Ten Tips for Working on Commission

Double Panel Painting for ACE Hotel

In November 2015 I received an email that I didn't believe was real at first. It was from an interior designer looking for an artist to create paintings for a new hotel. I only responded because I thought there was a slight chance it was a legitimate email. The reply I received included a detailed brief, a budget and a deadline ... a really, really tight deadline. 

Did I mention it arrived in November, right before the holidays?

Um yeah, those two kids I have that are in elementary school - they are still small enough to count on me for just about everything plus they are out of school for three weeks during the holidays and they still believe in the big man from the North Pole so, you could say I'm a little busy during that time of year. But I just couldn't pass up this art commission in spite of how crazy my life gets around the holidays.

Why? The project manager said the magic words, "We have several things you need to do when working on this project..." (I won't list the boring details, I'll just say the list was easy). "If you can meet those criteria then just do what you do. We love what you do."

And the clouds parted and the sun shone down on my face - or at least it felt that way. Those words, "just do what you do. We love what you do," took so much pressure off.

Commissions are stressful. They are stressful because I care and want to do a good job. It is all too easy to forget that a collector or interior designer has hired me because they love what I do. The reminder was music to my ears (or eyes since it was in an email - but then again, eyes can't hear).

Anyway, I dove in and worked on the largest paintings I've created so far, two panels side by side 63" x 24" approx. to be mounted on armiores in the guest rooms of the new ACE Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana. Ever been to an ACE Hotel? They are uber cool - seriously. 

It was a great job, a dream job and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. If you're interested I've got some advice.

Here are some tips for working on a commission -

1) Make sure you fully understand exactly what the client expects and carefully read the contract.

2) Make sure you have enough time to meet their deadline.

3) Don't paint something you have no interest in painting. Your lack of passion will show in the finished piece.

4) Draw out your ideas first. When was the last time an artist said that creating an initial sketch ruined their finished painting?
Panels installed in a guest room

5) Color sketches are also a good idea. Resolve the potential problems on a small scale when they are easy to fix.

6) Treat this like a real job because it is. Be professional, put in the hours necessary, keep records, don't send casual emails that start with "Hey!"

7) Keep your client up to date. Send progress reports so they know you are working and are reassured you will meet their deadline.

8) Take a deep breath if a problem arises and refer to #7.

9) When using artist materials made by Gamblin Artist Colors call their help line if you have a question. Their knowledge about painting materials is outstanding!

10) Remember, the interior designer/art collector hired you because they like your work so, just do what you do and enjoy that sunshine on your face.

I'll post more photos of the other paintings I completed for the ACE Hotel in the next few weeks. 

Do you have any tips for working on commissions? Or are have you hired an artist to do a commission and have some tips? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.