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    Commissions

    Hi everyone, another question for this extremely helpful community.

    A renown artist recently told me that he makes more money doing commissions than from showing at galleries.

    His advice was "if you put all your heart into delivering one great commission, word spreads and from that one commission, you get ten more."

    I like the idea of working from commissions. I myself have asked for commissioned art, and it was fun.

    But it occurs to me that if the goal is to get 10 commissions out of 1, you need to be selective on who commissions your art. If my grandma, for example, commissions a painting from me, my artwork will be hanging on her wall, but who will see it?

    So I was thinking, what would be the ideal commission client? (if your goal is to make it into a business). Does anyone have experience in this?

    Question 2: How can I start a commission career if I don't already have a name for myself? Presently, I have no art in a gallery. No one is going to knock on my door asking for a portrait. Should I give someone a free painting, and hope word will spread?

    Which leads to my 3rd question: an art career website I visited mocked the idea of "self-commissions". For example, the artist who makes a watercolor for the white house, but of course the white house never asked for it and never will. However, I often visit business buildings and hotels and think to myself, "I could do this and this for that wall!" Or I look at what's already on the wall and think, "I can do better than that!" Do you ever paint something for a specific space, and then attempt to sell it to the owner? In my mind it doesn't sound totally crazy, or is it? Is self-commissioning art savvy or bad business practice?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gislebertus View Post
    If my grandma, for example, commissions a painting from me, my artwork will be hanging on her wall, but who will see it?
    I have no real advice to give for this but I gotta say, everyone who visits your grandma will see it (especially if she wants to showcase how talented her grandchild is), her friends for example (because even older folk have them) who might have the same taste, and depending on your family, at best/worst everyone will see it (like at my family, grandma's house was the place where the 20+ relatives had birthday parties etc).

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    Just a quick disclaimer here: I'm not a nationally known artist or anything, I'm just a small time dude right now but I have recently done 2 commissions (with a third lined up for this summer because I'll have more time) so if you want my two cents, here you go:

    Question 2: I have no art in a gallery either, but I have a website - and that's a LOT more convenient. No one is going to knock on my door either, but that's why I have an e-mail address posted. I wouldn't give anyone free work. If you do that for someone and they tell a friend it's free, their friend is going to expect free work too. I had a professor who said to NEVER do that because once you work for free, it's VERY difficult to get people to pay for your work. That's why I have a small body of work on my website (even though the photos are blurry.. Small digital cameras are hard to take a good, detailed photo with without camera shake). This way people can look at my work, and if they contact me, I know they already expect to pay me for a job. Give free estimates, but never free work.

    As for your 3rd question: If you can sell them on it, you may have a chance. Maybe convince them it'll help business, it may warm the space where it's located, it's well crafted, etc.. I've never sold to a big business, so I really haven't got any credible advice except try to sell yourself to them. Stoke their interest and show them you're the man for the job. If they aren't buying, they aren't buying but at least you tried.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gislebertus View Post
    So I was thinking, what would be the ideal commission client? (if your goal is to make it into a business). Does anyone have experience in this?
    One that's easy to work with and pays on time.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gislebertus View Post
    Question 2: How can I start a commission career if I don't already have a name for myself? Presently, I have no art in a gallery. No one is going to knock on my door asking for a portrait. Should I give someone a free painting, and hope word will spread?
    Make a name for yourself. Then do commissions.
    Doing a free painting for "exposure" only makes sense if you think that the painting is actually going to reach a wide *paying* audience. You have to not mind giving the effort away and getting essentially nothing in return, though, because a large chunk of the time that's what going to happen.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gislebertus View Post
    Which leads to my 3rd question: an art career website I visited mocked the idea of "self-commissions". For example, the artist who makes a watercolor for the white house, but of course the white house never asked for it and never will. However, I often visit business buildings and hotels and think to myself, "I could do this and this for that wall!" Or I look at what's already on the wall and think, "I can do better than that!" Do you ever paint something for a specific space, and then attempt to sell it to the owner? In my mind it doesn't sound totally crazy, or is it? Is self-commissioning art savvy or bad business practice?
    I don't know how well this would pan out for you. A lot of businesses license or rent art, they don't necessarily commission an original for the lobby. You might have better luck getting in touch with the interior decorators who decorated the space.

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    I would totally agree with what that artist said.

    You sell a piece at a fixed price in a gallery compared to what you are already selling your pieces at. You are either getting, 60%, 55%, or 50% of that sale. Sometimes even less. If you are selling to interior designers you also get 20% taken off of the sale. This leaves you with even less monetary pay. But, say you land one of your pieces in a home where many people are guests of and often see your work. This can be a good thing considering you barely got money from the original sale, but you are spreading your name around to different places faster than doing commissions (sometimes).

    However, I feel that doing commissions can be better for you in the long run and in the short. It just depends on who you get. If you can land just one large commission then you get all of the funds and you are spreading and building your name. That big commission has a connection to better possibilities of getting commissions than selling more work through your gallery. When people ask that person, "Hey, where did you get that wonderful art piece from?" Would you rather them be answered with, "Oh, from this gallery. Go there to buy his work." or "This wonderful artist XXXXX, you should contact him here is his number/website."

    Even though you might be moving your work quicker through a gallery, I feel that leaning more towards personal commissions and spending a lot of your time building connections on your own and building your own client el will help you in the longer run. But, I would prefer doing both at the same time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gislebertus View Post
    Hi everyone, another question for this extremely helpful community.

    A renown artist recently told me that he makes more money doing commissions than from showing at galleries.

    His advice was "if you put all your heart into delivering one great commission, word spreads and from that one commission, you get ten more."

    I like the idea of working from commissions. I myself have asked for commissioned art, and it was fun.

    But it occurs to me that if the goal is to get 10 commissions out of 1, you need to be selective on who commissions your art. If my grandma, for example, commissions a painting from me, my artwork will be hanging on her wall, but who will see it?

    So I was thinking, what would be the ideal commission client? (if your goal is to make it into a business). Does anyone have experience in this?

    Question 2: How can I start a commission career if I don't already have a name for myself? Presently, I have no art in a gallery. No one is going to knock on my door asking for a portrait. Should I give someone a free painting, and hope word will spread?

    Which leads to my 3rd question: an art career website I visited mocked the idea of "self-commissions". For example, the artist who makes a watercolor for the white house, but of course the white house never asked for it and never will. However, I often visit business buildings and hotels and think to myself, "I could do this and this for that wall!" Or I look at what's already on the wall and think, "I can do better than that!" Do you ever paint something for a specific space, and then attempt to sell it to the owner? In my mind it doesn't sound totally crazy, or is it? Is self-commissioning art savvy or bad business practice?
    Question 1 You don't need to be selective about who commissions your work you need to be good enough to get commissions. The work gets you more commissions not the client. Nobody will hire you to paint something if they think it looks like crap no matter how much someone else pays for it.


    Question2 By doing great work. Build a career, enter shows, win awards get a reputation as a talented artist locally, then regionally, then nationally. Galleries and clients will find you if your work wins awards or stands out as exceptionally good at shows. If you can't do that you won't have much of a career.

    Question3 Self commissions are a waste of time the only people who do it want you to believe they actually got a commission when they didn't get and usually you can tell by looking at the work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hitnrun View Post
    Small digital cameras are hard to take a good, detailed photo with without camera shake).
    Thanks for the helpful feedback, hitnrun. PS, if your camera has a tripod hole, I found a decent tripod for like $20 on Amazon.

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    So here's the thread, i see it :>

    I get dpaint's view about starting to get yourself noticed IRL. But in my country, people don't pay much for art – heck they always try to get lots of things from the art/entertainment industry for free (if it's online) or for at a much lesser price like by 80% off. it's really sad.

    So I was thinking about doing commission work online. How do you actually make yourself known online? or at least find people who would be interested in buying from you?

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    Quote Originally Posted by laurice View Post
    So here's the thread, i see it :>

    I get dpaint's view about starting to get yourself noticed IRL. But in my country, people don't pay much for art – heck they always try to get lots of things from the art/entertainment industry for free (if it's online) or for at a much lesser price like by 80% off. it's really sad.

    So I was thinking about doing commission work online. How do you actually make yourself known online? or at least find people who would be interested in buying from you?
    I don't have any experience with this, but I would guess the best way is to make lots of work. Not just lots of work, but good quality work. Make yourself a presence online, join several art websites, make your own website, do something regularly (like a blog), and eventually you'll get followers. They will find you. But the most important part of that, is to do good work. No one will care if you have 1000 ugly pictures online, they only care if you have even 10 good ones (unless they're friends, but friends don't buy art ). Then they will find you.

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    Thanks for the tip. Guess we should start making more drawings.

