3 Ways to Feel Good About a Commission

When I mention creating commissioned paintings to most of my watercolor friends, they wrinkle up their noses and say that they tried it once and it was a miserable experience and would never do it again.

I have been painting commissioned painting for about 15 years and I would like to share a few things that have made it an enjoyable effort as well as the most profitable approach to painting that I have found.

  1. I only paint the things that I want to paint. I paint still lifes of people’s collections, everything from silver service sets to ink bottles. I go to the potential client’s home and look at the pieces. If they interest me, I make an appointment to come back and use their objects to set up a still life and photograph them there.
  2. After photographing several setups of their objects, I go back to my computer and narrow down the many photos, sometimes as many as a few hundred, to three or four that I believe will make good paintings. I send these images to the client, and we jointly select the one that I will paint.
  3. After I complete the painting, I ship it to them with an invoice for an amount we have agreed on in advance. I usually charge a 10 to 15 percent premium for a commissioned painting over my usual gallery prices. With the paining I include index sheets that show the process of painting the still life. I usually photograph the painting each time I finish a part of the painting.

Painting commissions has provided a lot of satisfaction for me. I’ve been given access to beautiful objects I otherwise would not have known existed. And, in addition to the painting I create for the client, I use the other photographs I took to create more paintings for competitions and galley sales.

Photo of Still Life Setup (agreed upon by client)
Step 1
Step 2
Finished Painting
The finished commission, along with another painted at the same time, hanging in the client’s dining room


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