a no-brainer, but this process is not common knowledge and every artist has their own structure for commissions. This format for me has been an easy and fun process where I get to know and appreciate a variety of people through creative collaborations. The resulting commissions are rich and meaningful glimpses into the life of the commissioner.. Each commissioned painting has a personal story for each patron to tell, and becomes a focal point of the home.



This is a recent example of a commission I painted entitled "Two Brothers Swimming". These boys are two brothers swimming in their backyard lap pool. A deep love of the water inspired the boys' Olympian parents to commission a portrait of their sons, as a focal point in their home. This acrylic painting on panel is a diptych measuring 96" tall X 48" wide. The two panels that make up this diptych are hung on either side of the fireplace mantel. I worked on this painting with the mom and dad over a few months. We assembled photos of the boys in various active positions. We could not get the boys to pose underwater for us, so we had them "hold a bubble" and we took pictures of them as if they were holding their breath under water. I resourced various bodies of boys

underwater and we cut and pasted the kids heads to the appropriate body shape.

Arm and leg positions were tricky as there was a lot of foreshortening and shadow play with the invented combinations. Once we had agreed on positions, I was ready to paint their portrait.

I had 2' X 48' panels with a wooden framework on the back built by a carpenter.

Then, clear gesso and several basecoats layers of blue paint were troweled on the panels to create a smooth surface to paint on. The panels were lined up next to each other and I sketched out the whole painting in chalk. I blocked in the darkest areas first which laid the groundwork for the painting. Next, I painted the boys in position in the composition on the plain blue background. Once the boys were finished I continued with the details of the reflections on the bottom of the pool and their bodies, shadows of their bodies, and the rippling of the water above. I added more specific details to make the pool look like the one in the patron's backyard, like the tile lane stripe on the bottom and the tile edging. I worked on a ladder, standing, sitting in a chair and on the floor. (Brought me back to my old mural painting days!) Finally, once finished, the painting was fine tuned and clear coated, ready for


Talk about delayed gratification! The great thing is that one day the concept is an idea and the next day its a work of art. Georgia O'Keefe was famous for her satisfaction in "making the unknown known". Commissioned art made by two or more creative minds can be a gratifying process and result in a piece of art often better than imagined.

I am grateful for your interest in me and my art! Click here to see more of my work.



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