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  • Kate Lentz

{Commissions//The Good, Bad, & Ugly}

"I love your work! Could you please do a commission for me?"


Ah, yes. What every artist wants to hear...sort of.


Ever since I started taking art more seriously, I have had a decent amount of my friends and family ask if I could draw or paint commissions for them. I have always said yes. But as I have discovered, it's not always a pleasant experience. All I have to say is: Artists, Beware.


Best case scenario? Someone truly loves your style and everything that you create. Maybe one of the drawings you've done has already been purchased so you need to redo it, or someone just wants a drawing you've already made, but in a different color. In this case, a commission is great. You already know that you can create this piece because either you've already done the design before, or it's an easy change. You know how much time and energy goes into the work, so pricing is a breeze. Plus, it's a huge boost of self esteem because out of all the art in the world, this person chose YOURS.


Worst case scenario? You are an artist who maybe specializes in abstract landscapes. Every picture you post is in that style. You get asked to commission a piece. But what do they ask for? A photo-real portrait of someone's grandmother. It's the old "Oh, you are an artist? That means you can draw ANYTHING!" situation. *Insert Eye Roll*


Worst, WORST case scenario? Someone asks for an original piece from you, no limits. You decide to put in all of your time and effort since you are honored to have the creative freedom to make a new piece for someone who loves your work. After a few weeks of blood, sweat, and tears, you show the patron the painting. When the awkward topic of pricing comes up, the patron frowns and says, "Oh. I don't really have the budget for art. I thought this was just your hobby." *Insert screaming and the desire to stab here."


No matter what scenario you identify with, commissions are tricky. As artists who choose to share our work with the world, we are incredibly humbled and grateful for the opportunity to do what we love while getting paid...in theory. But my question is, IS IT WORTH IT?


In my case, I would have to say no. I have done many, MANY commissions over the last few years and I have yet to have a truly wonderful experience. Whether it's out of my comfort zone, the deadline is tight, it's a subject matter I have never done before, or I'm basically working for $5/hour when it's said and done, I just feel like it's not worth the stress.


When I realized I wanted to do art full time a few years ago, I thought about offering pet portraits for a "easy" way to raise money for art supplies. Last Christmas, I did a few as gifts...and even though there was no pressure from someone else, I felt the stress of getting the portrait just right. Now add in a picky patron, expensive supplies, tight deadlines, and an insulting budget...I'm starting to think that may not be the best way to begin my life as a business owner.


I still think commissions could possibly work. But it would require clear boundaries, set prices, and an ability to say "NO" when someone's request is out of a comfort zone of an artist. Maybe one day I will be able to figure out the magic formula but for now...I'm hoping that people will like the art that I've already made and be willing to buy as is.



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