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Guide to Working With an Artist to Commission Art

A commission is about connection

One of my favorite features of my personal art collection is the connection I have to each piece – the colors, subject matter, composition, theme, and even to the artists themselves.

Early in our marriage, we took a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where we visited many galleries, but the painting we ultimately purchased was from a sidewalk art fair. Meeting the artist and paying her directly after she carefully packed up her own piece really left an impress on me. I felt connected to her and her work in a way that isn’t possible with off-the-shelf art. I recall this connected feeling every time I look at the single circle made of rough brushstrokes that hangs prominently along the landing of my main staircase.

As our personal collection grew, we also started commissioning artwork to fill specific spaces and meet particular design needs in our home. The artists I’ve worked with on commissions were so kind, generous, and creative. In their hand, a process that could have been scary was very easy and enjoyable.

We treasure the pieces that resulted from these collaborations.

And that’s why I love making commissions for my collectors. The opportunity to add my magic to someone else’s seed of an idea, to create something that wows us both is truly the most fun I can have as an artist.

Abstract contemporary painting from the Mantra Series by Amanda Marko commissioned by a private collector
I worked with the client to determine the color palette and composition of this commissioned piece.

Guide to Purchasing an Art Commission

From my personal experiences as an art collector, who has commissioned artworks, I offer the following guide to engaging an artist to commission personal art:

1. Style match: Find an artist whose works are aligned with your personal aesthetic. I keep an eye on galleries and shops that often carry local artists. My favorite online resources for original art are Saatchi and Wescover where I can search their vast inventories by color, size, price, subject matter, and more. Whenever I find an artist I like, I follow them on Instagram and sign up for their email newsletter, too.

2. Money matters: The pricing part is an intimidating aspect of this process for many new collectors. “Commissioned artwork” sounds like it would be synonymous with “expensive”. That’s not necessarily true.

The inside scoop is that most artists charge the same for a commissioned piece as one that isn’t bespoke. Artists apply a formula to each piece to determine pricing and they typically do so consistently. If an artist’s work is in your budget, then it’s likely you can have exactly what you want - if you are brave enough to ask and patient enough to wait.

3. Timing: Artists who take commissions have to balance their studio schedule around other prior commitments such as upcoming shows and new releases. Many artists have commission waitlists or will only open up a few slots for commissions over the course of the year. This is why following artists on social media and reading their email will give you an advantage.

Once you secure a commission spot with an artist, you will probably put down a deposit and then it could still be several weeks or even months before your piece is ready. It’ll be worth the wait – I promise. But it’s important to be realistic (and patient).

4. Process particulars: Every artist will have a different way of working with you. Ask lots of questions. Be super clear about what the artist expects of you and very transparent about what you expect of the artist in terms of size, colors, style, etc.

Items you should be prepared to provide the artist at the beginning include:

- the size and orientation of the piece

- images of the space where the piece will hang

- any design elements such as fabric, paint, and wallpaper samples

- images and/or a description of what is inspiring you

- examples of the artist’s prior work, along with an explanation of what in particular you like or don’t like within them

You will likely have an opportunity to review the work before it’s finished and grant approval to proceed.

You also might have the ability to request changes. What reasonable and even what’s possible is a judgment call, but you could ask for more or less of a particular color or perhaps removal of an element you don’t care for.

The artist wants you to be happy, but you also must be decisive, communicative, consistent, and conscientious of the artist’s time.

But most importantly, enjoy the process that will result in a very personal, one-of-a-kind masterpiece that you will cherish.

Working directly with collectors and designers to create the perfect piece for a space is one of my great joys. It's particularly gratifying to use my background in interior design to make a cherished and meaningful addition to your home.

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