Commission an Oil Painting
Helpful Tips for ordering a commission
Most professional artists are willing to create a custom piece of artwork for you, all you need to do is ask! There are different reasons why you might want to ask for a commission, instead of purchasing a painting “off the wall.” You might love a certain painting, but it just won’t fit the wall you have for it. You may have fond memories of a certain locale and wish the artist to work from photos you have taken to commemorate a special memory. From an interior designer’s point of view, you may need specific colours or motifs within the painting to work within a room you are creating.
When you approach an artist, it is wise to have a clear idea of what you are looking for so you can describe to the artist what you like. On the other hand, an artist will usually create better when he has the freedom to do what he thinks is best for the painting. So how do you get what you want and still let the artist create? The most important thing is to communicate with the artist about any specific considerations you have. Also, you will get the best results if you want a painting in the style that the artist is currently working in. It has taken the artist many years (20-30 years, or more!) to refine and develop a painting style, and this is what he is best at. You wouldn’t ask a realist painter to make you a loose impressionist piece.
Taking this for granted, let’s look at some of the specifics:
Most artists can adapt their painting to the colour theme of your choice. It is always best if the artist can see the space in person before he starts painting, getting a feel for the furniture and fabrics and the general theme of the room. You can point out to the artist which elements of the room you would like to tie together within the painting. Alternatively, the artist can work with snapshots of the room or even fabric and wallpaper samples. If you are more flexible with the colours, you can always paint a wall to set off the colours of a painting (more on that later!)
A painting can be created in any size you like. What size of the painting is best for your wall? Well, it really depends on the wall. In a perfect world, the painting would be beautifully equidistant from each adjacent wall, and its vertical centre would be at the same height as the vertical centre of all the other artwork in the room. However, in reality, there are usually light switches awkwardly getting in the way of perfect positioning. Also, it is good to take into the consideration what the painting will look like from different vantage points around the house. You want the painting to be as visible as possible from as many angles as possible. The best solution is to mock up a fake painting on your wall using masking tape. You can measure out a square with four lengths of masking tape placed directly on the wall, and then walk around and look at it and make sure it is the correct size.
If the artist is able to visit your home before he starts painting, he can take a look at the lighting in your house. Open, natural light always makes a painting look great, but after the sun goes down you will need artificial lighting. Some houses have warm incandescent lighting, others have cool LED lighting, and a painting will change colour depending on the lighting around it. Unfortunately, most ceiling lights are designed to only illuminate downwards, leaving the walls dark in the corners and near the tops of the walls. A painting will always look better if you can get a spotlight on it from above. These are surprisingly inexpensive to have installed by an electrician. Halogen spotlights will bring out the colours and texture in your painting and make it glow like it’s in a museum! So, it is helpful for an artist to know what sort of lighting will be around the commissioned work. For example, if the painting will be in a dark corner, the artist will avoid dark colours or subtle contrasts that will be missed on a shadowy wall.
Framing is usually left up to the customer, unless the frame is an inherent part of the presentation of the work, like many watercolours. Box canvases look great unframed as well as framed.
You can use the colour of your wall to change the look of a painting and draw attention to certain colours within the painting. This optical illusion trick also works with accents in your room, like a rug or throw pillows.
Contract and Terms
Many artists like to sign a contract with their client before starting a commissioned work. I personally like to arrange the agreement so that neither party has anything to loose, rather negating the need for a contract. I ask for a 50% deposit up front, with the remainder due when the client has the painting in their home and it is everything they hoped it would be. A photograph of the painting is emailed when the painting is completed, and the client can usually tell right away if they like it or not, although the final test is seeing the painting on the wall. If the client doesn’t like the painting for any reason, I will give the commission another attempt, after understanding what they like or dislike about the first painting. However, with enough communication up front about your expectations, the painting should turn out right the first time.
The price of the commission should depend more or less on the square footage of the painting, although artists may charge more or less than what they normally charge for paintings off the wall, depending on the project. I have done commissions for less than what I would normally change, simply because I was excited about the idea of the painting.
Other Helpful Tips
Go through the artist’s portfolio or website with the artist present, and point out which paintings you like or don’t like, and what you like or don’t like about each.