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Making Art Work: Community at a Distance (Part Four)

Commissions and the Creative: A Primer for both sides of easel.


What is a commission?

A commission is any piece of art that is completed at the specific request of a person other than the artist. This practice normally involves the exchange of money, goods or services as payment for the commissioned piece of artwork. While the description is that simple, commissions can be an intimidating and varied experience.

In this article, we aim to break down the stigma of the commission-taking process and discuss how to best utilize the practice so both artists and patrons can get the most out of their commission-making and taking processes.


The Commissioner:


How do I commission an artist?

Generally, if there is no setup in place for commissioning an artist you can see on their site or social media, an email containing the following information is a great start:

- Your contact info (Name, Number, Email)

- What you would like commissioned (Content, Size, Medium choice, deadline)

- What your budget is (How much you are willing to spend on the commission

- What the commission is going to be used for (a gift, a logo for a band/business)

This will help greatly in identifying yourself as someone who knows what they want, and will give the artist enough information to accurately determine if they can or cannot accept your commission request.


What can I commission?

Technically, you can commission anything! But, it depends on who you are asking and what you want to have made. It’s crucial to make sure your commissioned work is compatible with the artist you are working with.  If you are looking for an oil painting, be sure you are reaching out to an artist that specializes in oil paints, otherwise you run the risk of getting a piece of work that falls short of your expectations.

It is also important that the artist is comfortable and open to making what you want to commission. Artists are typically busy people, and have specific styles they tend to work in. The more you try to commission something from an artist that is outside of their wheelhouse, the more of a challenge it will be.

There is also a major component to commissions that a patron should be aware of. There are art commissions for personal and private collecting, and there are commissions for businesses and public art. Commissioned artwork for the purposes of business (a logo or something that is made with the goal of adding value to a company) also falls under work-for-hire or independently contracted work, which will cost more.

These types of jobs typically involve contracts that address the intent of the work being commissioned, its uses after completion, and can include things like royalties. It is a much more involved process than simply requesting a piece for personal use, so be aware of the differences and plan accordingly.


Who can I commission?

The most direct way to find out if an artist is open for commissions is to ask! However, it is important to know that not all artists take on commissioned work. If an artist is not currently taking requests, respect their wishes and either wait for them to open up their services, or contact another creative.

Most artists will have commission lists and preferences for what they will and will not accept, so if you send them a direct message or email, they should be able to send you a list of what they can be commissioned for.


Why should I consider commissioning an artist?

Commissioning is one of the oldest traditions in the art world, and has yielded some of the most important pieces of art in the world (The Sistine Chapel by Michaelangelo was a commissioned work). It allows you as an art fan to collect and create your own unique pieces of work that fit your preferred style. It is also helping independent artists by giving them money for their services.


Where can I request a commission?

These days it is best to reach out to an artist digitally. Email is considered the most direct, professional way to request a commission if there is no other options available. Most artists, if they are taking commissions, will have posted their process somewhere on their social media.

There are also a number of websites available where you can post commission requests and people can respond to you. 

How do I pay for a commission?

Many artists use online or digital payments, but other traditional artists may request pay-by-mail instead (Check/Cash/Money Order, etc.). It all depends on the artist. It is also customary to tip an artist depending on the job they do, not unlike a server or tattoo artist.


For The Artist:


Should I take commissions?

If you enjoy working with others to create and sell artwork, taking commissions might be a lucrative opportunity for you. Commissions can be a tough and sometimes complicated endeavor, so it helps to have an outline of the types of commissioned services you offer. Punch up a price list and a statement about what you are comfortable making and charging for. This will help patrons better navigate how to ask (and pay) you for your work.


What should I charge for a commission?

This is a big question that depends on a number of factors: Time spent, Quality of Work, Materials Used, Insurance and Income Taxes are all things that can (and should) be considered when charging for a commissioned piece of artwork.

Another major aspect of a commission is the purpose for the work. If a patron commissions you to design a logo for their company, that is not just a commission. That is technically a work-for-hire/independently contracted job, and should include a higher cost of labor. If you are receiving commission requests for spec work, be sure to adjust your pricing accordingly. You may also want to draw up a contract to cover how your commissioned work will be handled once completed, which can range from royalties and other business aspects to the work itself.

However, you as an artist have the power to attribute as much or as little fiscal value to your work as needed. You don’t want to overcharge yourself, but you also don’t want to undervalue your services. Do not be afraid to ask for what you value your work for, and know that sometimes not everyone sees eye-to-eye on pricing.


HOW should I charge for a commission?

Be sure to have a commission list prepared! This can be as simple as listing the different types of artwork you can produce on request, and how much it costs for your services. (i.e. I charge XX.XX for a single image and XXX.XX for a single painting).

Charging for commissions is different for everyone, and depends on a number of factors, namely familiarity and comfort with the client, the nature of the commission, and other aspects should be taken into consideration when charging for ones services.

Most artists charge for work via paypal, venmo, stripe or other digital payment services due to the easy access they have.

Many artists will do what is called a 50/50 payment, where the client pays the first half of the total cost upfront, and then pays the rest upon completion of the commissioned work. This way, if something happens you will have at least received partial funds for your services rendered.

 Hopefully this is helpful to you, whether you are an artist or client looking to patronize the creatives in your life! Was there anything we missed? Let us know in the comments and we will help however we can!

Stay tuned for more thalo original content!