THE WORKING CREATIVE | TO COMMISSION OR NOT TO COMMISSION?

So you have a client who loves your work and wants to you to create a special new piece, just for them. Exciting! Or maybe a consultant wants to include your work on a fun new hotel project...but they really need a BIG piece, in a whole different color scheme, and they'll need it fast. Great! It sounds like there is a market for commissioning your work. But where to start? I have had so many questions from other artists about taking commission work-how to go about it, price it, what are the expectations, challenges, rewards, etc. Most of my work is commissioned based, meaning I have had lots of opportunities to learn about what makes a commission successful and would love to share a bit of that for my fellow artists. 

CONSIDERING COMMISSION WORK:

If you enjoy creating something with a specific customer in mind, would consider working outside your existing range of sizes, colors, etc, and are comfortable opening your art process up to client input and feedback; commission work could be a great part of your portfolio. Not all artists are comfortable working in this way and THAT IS OKAY! Knowing your strengths, limitations, and where you want to focus your energies and work is important . 

The main requirement of an artist considering this type of work is that they be great communicators. Clear communication is absolutely key to successful commissions. Let's talk a bit about some of what should be considered for commission work so that you can decide if it is something you are interested in.

ART + DESIGN DIRECTION:

With custom work often comes additional expectations from clients that they have design input or can request specifics on format, size, etc. How much or how little you want to open yourself up to this sort of direction is totally up to you and should be carefully considered at the outset of your project. Establishing a clear policy ahead of time that your client can reference will help educate them about how you work and save you time and hassle down the line. If you are going to take design direction take care to get it all in writing in advance of starting your project. Will you be referencing previous work, color swatches, or including specific materials? Are you open to providing progress shots for feedback? Include any and all of those details with as many reference visuals as possible in the commission agreement.

SKETCHES, MOCKUPS, SAMPLES, COLOR SWATCHES

Depending on the type of client, some commission projects may require additional materials to get the project approved and in motion. This is less common when working with a private collector but is pretty common when working with designers and consulting firms. The scale and budget of the commission will often dictate what type of sample is required.

 A small, hand drawn sketch for a potential custom painting.

A small, hand drawn sketch for a potential custom painting.


More straightforward work that is based on existing pieces can often simply be tweaked in photoshop or accomplished with a quick sketch. Scaled drawings are invaluable for this type of work. I use a good old fashioned architect's scale most of the time, but definitely utilize Photoshop or Illustrator when applicable. 

 Sometimes a sketch is quick and simple, and just helps to clarify concepts and details for the client.

Sometimes a sketch is quick and simple, and just helps to clarify concepts and details for the client.

I have found my Pantone book to be invaluable to make certain my client and I are on the same page for custom colors. Sherwin Williams paint swatches are another common color reference tool I have been asked to use. I like creating color swatches that I cut in half, so I can retain one set for my records and can provide them with the other.

 This sculpture sample included a color swatches of the range of colors the client requested for the project. I kept half and sent the other to the client. 

This sculpture sample included a color swatches of the range of colors the client requested for the project. I kept half and sent the other to the client. 

Many artists charge additional fees for mockups, especially if the client will be keeping the physical sample. If the materials are something I have to custom order, I will often charge for materials and shipping but not mark my costs up.  If possible I don't charge for the sample but require it be returned to me after review. This has helped me create a sort of sample bank, a great resource to have on hand to sell concepts and get additional work later down the line. 

 Small portion of my sample stash

Small portion of my sample stash

I like to think of this part of the process not as a hassle or barrier to getting a project underway but as a way of communicating clearly with my client, providing top notch service, and it gives me extra confidence that the commission process will move forward smoothly and successfully. 

PRICING, PAYMENT TERMS, DEPOSITS, KILL FEE:

Establishing general pricing guidelines for commission work is a great idea. I have worked with a number of artists who charge 10-20% more than their standard prices for commission work. What you charge will be specific to your work and should reflect the additional time and energy taken up with custom work. Many times a client will have a set budget and that can help guide you to what can be achieved at that price point. Regardless of how you arrive at your price it should be clearly communicated and agreed upon with the client ahead of starting the project. 

Once you have established a price for the commission you need to nail down the particulars of getting paid. Specify the form of payment accepted ahead of time. Never start a commission without at least a 50% non refundable deposit. This gives you some protection from the possibility that a client could decide they don't like the finished piece and don't want to pay for it and deters people who aren't taking your work seriously. Sometimes a "kill fee" is written into a commission agreement, which is a fee that the client agrees pay if they decide to cancel the project once its underway. A timetable for payment should be included in your terms. Something along the lines of "50% deposit to start work, balance due upon completion of artwork" is common. I have found it is a good policy not to release completed work without final payment. 

