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Personalized Art: 5 Steps to a Successful Commission

Art created just for someone other than the artist is called commissioned art. When an artist paints a pet or family portrait, it is a commission. I personally have been commissioned to paint and draw subjects ranging from portraits and homes to surreal works of art. Often the commission process seems a little daunting. The truth is, it’s pretty straightforward, and can be accomplished in five easy steps.

1:  Choose Your Artist: 

When choosing an artist, ask yourself if you love their existing art.  It’s likely that your commission will be done in the same style and medium.  If the artist only works abstractly with metal on wood, they probably won’t be a good fit for that hyper realistic family portrait made in oil on canvas that you envision above the fireplace.   

Some artists just do not take commissions. It never hurts to ask an artist for a commissioned work. Even if she or he says no, you will have made her or his day. The artist will find the request flattering and supportive.

2.  Where do you see the commissioned art in your home?

By thinking about placement, you can get an idea on how large the art will need to be.  If you want a painting made for your bathroom, the scale is going to be very different from a piece hanging over the dining room table.  An entryway or landing can probably accommodate a taller and larger work of art, whereas the space above your fireplace works best with a square or wide frame.  Measure the space, and try not to eyeball it.

Bonus Tip: If you’re struggling with choosing a size, cut a few pieces of wrapping paper or cardboard to the sizes that you’re trying to decide between.  Now use painters tape to tape the cutout to the wall.  This gives you a chance to see how the size of the art works in your chosen space before committing to a frame.

3.  Plan ahead

Were you thinking about an anniversary or Christmas present?  Many artists are booked several months in advance.  Find out how far in advance the artist takes commissions and what the typical turn around time is from start to completion.

Bonus Tip # 2: If you want to commission art from a booked artist, see if they offer gift certificates. That way the artist you selected can still create the work of art at a later time, and the gift recipient will gain more creative control over the commission.

Additionally, commissions vary in price due to scale, materials, the artist’s experience, and the artist’s prestige or demand.  Find out early what the artist charges and what their down payment percentage is.  It helps to know if you need to save for that dream work of art.

4.  Read the Commission Agreement

The commission agreement or contract should protect you and the artist. The contract will give you an idea of the commission schedule, create clear expectations, and establish a policy should you want to back out of the contract.  It is standard to have a 50% non-refundable down payment to protect a portion of the artist’s time and cover the cost of materials.   The artist will also retain copyright of the art created.  In turn, the artist is committing to set rates, procedures, and a timeframe.  

Bonus Tip # 3:  Will you be sending photos for the artist to work from?  Try to find high-resolution photos that have great light, preferably outdoor.  Grainy, dark, or yellowed photos are tough to work from, and the clearer they are, the better the end result will be.

Step 5: Communicate Often

The artist should check in periodically during various stages of the work of art, but some don’t. If you aren’t getting updates on the art you purchased, check in. If you see something that is off, try to address the issue before the art develops more. The earlier revisions prevent the project from taking longer than planned, respecting both yours and the artist’s time.

I hope you found these tips helpful! Let me know if there’s information I need to add. If you are interested in working with me, you can click to my gallery here and contact me below or via email at

Happy commissioning!

– Amy

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