I don’t have a lot of experience with painting commissions. Recently I have had several inbound requests from aerial artists asking about my rates for commissions and what would be involved. However, this week I had a commission request from people who are not aerialists, but who like my style of capturing aerial acrobats. They had a bare space in their house and commissioned me to create a piece of artwork to fill it. In this blog post I will describe how I found the process of creating this commissioned artwork.
‘Hoop Trio’: Portrait of Erin Shredder acrylic on canvas
How the commission came about
Just before a family holiday last week, my cousin Matt and his wife Courtney asked me if I would be willing to take a commission from them. They asked me to create a painting to fill a space in their bedroom that was meant for a TV.
Photo showing the proposed location for the commissioned piece of artwork
The reason that the holiday is pertinent to the story is that I live in South Australia and they live in Queensland. So I was going to be in Queensland with them for 2 weeks. Timing the painting around the holiday was advantageous because I was able to complete it during my stay in Queensland so that there was no postage cost for such a large piece.
Questions that I asked
What is the size of the space?
Matt measured the size of the space available for the piece. He suggested that the piece needed to be bigger than the metal bracket attached to the wall so that it would be covered. The piece also needed to be smaller than the indentation into the bedroom wall so that it would fit within.
Do you want a canvas or a framed Artwork?
Matt and Courtney both thought that a canvas would be better to cover up the bracket in their bedroom. In the shop that I went to, the largest size of canvas available was perfect.
Do you have any colours in mind?
Courtney asked me if I could incorporate some of the blues and greens found in their bedspread. She did not want the painting to clash with the colours that they had already used in their bedroom. Matt, had some slightly different ideas of incorporating red into the painting. So I suggested that I make the painting predominantly blue and green with the addition of rosy gold. They agreed with this plan.
Photo showing the bedspread pattern that Matt and Courtney asked me to match some of the colours of
Do you have a subject matter in mind?
Courtney said that she liked the idea of a painting of an aerial artist rather than a nude. I asked if they had a preference between someone on aerial silks or on lyra/aerial hoop? Courtney said that she liked the way that the hoops worked into the composition of the artwork.
So I came up with a potential reference photograph, which they both seemed to like.
Would you like me to paint in a similar style to any of my previous aerialist portraits?
Matt and Courtney took a look at the artwork that I have created before and chose a few that really appealed to them. They said that they especially liked the ‘Flying or Falling‘ piece and my portrait of Anastasia Sauvage ‘Inverted Diamond’. In particular they liked the style of acrylic painting that I used in ‘Inverted Diamond’.
Overall, creating this commissioned artwork was very smooth sailing. Mostly because Matt and Courtney are family and we trust each other. However, there still were some personal challenges for me, which I find often come up when I talk about a commission.
I have trouble setting a price for a piece before it is completed.
So many doubts go through my head:
- What if it doesn’t turn out like the buyer expects?
- What if I have an off day and don’t create something to the standard that I normally do?
- What if there is a miscommunication between me and the buyer and I create something that I think they want, but they actually wanted something totally different?
- What if the buyer thinks the artwork is not worth the price agreed upon once the painting is finished?
These are all mostly my own hangups. Although I have heard some horror stories from other artists about people refusing to pay for work once it is finished.
However for this particular piece I was more worried that because Matt and Courtney are family that they would not tell me if they didn’t like it. Or that they would keep quiet if it was not what they expected.
I think that most of my doubts have to do with lack of confidence. I much prefer when both parties know exactly what they are getting when going into the transaction. Hopefully I will gain more confidence as I work on more commissions and have less doubts.
working with family
This was not a challenge in the way that you might think. Both Matt and Courtney were very accomodating in what they wanted and gave me mostly free reign creatively. They did have a little trouble agreeing on a colour scheme, so I tried to incorporate elements of what each of them described.
The major issue for me was that I felt very weird about setting a price for family to pay. Thankfully Matt and Courtney were very understanding and we muddled through it together. I think that we came up with a number that made all of us happy, I certainly was.
It also was really fun having my little cuz Sam working with me on his own artwork as you can see below 😉
Sam giving me some moral support and hanging out with me while painting
I had surprising difficulties finding a lyra reference photograph that would work with the landscape orientation. The piece needed to be a landscape orientated rectangle shape because of the space available on Matt and Courtney’s wall.
Most aerial photographs that I have permission to use are in portrait orientation. I guess that is because gravity is always acting upon an aerialist so a lot of poses involve vertical extensions. Eventually I found a suitable picture of Erin Shredder one of my aerial teachers from San Francisco who I have been wanting to paint a portrait of for awhile. I will talk more about Shredder and the creative process of the piece in a subsequent post.
The main advantage of a commission is that there is already a buyer before commencing the artwork. This is so helpful for artists who often have to outlay a lot of money for materials before beginning. Not to mention all the time artists can spend on non-commissioned artwork that ultimately may not get purchased.
‘Hoop Trio’ being held up, where it will eventually be hanging, by its proud new owners
The other main advantage for me is the idea of collaborating with the people who commissioned the piece to create something that I may not have normally worked on. For example, using colour palette and orientation that I would not have normally have gravitated towards.
Interested in commissioning your own piece of artwork?
If you are interested in commissioning a piece of art feel free to contact me at email@example.com or on any of my social channels.
I am open to commissions and am happy to work with you to create a piece of artwork that you will love. My work would suit most homes and businesses, in particular gyms, yoga, dance, aerial or circus studios.
An original artwork starts at $150 for an A3 drawing like my ‘bend over backwards’ piece and varies in price based on the size, materials used and estimated time taken. I am based in Adelaide, Australia, so shipping costs would be from this location and would be quoted in advance once the size and weight is known.
My artwork is a great gift if you have an active person in your life. It is also the perfect way to commemorate a significant physical achievement like nailing that yoga pose you have been working on for ages or finally getting that crossback straddle 🙂