Wow, I Got a Painting Commission, Now What?

Wow, I Got a Painting Commission, Now What?

I get lots of questions from artists about painting commissions - and lots of horror stories of the ones that went bad. This post will give you some guidance on how to manage the process to get the best results - for you and your client.

A painting commission is a great way to get to know a client better and an opportunity to provide them with a great piece of art that will enrich their lives.

The MOST important part of the painting commission process is the initial meeting with the client, whether done in person or by virtual methods. In this initial meeting you are trying to determine the parameters of the project including:

  • Size, placement. and cost of the artwork.
  • Colors to be used in the painting and the overall color of the space, furnishings and fabrics.
  • Your feeling about the client and if they are a "fit" with you and your work.

This last point cannot be taken lightly. Always follow your gut. If any red flags come about in your meeting, then simply walk away. This can be hard to do, especially if there is lots of money on the table. No amount of money is worth working for a difficult or unappreciative client. I had a prospective client during the initial meeting ask me repeatedly, "What if I don't like it?" I walked away, leaving many thousands of dollars on the table. I learned in nearly 30 years of practicing architecture how to spot problem clients.

Here are things you need to consider about the client:

  • Do they know your work and like what you do? (this seems obvious but they could have been referred by someone else and have no idea what type of work you do).
  • Do they want something unique that ONLY YOU can provide for them, or do they want something more generic that someone else could provide for them?
  • Are they serious about the project and committed to move forward?

The second MOST important thing in doing a painting commission is the CONTRACT. NEVER do a painting commission without a contract. Working without a contract that specifies all the parameters of the project is why artists have bad experiences. The contract is there to protect you, so use it.

In the initial meeting I tell the client that all the parameters we discuss will be written into a contract and delivered to them the following day. They are to read it, sign it, and send me a check for 50% of the cost of the work. The contract and deposit assure their commitment to the project. I never begin work until I receive a written contract and a 50% payment. 

Here is the minimum that should be in the contract:

  • Size, medium, colors and cost of the art.
  • Payment and delivery of the work.
  • Timeframe for completing the work.
  • Who is responsible for installation?
  • The number of meetings to be attended by the artist.
  • Time charges outside of the scope of the contract.
  • What the artist is responsible for.
  • What the client is responsible for.
  • Guidelines for any changes requested by the client.

The better your organization and professionalism on the front end of the project, the better the chances that the commission process will run smoothly. Specify everything upfront, and leave as little to chance as possible. You will be rewarded with a long term relationship with a client who will want to work with you again in the future.

For those that are interested in a fun and engaging workshop experience, I have some workshops coming up that you will love: (You can see a full list of Workshops by Clicking HERE.)

As always, thanks so much for your support! 


P.S. If you cannot attend a live event, or prefer to learn online in the comfort of your home or studio, Abstract Painting Academy is my online workshop:

Abstract Painting Academy is the next best thing to a live workshop. You can learn more about the program by Clicking HERE.

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