Monday, November 17, 2014

Making Art on Commission Dream or Nightmare

Pallet of colors working on commissioned painting.
18 x 36 inches, acrylic on canvas.
Copyright 2014 Mary Rush (Mary Gravelle)
The artist's dream: getting paid upfront to paint! Or is it?

Back in the day a long time ago, it was the elite, political, and religious who hired artists to create pieces that would portray certain images of power and wealth. Think about Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo. Artists could rely on making a living from creating their art.

Fast forward to late 1700's to mid-1800's when the American and French revolutions and democracy changed the way of life. This also sent the artist headlong into a new direction.

With their conviction to paint and make art that made them happy, or at least expressed what they deemed needed to be expressed, along with the fall of empires and wealth, the artist was now faced with the jubilance of newfound freedom and a need for self-reliance. For a quick and interesting look at art history, read this article.

I have little experience painting for commission. Currently, I find myself doing just that. I am so very grateful to be able to paint, knowing that payment is imminent, already receiving half upfront.

The Painting Setup.
I have discovered a few interesting things about painting on commission.

First, I want the client to be very happy and pleased with the final painting. Because of this, I involved the client in the composition of the painting. This took quite a number of back and forth discussions and conversations. My original vision for the painting changed dramatically. And yet, I am happy with it because I think the buyer will be more content with the final painting having been a part of its creation.

Second, because I want the buyer to be thrilled and ecstatic with the piece, I was sending updates of my progress up until two days ago. The idea for this was to keep the buyer involved in the process. What I discovered, however, was that it was inhibiting my creative process for allowing the painting to have its own voice and expression. Since I do not paint totally realistically, it is important for me to allow the creative muse to visit me during my painting process. And, the buyer kept telling me she wanted to let me do that. But, something inside insisted I keep her informed.

Nov. 13, 2014.
In Process Commissioned Acrylic Painting by Artist Mary Rush
(Mary Gravelle), 18 x 36 inches, acrylic on canvas.
Copyright 2014 Mary Gravelle
Now that I have let go of the idea of keeping the buyer apprised of every move I make with this painting, I feel so much happier and relieved while painting. The creative muse came out to play. The painting is breathing its own life now. I can't wait to see where this painting ends up. I am so excited about delivering the final piece to the client. I want her to be surprised by the painting instead of knowing every little detail about it and quite possibly suffocating any excitement of anticipation from the experience that she might be feeling.

What's your opinion of art making for commission? Artists, do you like this way of working? Art buyers and art collectors, do you commission artists to do work for you?

Here are some articles I ran across about the process of commissioned art that might be of interest:

Making Art on Commission: Tips for Artists

Commissioned Art: Tips to Make it a Success

For other articles, google "artists working on commission".

More about my art and paintings can be found on my website.

Until Next Week

• Create art
• Appreciate art
• Buy art

Mary Rush
(Mary Gravelle)

About the Author

Mary Rush is an artist who resides in Sedona, Arizona with her beloved cat, Sir Kitty. More about her art and paintings can be found on her website.

Copyright 2014 Mary Rush (Gravelle). All rights reserved.

Sir Kitty


  1. I look to work on commission. I have a couple of artistic friends that do and it always seems like it a delicate balance of involving the client and letting yourself create. The client hired you for a reason...she liked your work. I am excited for you.. let us know how it turned out when she gets the pic.

    1. Hi Lynn,

      Thanks for your comment! Another thing that I have noticed is that I have spent a lot more time with this painting than most others. I think knowing that I will deliver it face to face to the client instills a need to make sure I have "crossed all the t's and dotted all my i's". It feels like it must be more perfect than any other painting I have ever done... lol... I wonder about charging more for commissions. Do you and your artist friends charge more?

      I deliver the painting tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes.