I have a love/ hate relationship with commissions.
On one hand, it is great to earn money with my art when I can while simultaneously giving someone a piece of art that they truly want. Yet, the flip side to commissions is that you often work with subject matter using techniques that you dislike.
For me, the worst is realistic portraits. I respect the genera and the skill it takes to achieve photo realistic likenesses with paint and brush, but, it isn't for me. It's too confining and rigid. When I do portraits it often involves mathematically gridding out a page and even with the grid, there is a process of working and reworking that, if I'm being completely honest,
makes me want to set my canvas on fire I'm just not patient enough for.
Don't get me wrong, I have been fortunate enough to do some really fun commissions, even when they are portraits. Those clients understand the type of work I do and are commissioning me because of it. But, often a commission will be pregnant with a whole slew of aggravation.
I made a silly cartoon to illustrate the experience an artist undergoes in this kind of commission process:
And there you have it. A bad commission can cause all kinds of aggravation. Now I would like to say something to the clients and artists out there to try and mend this broken fence.
Clients: It helps to seek artists who do the type of work you are looking for. Creatives work best when they are interested in the project they are working on. Don't commission an abstract expressionist if you want them to paint a photorealistic photo of your daughter at her graduation.
Remember that art is labor and takes time. Also, art supplies can be very expensive so take both of those things into account when an artist quotes you a price. Good art of any type is worth paying for.
Artists: For goodness sake, don't be afraid to say "no" to a project. Take projects that you will enjoy and that will empower you to do your best work. Take projects that will help you grow as an artist and that will help build your portfolio.
Don't lower your prices just to get a commission. Those almost always end up being the worst projects and usually end up costing more in labor than they are worth. Also, it's a good idea to at least get some kind of non-refundable deposit on the project, at the very least, to cover supply cost if the client backs out.
I understand that these rules must be broken when money is tight because we all have to eat, but otherwise, save yourself the grief. (note: I am guilty of breaking all of these rules at some point.)
So, in closing, I would just like to say...
...would anyone be interested in hiring me for a commission? :)