Consider packing and shipping costs for the commission-will they be included in the price, billed separately, or arranged and handled entirely by the client end? Those costs add up quickly, and it is important to determine what makes the most sense for your work and your client.

TIMELINE

Every project should have a set date for completion clearly communicated with the client and included in the commission agreement. Consider your entire work load and set realistic deadlines. Honor agreed upon deadlines-when in doubt the old adage "under promise, over deliver" is a good one. Clients are always happy to see their completed piece earlier than expected!

GET TO IT!

If communication and expectations are clear and professional the commission process is likely to go smoothly, and you will have a happy client and a fabulous piece of art to add to your portfolio when the project is completed. There is a lot to consider for commission work but don't let this intimidate you if you are interested in the work! Commissions have allowed me to have my art included in collections all over the world, to form relationships with many talented, fabulous, art loving people, and have been a steady source of income.

Have any questions about commission work? Burning questions for a working artist you want answered? Hit me up! I'm happy to give you my input.

 

 

THE WORKING CREATIVE | CREATIVE CONSULTING

Well hello again! I have been radio silent on here but busy at home and in the studio. I have 6 paintings (3 encaustic on panel & 3 acrylic on canvas), and 1 large clay wall sculpture in the works. Lots of work, lots of fun, and lots of neglecting of everything that's not art making. 

And there's something else I'm really excited about! I recently joined a group of creatives organized by artist and all-around great human Emily Jeffords. She and I met at ALT Summit a couple of years ago and I have so enjoyed following along as she creates, grows her business, and creates community. Girl is GIFTED and so, so kind. A couple of weeks ago she hosted a series of Periscope chats on her painting to print process. I had only seen a couple of other Periscopes but the format was surprisingly appealing and interactive and hers were so informative. I love this sort of sharing of knowledge, especially among creatives. Anyhoo-there were a few people asking Art Consulting questions within this creative group and I offered to hop on Periscope to do a little chat about what the heck Art Consulting is, how to work with Consultants, and other random tidbits from an insider's perspective to this little slice of the art and design world in which I've been immersed for the last decade or so. I was really nervous and awkward as all hell but it was AWESOME. So many artists reached out to say it was helpful and inspiring and sent me their portfolios to review.  

I have long joked that I hold so much useless art business info in my brain-I always kind of felt like it was so specific that no one I knew really needed it. CUE THE INTERWEBS. Obviously the people are out there, I just needed to reach them! I am realizing this is totally not useless to other artists and my mind is spinning with how much more I have to share, other art insider folks I could tap for expertise, how this info could be shared online or in workshops....I'm stoked! My experience in art consulting, art licensing, print, and production combined with my years as an artist who works within these realms could be of value to folks in my field and I'm excited to explore just how to offer Creative Consulting services and information. 

In the meantime keep an eye here in the WAYS TO WORK series for future posts with behind-the-scenes info and discussions about the business (+more) of art. I am @inkandindigo on Periscope and would love for you to join me there. 

Are there any burning questions you have for someone in my field? Do you need feedback on your portfolio? Hit me up here, I'd love to help and possibly cover some of them in the future! 

THE WORKING CREATIVE | ART COMMISSION PROCESS

CONCEPT TO COMPLETION

I recently finished a large, sculptural piece for one of my favorite consultant clients. By favorite client I mean longtime dear friend and art world soul sistah. I am going to poke at her to help me write some posts about the nitty gritty of consulting so hopefully you'll hear more about/from her soon.

Anyhoo! This was a fast paced project-from concept to completion it was about a month. Lead times range crazily in this business, but for the most part I try to make the client schedule work for me. I've always loved this type of work-obsess over something, crank out my ideas, then see it off for a swift goodbye. One major downside is that I almost never have time to get good shots of my work so it is hard to represent it well here and in my portfolio. 

Consultant and commission work is especially gratifying because each job is a little different.  For this particular job we started with a concept the designer had in mind and existing budget parameters to work within. The client had seen a piece installed somewhere overseas, and wanted something with a similar feel, but customized for their hotel.

  teeny tiny, kinda blurry, concept visual provided by designer

 teeny tiny, kinda blurry, concept visual provided by designer

One initial thought was that we could create the elements using prefab items like synthetic flower petals and paint them gold. I hunted around but didn't find anything that I liked. Back in the studio I fussed around with materials on hand and found a couple of things to try and initially came up with these two options. 

