Commissioned Paintings: How I Work

Recently, most of my studio practice has been devoted to commissioned paintings. In this earlier post, I wrote about the joys of working on commission. In this post, I share my updated process of working on commission, including how I communicate with collectors, and what I’ve learned after working on many such projects.

The topic of commissioned paintings is relevant for me since this has been my main focus during the last few months. I was also recently asked about my process; specifically, how I decide what to paint and how I plan. When I’m not working on a commissioned project, I’m usually inspired by a place, most recently gardens. I have worked on series, which develop organically from a theme of interest: forests, seascapes, etc. But commissions are different. They start from the wishes of a collector and have a specific home before they are made. In what follows, I break down how I work on commission by way of answering common questions.

Commissioned painting, Joyful Blossoms, 100 x 80 cm, acrylic on canvas, 2022.

What is the thematic scope of my commissioned paintings?

For commissioned projects, I prefer to stick to my interests and experience of landscape painting. Previously, at the request of collectors, I have made a foray into the world of watercolour pet portraits, but my passion is acrylic landscape painting. To get an idea of how I interpret landscapes, take a look through my portfolio.

Perhaps you have an idea of what you’d like but aren’t sure it is enough of a starting point. Past commissioned projects have begun with a collector’s general idea. One word can be enough to start off a conversation. For past projects, some starting themes have included: birches, blossoms, seascape.

Commissioned paintings: a total surprise?

While there is always an element of surprise in the final reveal of a commissioned painting, I prioritize clear communication throughout the process to ensure that the result matches the collector’s wishes to the best of my ability.

Ensuring that we are on the same page happens through the gathering of information during the initial meeting and by follow-up email correspondence. I provide preliminary sketches to the collector and ask them for feedback at this stage. Perhaps a little less sky? A few more flower blossoms? As I am planning the composition, all feedback is welcome and encouraged.

A look through my portfolio gives a sense of my style. My aim is to understand the wishes of a collector and put this together with my painting style to produce a unique work of art. When the result is revealed, the collector already has a good idea of what it will be, but that first look is always an exciting moment for the both of us!

Me holding my commissioned painting, Sunny Birches, 91 x 76 cm, acrylic on canvas, 2021.

What does the process involve?

When I am contacted by a perspective collector, my first step is to set up a call or in-person meeting. For this initial meeting, I prefer direct contact to email because a commissioned painting is so personal. I need to get a sense of the person and their hopes for their unique painting.

During this conversation, I have two main goals: understand what the perspective collector is looking for and explain what I provide and how I provide it.

The first goal requires that I ask some standard questions including:

“Do you have a theme in mind?”

“What colours do you like/dislike?”

“What mood are you going for?” or “How would you like to feel when looking at the painting?”

“If you know where you’d like to hang the painting, can you tell me about the space?”

A collector might have a developed idea including reference photos or a vague answer to only one or two of these questions. We go from where they are and find a path forward together.

My second goal is to share how I work. Here’s a summary of the next steps:

I summarize the initial conversation in an email. If the perspective collector wishes to go ahead with the commission, they confirm that via email. I make pencil or watercolour sketches and send these to the collector to ensure that I’ve understood their vision. I begin work on the painting and contact the collector when the painting is finished. We arrange pick up and payment. In addition to the painting, the collector receives a Certificate of Authenticity for the painting.

What materials do I use?

I paint with acrylics on canvas. My preferred brands are Golden and Winsor & Newton. I work on various sized pre-stretched professional quality canvases (both cotton and linen, wood or aluminum framed). My paintings are varnished and come outfitted with a hanging system.

My latest commissioned painting, Seaside Poppies, 120 x 60 cm, acrylic on canvas, 2022.

How do I price commissioned projects?

I price my commissioned paintings in the same way that I price all my paintings. There is no extra charge for the initial meeting and email correspondence. I set my prices based on the size of the artwork, the cost of the materials, and the time it takes to make the painting. Prices are set from the beginning of a commissioned project. To get an idea of my prices, take a look at my webshop.

How long does a commissioned painting take?

From an initial meeting until the pick-up/delivery day, I estimate between 4-6 weeks. While the actual painting may only take a couple of weeks (size dependent), I take into account the time it may take to gather materials, discuss the sketches, and for the painting to dry and be varnished. This timing does not take into account my scheduling of other projects.

Commissioned painting: North Sea Sunset, 70 x 50 cm, acrylic on canvas, 2021.

Since having completed various commissioned paintings, I have learned that the most important thing is listening. I need to be attentive throughout the process to the wishes of the collector. By asking the right questions, I build a picture of what is important for any given project. Beyond theme, mood is very important. A seascape can be bright and intense or nostalgic and mysterious. One person may wish to feel relaxed and peaceful in front of their painting, while another may wish to feel energized and inspired. Through conversations, I aim to understand what the desired themes, colours, and moods mean for each individual person. This is my favourite part of working on commissions: connecting with others and creating something together.

Are there other questions you’d like answered about how I work on commission? Let me know in the comments or get in touch!

Thanks for reading!

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