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Creating Commissioned Work as an Artist

Creating Commissioned Work as an Artist

Valerie Atkisson / ArtBistro

Commissioned Work

Clients commission an artist for one main reason: They want a work that is in someway personalized. Whether it is a portrait of a family member or a rendition of a landscape — the work holds personal significance.

The best way to acquire a commission? Find interested clients already familiar with your work. This way you’ll have a better probability of pleasing the client, as they’re already familiar with your work. Providing substantial examples before you are commissioned will also help avoid confusion if you don’t have prior history working with a client.

During my time as an artist, I’ve received many opportunities for commissioned work. Some have been watercolors for book publication others have been works of art in my style but personalized for a client.


Jared Gillet, Oil on Canvas

In my artwork I typically make maps of family relationships. Most commissions I’ve done have been about someone else’s family. Others have been a narrative surrounding a person or couple. The greatest part for me is the interview. By chatting with clients before I start their piece, I form visual elements of their story and begin creating the tone of the artwork. Many of my patrons have been people I know quite well or were admirers of my work. There have been bumps along the way, but for the most part it’s always a heartfelt experience for everyone.

Via my experiences, here are the best practices for commission work:

  • Be clear about what you are able to do.
  • Get a clear understanding of what the client wants and expects.
  • Put all terms of the agreement in writing as a Letter of Agreement signed by both parties.
  • Have the client pay a specific amount of the price up front. 50% is standard practice.
  • Set a time line.
  • Be clear about how the work will be picked up, shipped, or transported and who is liable for damage.

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