|Treat Island View 12x24 oil/panel by Michael Chesly Johnson|
Many artists paint commissions. Some relish the challenge, while others would rather be painting something else. But however you feel about them, for the working artist it's often a simple matter of financial necessity. I'll paint just about anything you want—but I will set ground rules.
Ground rules are important to avoid any misunderstanding. Well, here are mine:
1. I won't paint from your photo. Even if you're a great photographer, the photo won't mean much to me emotionally. Plus, I'll have no personal memory of the location. Both emotion and memory are vital references, and without that, the painting will have no substance.
2. I need to have access to the location to gather my own reference material. Also, if I decide I can't make a good painting based on what I see, I will turn down the commission.
3. If you have suggestions for the painting, I will take those under advisement—but I reserve the right to do something different if it will make a better painting.
4. If I feel I need guidance, I will ask for it. I may show you design or color sketches to get your reaction. (I usually do this, anyway, just to see if you and I are on the same page so that I may proceed confidently.)
5. I will give you a price before I start the actual painting, if we haven't already discussed it.
6. I'll give you an approximate timeframe for finishing the painting. I'll also work with you to get it done when you need it.
7. Because I want to paint the painting as I envision it, I won't require a deposit, nor do you have any obligation to purchase it when complete. Paradoxically, not having a deposit takes off some of the pressure of "having to make a good painting," and I feel I do a better job as a result. Also, having no obligation to buy relieves you of the pressure of having to pay for a painting you don't want.
7. Finally, if the painting doesn't satisfy you, I am free to sell it to someone else.
That's my take on commissions. If you're a painter who does commissions, I would like to hear your guidelines.