Monday, March 30, 2015

The Nebulous Thing...

...That is commission requests can be hard to pin down.

There are no exact guidelines to a commission request or a "how-to" available for this.  Believe me, I've Googled it, and Google usually knows everything.

If that bitch can't spit out anything remotely resembling a guideline for this, then there isn't one.  

But Why?

I can't answer that, but what I can do is provide some insight into something that I have a little bit of experience with, considering the work I do.  

Now first of all, let's not confuse "commission" with "custom".  I feel like this is a pretty big thing.  If both of these things meant the same thing, then their definitions would be the same, but they are not. 

While commissions for artwork are "custom made" in a sense, they are not mass produced with slight differences for different buyers.  They each are personal, different and completely original.

A custom order, in my view, would be opposite of this.  One thing mass produced with a choice of color, font or something specific about that one item that the consumer may change for their personal preferences, but that is it.  

Several people may like a certain coffee mug design and each receive it in a difference color, but that does not make that coffee mug an original commissioned work of art. 

 While I love Etsy for their platform capabilities when it comes to selling my artwork online, this is my biggest pet peeve with them.  When you visit an artists shop, if they have the "custom order" function enabled, there will be a button under each listing and on the main page under the sellers name that says "request custom order".  

While this certainly works for those that can customize their listings based on a set range of choices for each buyer, this doesn't really work out well for Artists.  I think there should be a wording choice there for those that work with commissions vs custom orders.  But because there isn't one, we [Artists] are forced to use this term for commissions.  

*growls and shakes fist at Etsy*

Now, the very idea of commissions may seem intimidating but in actuality they are quite easy to work through.  Think of a commission as a conversation between you and the Artist.  

Each Artist's approach differs for this process.  So these tips are really based on my own experience as an artist working through a few commissions myself.  What works for me may not work for the next guy.  Or vice versa.  Keep that in mind here.

A few general pointers when thinking about taking the plunge with a commission request: 

  • Come in with a clear idea of what you are looking for.  It really all starts with an idea, and the artists job is to bring that idea to life.  If you want a bird perched on a tree with a few colorful flowers, great!  But halfway through the process, don't suddenly change your mind and put the bird in a bush with mulberries instead when the artist has already started on the original idea.  Be clear about what you are looking for.  Unsure on exactly what you want?  That's okay too.  Talk to the Artist and come to a clear idea on subject matter together that you will be happy with.  I promise the Artist is more than happy to spend the extra time with you figuring out your vision so they don't have to switch up in the middle of the application process.  
  • If there are specific or special elements that must be represented in the piece, let the Artist know up front.  This kind of fits in with the above, but it's important enough to repeat.  Once the Artist has figured out the initial design and layout based on your requests, it is super difficult to add anything else.  It may require redesign work and a larger fee if you suddenly remembered that you must have your grandfather's clock in the still life painting you originally requested.  
  • Don't box the Artist in by over-thinking every aspect of the design process.  For some of you, I realize this may be a difficult concept to swallow because you are planners.  "Everything in their correct place" and all that.  Sometimes it's hard to relinquish the control.  In times like these, remember that most Artists despise boxes...and places.  We don't have a "place".  (That's why we usually don't excel in an office, cubicle, or other rigid day job with heavy constraints.)  It puts added pressure on the Artist if you pick out every color down to the "perfect" shade for the piece you are commissioning.  Keep in mind that you came to them in the first place because you are unable to produce the same result yourself. Which leads me to my next point.
  • Trust the Artist.  This one is a huge point and often overlooked because it's difficult to not get caught up in grand ideas.  You build up this concept in your head and communicate the idea to the artist then start second guessing whether they can produce what you've envisioned.  Give the Artist credit and a little creative freedom, and you won't be disappointed.  
  • Price is also important to consider.  Commission requests may run higher than the completed works an Artist is selling in their shop.  It all depends on the amount of work involved in the request you put in and the sizing.  There are also time and materials costs to consider as well.  Be upfront about your budget in the beginning, if there is a money constraint.  Once an idea has been established, an Artist should have a pretty good idea on price and provide that to you up front so there are no surprises in the end.  We aren't out to trap you into an agreement and take all your money.  It's the opposite.  We are extremely honored that anyone would consider putting our work on display in their personal spaces.  We want to make sure everyone walks away satisfied in the end, just know that it may not be as cheap as you considered. 

See, commissions don't seem so intimidating now, right?  

I've eased my mind that there is now something out in the ether that at least touches on the topic. 

And as a "PS" to this post - I am available to answer questions that anyone has on this topic.  Just ask!



Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Art...

...of the "Like".

The virtual equivalent of personal validation and approval among the online populous that is your friend base, depending on where you are seeking your "pat on the back".

It's funny how much we all enjoy the "like".  How much some of us need the "like".

And for those of us contemplating, or even attempting to build an online presence among the various popular virtual platforms, this validation is necessary.

Any new business trying to stake out their corner of the market also has a slew of virtual campaigns to reign in interest in order to build that bridge into consumerism.  Reaching a maximum audience means attacking the market from every angle possible both creatively and effectively.

Remember when I said that Mike considers my "attack plan" passive aggressive because I sit behind the screen of a computer to reach the market?  I also admitted that he was completely right.  I also mentioned that creating that personal relationship with a piece of work is also important, and much too difficult through a computer screen and a photograph.

Thus, the challenge of being accepted into a juried art show and moving my campaign outdoors into the public eye.

Sure, generating "likes" through my virtual platforms means I'm slowly expanding that ever-present circle of exposure, which is great, but generating sales and creating connections is also just as important.  Sometimes more important.

The reason for my redundancy?

I recently sold a piece of artwork that has subsequently secured my Facebook Shop Page an influx of "likes".

To tell you that I was excited does little justice to all the feels.  This just expanded my exposure radius exponentially!

Then, I thought about how much value I'm actually placing into each Like I earn - and I use earn very lightly.  The "like" button is at the whim of the viewer, essentially.  And the viewer can be a very fickle being with a whole slew of factors propagating the use of the "like" on that particular occasion.  They may not even like what they are looking at but "like" it on some random principle of their own anyway.

Realization:  I'm putting too much stock into the "like".

The "like" for my purposes, is a tool.  It should only be seen as a tool.  Sure some of these viewers truly appreciate the value, time, and effort I put forth into my business and my artwork, but how do we truly know who?  While I appreciate every single "like" I receive and am super grateful for all the support thus far, I need to separate my heart from this.  I won't lose my heart, but I need a business mind, too.  I can't count these as personal acknowledgements of my life.  That is for my personal social media accounts.  

My business is separate.  I'm not familiar with every person that comes across my page. The "like" is not a personal reflection nor a direct link to my success as an artist.  This was, I think, a hard won "A-ha" moment for me.  I understood the words Mike was saying before, but now I truly understand what he means.

So take the "like" or the "heart" or whatever your favorite social media platform uses as their universal "we love it!" button for what it is in relation to consumerism - an "in".  It's the beginnings of your bridge, and you know what that tiresome movie quote says right?  "If you build it they will come".

Now, I'm more eager than ever to stick myself out there and expand my exposure.  Build some dang bridges.  

Now, I just need those jury results, already.  I still can't believe it takes MONTHS to deliberate....

MONTHS, guys....