                     paper option on top, lower piece made from a section of wired ribbon

                    paper option on top, lower piece made from a section of wired ribbon

The textile was too soft-I didn't feel like would hold up to create this overlapping, undulating look I was going for. I actually like the paper option and still think this would be a good way to go if you had a really tight budget or wanted a less textured, uniform look. Still, not quite what I had in mind for this.  I remembered I had a box of already cut and dried paperclay circles I had prepped for use on a sculptural piece last year. I LOVE this material. Its expensive (though contact them directly to order in bulk for slightly less than retail) but it is beautiful to work with. I often need to consider the weight and fragility of materials that will be used in public spaces such as a hotel lobby or passageway and this stuff is super light and durable, yet strong when dried. Playing with the paperclay circles a bit to cut and form a more cupped, petal-like shape, I came up with these. Once painted with a gold luster acrylic, they were just what I had in mind.

 testing out the paperclay forms

testing out the paperclay forms

 

On to the process of prepping the rest of the forms. I divided the clay into the exact size piece I can fit in my little slab roller without too much waste. I learned the hard way on previous projects that not being exacting about that ends up adding a ton of time to the process. I used biscuit cutters (and a janky, handmade cutter I whipped up when one of the biscuit cutters disappeared) to cut out the circular shapes. I formed most of the circles into the cupped, petal-like pieces and kept a portion of them flat which when combined with the cupped forms made it easier to get the right sort of coverage on the backer board. I then baked them in batches (it will air dry but takes forever) and painted both sides once completely dry. Nila is always eager to help in the studio and it was fun to have her help with the painting of these. 

 my studio helper at work

my studio helper at work

 

It took a bit of finesse to get the elements mounted to the backer board. I wanted the piece to have a nice flow so there was a lot of laying things out, stepping back, taking things off, and rearranging. As usual I underestimated the time involved in this-it kind of took forever. I am, for whatever reason, drawn to work that is slow and requires a million of something to complete.  I wish I had kept count but there are a ton of elements on this piece! 

paperclay sculpture installation process .jpg
 oooooh....shiny....

oooooh....shiny....

A few late nights and long days later...the finished piece! I am so excited to see this once its framed and installed. They are using a nice, deep shadowbox moulding that should accomodate the depth of the piece really nicely. It's going into a hotel so I'm hoping to get in situ shots. 

I suppose that as with most things in life, the key to succeeding in this type of work is cultivating good relationships and partnerships. Great art consultants work tirelessly to create these art programs and are all about making it a good experience and great outcome for all involved. I really enjoy the collaborative aspects of this commissioned work but also try to have clear parameters about what is and is not included in the scope. Making clear what types of things are possible or acceptable from the outset of the project makes things so much easier. Sometimes this involves making sample pieces at no cost, providing progress images for feedback, and the willingness to change things if absolutely necessary. I totally get this isn't workable for every artist or every body of work but I have found it to be fun, challenging, and a solid base for my larger art practice. 

If you are an artist, are you open to commission work? How do you feel about collaborating with designers and consultants? Any questions you'd like answered from an old pro ;) Let me know! I'd love to hear from you. 

 

 

 

 

THE WORKING CREATIVE | MAMA + MAKER

I've been wanting to share a little bit about myself here-especially for anyone wondering exactly what it is I do. Art consulting has largely been my career for the last decade. Its a great, creative gig; rewarding, challenging, ever-changing. Since becoming a mother almost 6 (?!!) years ago I found full time consulting increasingly hard to balance with family life. I've slowly transitioned from a focus primarily on consulting work to a concentration on creating art in the studio. My connections in the consulting world have provided me incredible work opportunities. I have been able to create everything from 20' sculptural wall installations to straightforward, two dimensional works with babies in my belly, on my back, at my side, or sleeping above me as I work into the wee hours. 

 a VERY pregnant me with a stack of finished pieces for a big project earlier this year

a VERY pregnant me with a stack of finished pieces for a big project earlier this year

I'd be lying if I said it has been easy for me. I've strung myself out, stretched too thin by deadlines, responsibilities, money woes that go with working for yourself. I've faced plenty of business and parenting failures. I've also come to know myself as an artist and a mom and how these two roles can, in fact, benefit and enrich one another. Need angst to create great art? Sleep deprivation and self doubt abound in parenting! Need to fill the 12,000 hours that stretch from one nap to another? Time and space to create is one of the best gifts we can give our kids. Would my art be better if I didn't have kids? Maybe. I'm almost certain I'd get a hell of a lot more of it done. So many ideas I have now languish while time is scarce. But maybe childless me would still be 9-5ing it at a job I loved while making less and less time to create in my off hours. I'm really thankful that motherhood pushed me back into the studio. 

So all this to say I am starting a new series called WAYS TO WORK in which I hope to chronicle a bit of my story as an art consultant and self employed artist and dig up stories from other creatives: artists, collectors, consultants, designers, writers, gallerists, etc.  How are they making a creative life work for them? What are their struggles, successes, aspirations? Is there anyone you would like to hear from? Any questions for me? Hit me up, I'd love to chat!