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    Not that you should be aiming low, but commissions tend to also have a lower expectation in terms of quality. (depending on the client ofcourse). We tend to be a lot more critical of art work since we're involved in creating it, but I've seen some portrait commissions that were actually terrible but the client thought they were amazing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by laurice View Post
    Thanks for the tip. Guess we should start making more drawings.
    With the new media boom and the way we communicate, all you need is good work. Where your work ends up is not very limited now a days. As far as the work is good and you understand the importance of pushing your work in different media outlets people will take notice.

    If you are in a country where starting locally isn't really a sufficient option then focus your time on building a good body of work and then pushing it through the internet and contacting people elsewhere.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Samuel Gray View Post
    With the new media boom and the way we communicate, all you need is good work. Where your work ends up is not very limited now a days. As far as the work is good and you understand the importance of pushing your work in different media outlets people will take notice.

    If you are in a country where starting locally isn't really a sufficient option then focus your time on building a good body of work and then pushing it through the internet and contacting people elsewhere.
    You're right.

    My friend does commissions and she told me to make more samples of my work before I actually start looking for commissions for portraits. This is so that there's consistency in my style, that I don't hop around so much. I've been wanting to go about doing commissions but I haven't got the courage to. I guess I need to work on my self-esteem some more.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post

    ...Question3 Self commissions are a waste of time...
    Funnily enough I have pulled a version of this off twice, the latter resulting in my highest selling price so far. They were two portraits of people whom interested me enough for me to ask them to sit to me and, after the pictures were complete, both decided they wanted them.

    The difference I suppose is though that the final sale was never my intention, I just wanted to paint them!

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    Self commissions are when you paint a portrait of President bush and post it on your website like he posed for it. Not what you are talking about.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RyerOrdStar View Post
    make your own website, do something regularly (like a blog), and eventually you'll get followers. They will find you. .
    Caroll Michels, author of "How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist", suggests first making a website from which you can sell your art, then making a blog to attract people to it. Remember to use lots of key terms, like "abstract painting", so people will find your blog and site on a google search.

    One effective blog trick, IMO, is to do fast-speed video blogs of yourself painting. I always find that highly entertaining.

    But I don't know how I feel about blogs, personally. They always seem to attract other artists, as opposed to buyers. But I'm just speculating here.

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    I have a website rollin' now. It's not much to look at, at all, but I do have 4 works up. One is finished, I just don't have a photo of it; only the WIP photo. (I have yet to code the CSS page - this summer when I have time) I'm planning on getting business cards made up too, so I can advertise this summer for work.

    I've also been considering trying to make podcasts or something so people can watch what I do. Blogs on the other hand annoy me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gislebertus View Post
    One effective blog trick, IMO, is to do fast-speed video blogs of yourself painting. I always find that highly entertaining.
    Gislebertus, do you have a blog and a website?
    I hate to be a party-pooper but then websites need financial maintenance.. I can't really do that because I'm still a student. The blog thing is good though.

    Quote Originally Posted by hitnrun View Post
    I've also been considering trying to make podcasts or something so people can watch what I do. Blogs on the other hand annoy me.
    Anything that's instructional are what people always look for! It attracts so much attention. You made me realize that.

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    Not that you should be aiming low, but commissions tend to also have a lower expectation in terms of quality. (depending on the client ofcourse). We tend to be a lot more critical of art work since we're involved in creating it, but I've seen some portrait commissions that were actually terrible but the client thought they were amazing.

    Just wait until you do a good commissioned painting - perhaps even amazing for your standards AND also what you thought the client wanted... and then the client picks it apart, or rejects it, or otherwise. It happens to professional illustrators too.

    If you get commissions, DON'T aim low. Ever. Find out what they want (or help them find out what they want), specify exactly what they're going to get, and make it AWESOME.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ThabisoMhlaba View Post
    Not that you should be aiming low, but commissions tend to also have a lower expectation in terms of quality. (depending on the client ofcourse). We tend to be a lot more critical of art work since we're involved in creating it, but I've seen some portrait commissions that were actually terrible but the client thought they were amazing.
    Yeah anyone who can't do portraits are typically very impressed by even a shitty one. (at least in my opinion) I'm wondering if I'm in that boat now - I've gotten quite a few wows from people for the one commission I did, but I've noticed that anyone who's an artist isn't actually that impressed by it at all.. Between that and seeing the work of truly professional illustrators, I realize I'm not an expert by any means (not to say I'm still trying to draw cylinders in 2 values, I'm above that but I'm realizing I'm not quite the master I thought I was)

    --edit-- @ Laurice - glad I could help lol

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