My first commission was when I was a sophomore in high school. I was paid $100 for painting six foot Disney cartoon silhouettes with reflective paint on the fence at the local drive-in theater! That was big money back in the 50's but it was also before computers and sophisticated enlarging tools, making it quite an endeavor for a sixteen year old. (It was also a time when little attention was paid to copyright laws and I had no idea that what I was asked to do wasn't exactly legal.)
Through the years I've had many more commissions and most have been, not only "good," but a real delight! There have only been two that I would classify as "the bad and the ugly." The thought of these still make me cringe, like the one that literally "went to the dogs" (which led to a ban on pet oriented art.) Then there was one where "teal" was definitely in the eye of the beholder. Enough said?
This got me thinking about what makes a good commission? Here are a couple of suggestions when commissioning work:
1. Don't ask the artist to work outside their comfort zone... Make sure their color palette and style will fit into your home or business.
2. Give clear guidelines about what you do and don't want.
3. Allow the artist enough freedom of expression and don't over control.
4. Colors can be so tricky and fabric samples are helpful but beware of computer generated sketches if color is very particular, because monitors can vary greatly, as can printers.
5. Give the artist photos of where the art will go and what's in the surrounding area if that's important.
On the artist side, all I can say is, "Don't be afraid to walk away." Discretion is the better part of valor. Don't let your need for money push you into a relationship that will make both of you miserable. If it sounds like I've been there, I have. The best commissions are accompanied by words like: "I love your work and I know I'll love anything you do!" If that doesn't happen, in the words of a country song: Know when to fold 'em! I soooo wish I'd taken this advice more often! But nothing makes me happier than a finished commission that is received with real joy.
Here are photos of a few commissions that ended very well.