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!



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