It´s immensely rewarding and a privilege to have just completed a large painting for a charming man who commissioned a Durdle Door seascape as a surprise birthday present for his wife. She had seen and liked one of my paintings at a friend´s house. He wanted dusky pinks and greys in the sky, presumably to fit the décor in their house, or perhaps because he knew his wife prefers softer colours.
Most of my commissions are adaptations of paintings we´ve chatted about at a show, or which someone has come across on my website. I add or subtract detail and make adjustments according to my client´s wishes. The initial connection for a commission is powerful for me, the warm feeling that the scene I was inspired to paint which brought me such joy, has triggered a happy memory, or a comforting emotion in someone else.
One client commissioned one of my favourite views of the Isle of Wight from Barton-on-Sea where her beloved Mum used to sit for hours, contented, in peaceful reflection. I painted an early summer sunrise, and added a bench to the scene in memory of those serene days. Another client I met at a craft market later sent me a photo of the beach where he had proposed to his wife. He wanted to capture that precious moment. I was commissioned to paint a seascape featuring a couple walking on the beach with their three children, and two dogs playing on the sand. He asked for an abstract summer sky for his holiday memory.
I was reading recently about good practice for commissions, and it really came home to me that we are all unique. Artists have their own individual style, buyers have their own personal tastes. I read some good business advice, but I must confess that I follow very little of it.
Perhaps I´ve always been a bit like that.
I´m a landscape artist and will usually pass on enquiries about portraits, animals or buildings. However it was an interesting, fun challenge to receive a commission to produce the illustrations for a lovely children´s book, Monty the Magic Magpie.
I am careful with my questions when discussing a commission. We talk about the size of the painting, the colours, the time of day, the focus, the weather, the season. I explain the difference between gloss and satin varnish and encourage my client to ask questions. Responses guide the colours in my palette, and the mood of the painting. I feel the painting in the warmth of this conversation rather than visualise it at this stage.
Although I confirm the price, which is always the same for a commission as for an original canvas, depending on size, I never ask for a deposit because it would tie me down emotionally. My mind would get in the way and block inspiration. There´s no heart in such a contract for me and I want the freedom to paint for the pleasure of it, without that constraint. Just as I want my client to be free to change his or her mind. Nobody is obliged to buy the painting, yet all my commissions to date have been accepted. The painting can take anything from a few days to a couple of weeks and my clients are free to contact me at any time. I always give an approximate completion date to allow for what life brings.
When the painting is finished, I send five photos to my client, taken from different angles, including a close up. I don´t frame the commission because I paint round the edges, so the canvas can be hung unframed. I painted a large canvas of the Purbecks and made minor changes for my client who wanted more distance, a longer coastline, a lighter sky. I was delighted that he felt comfortable enough to ask for what he wanted. The painting you have in mind at the outset can evolve and the journey from concept to completion is not always straightforward. Between us, we finished the painting to his satisfaction. It was such a pleasure to deliver it in person and see where it would hang in his beautiful house.
What I love about commissions is that the completed painting speaks in a language we both understand.
The language of the heart is a priceless gift.
Original paintings and prints are available on my website. Commissions undertaken with joy.
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