Copyright April M Rimpo

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Commissions

Late last fall I was commissioned to do a painting of a family's favorite vacation spot.  It was a wonderful experience that I wanted to share.  The person making the request knew my work and wanted me to remain true to my muse. Commission work can truly be a joy when the customer understands how important an artist's style is to the success of the painting.  In fact my suggestion is to turn down a commission if the customer is not willing to let you incorporate your artist voice.

She described to me the topic of the painting, suggested this was like some of my city scenes, and asked if I would be interested.  Her plan was to give the painting to her husband as a birthday gift. Here is the process we followed with a very successful result. (Since some places are very sensitive to their copyright I have not included an image of the entire painting, but only a few portions that I wanted to discuss.)
  1. We spent a little time discussing what about the place her husband loved so much.  This helps me understand the focal point of the painting, what is important to them and where I can take some liberties.  She knows her husband well and warned me not to exaggerate the size of the focal point because he would notice that deviation from reality.
  2. I told her I was interested in working with her on the commission and asked her to send me several photographs they had taken of the scene she described.  My first step is to create a "sketch" of the painting and provide it to her along with a quote with the value of the painting for approval.
  3. I also asked her to answer three questions for me: a) which of my paintings she likes the best, b) what colors she associates with this place, and c) what is it about my work that draws her to it.  The purpose of these questions is to find out what about my style of painting she likes since I do use different approaches to capture different things.  I want to make sure I use the approach she enjoys the most.  The question about colors is to ensure I select a color scheme that is consistent with her impression of this spot and not necessarily in the photos.
  4. Incorporating the family
  5. She decided none of her photos really captured what she has in mind, but they were planning a trip there the next month so she would send me some shots after their return.  She discussed the project with her daughters and one asked if I could capture their family in the painting.  The intent was not detailed portraits but figures that represented the family in shape and size; so I agreed that was a nice addition since the location needs figures to make it believable anyway.  I gave her an estimate of the approximate value of the painting, but told her I needed to work up the design before I gave her a firm quote.
  6. Upon return from their vacation she sent a dozen photographs that included a couple views down the main street, some closeups of the focal point, and some family photos to give me relative sizes of people. Since not all ten people were in a single photograph she gave me the heights of some of the people to allow me to understand relative sizes between different photos. She was the perfect customer knowing I needed this information to relate the pictures; I didn't even have to ask.  Yeah!
  7. I use Photoshop® to compile various photos to create a composition.  Given the focal point, which is at the end of the street, I adjusted the perspective to help me emphasize this distant spot without distorting its size.  I inserted the family into the scene and I shifted colors to make it in the right direction for the colors she had suggested.  I use additional Photoshop filters to help me get a look to the scene that is similar to what I do when I paint.  The result is the digital "sketch" I sent to her for review along with the value of the painting, a schedule for completion, and a confirmation of how it will ship. 
  8. Upon her approval she provided a 50% non-refundable down-payment and I started the painting.
  9. Upon completion I had the painting scanned because she plans to get at least one print and I emailed her an image of the completed painting.  She sent the balance due and I shipped the painting along with framing instructions; she had decided to frame the painting herself.
  10. Upon receipt I received a wonderful email about how much she loved the painting. I too had loved how it came out so I was delighted with her response.  The wait for his birthday to come around and hear what he thought felt endless.
The big day finally came and emails from her and her husband arrived shortly thereafter.  He loves it and has proceeded to show it to many friends and family.  Imagine how I felt when I got this response, 
"WOW! That painting is fantastic! I love it! It really captures the feel of (the location). And, I knew right away who the people were once I saw them! At first I thought it was a purchased picture until I saw the family, though I'd never seen one like it before. A wonderful surprise!"
At right is another segment of the painting that shows the selected color scheme of pinks and blues with some high contrast areas. This is about one third of the painting.

I forgot to mention this whole process was done by email since we live a few thousand miles from each other.  I think communication was key to our success.  By the end of the project I really wanted to keep in touch and grow our friendship.

You can read the customer's perspective on the commission check out her blog.

Interested in my other blog posts regarding the business of art?  You might want to check these.
Learn more on my commission page.  If you are interested in commissioning a piece contact April.  

Photoshop is registered Trademark of Adobe Systems Incorporated in the United States and/or other countries.

6 comments:

  1. It's a marvelous painting April! What a great idea for a memento of one's vacation too! I'm so glad you talked about your commission process. I'm new to the whole commission business. I have done about 4 of them so far and never asked for any % up front. My husband says that I must start doing that! But I always think that if they don't like what I'm creating for them, I don't want them bound to buying it... I don't imagine your customers would ever feel that way, and I'm so glad that this customer trusted your own creative muse to do the painting the way you felt was best, and then they loved it, of course!!!! Congratulations!

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    1. I've heard of only a few commissions going wrong where the customer didn't buy the painting, but I don't think getting a down-payment guarantees their satisfaction. If they are not satisfied it would be better to return the down-payment than have an unhappy customer. However, I think the down-payment indicates a commitment of the customer to the process. I follow a blog by a gallery owner who talks about the business of art including questions such as whether to request a down-payment. There are always a lot of comments from his readers that present both sides of the topic so I find it helpful. You may want to check it out http://www.reddotblog.com/wordpress/

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  2. I love the painting April, it really shows all the sensitivity and research you did prior to getting started. I really appreciate all the wonderful tips you have on your site. I'll be back!!

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    1. Thank you, Claire. I didn't expect a commission to be fun, but this one was. Let's hope future commissions will work out so well.

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  3. The person who commissioned this painting is a very good friend of mine. When she showed it to me I almost cried. It is the perfect piece for this couple and I know they will cherish it forever. Your work is beautiful!

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    1. Thank you. I've known her husband, the recipient, a long time, so it was a special treat to be part of this surprise for his birthday.

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I look forward to hearing from you. - April

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