Demystifying the commission process” or “How to get me to paint exactly what you want"

Commissioning me to paint exactly what you want isn't scary or difficult, it's usually quite fun and involves meeting up and eating cake.
When I paint in my studio for a show I am painting for myself, I’m painting exactly what I want to paint (or trying to) I’m using the colours I want to use, painting the view I want to paint and hoping that by the time I’ve finished someone will love my painting enough to buy it – my wiser than her years’ teenage daughter tells me “it only takes one person to love it mum” and she’s right it does but sometimes that person is hard to find.

A Commission is different, a commission is when that one person – lets say “you” have already found and fallen in love with my work, I just haven’t painted the perfect one yet. It’s when you look at my work with a friend and say “I love her stuff; I wish she’d paint my hill” or when you click through my website galleries and say “That painting would be perfect, I’d buy it if it wasn’t sold already” or “I wish that painting had more red in it then it would go in my front room” and so on…


At this point you can do one of two things; you can wait and keep looking and hope that one day I’ll paint your hill in your colours and no one else will buy it before you do OR you can hit the Contact button on your computer screen and write me a message.

You could say
“Hi Sarah, I love your work and wondered how much it would cost for you to paint my hill, in my colours? I love red, I want a painting to go in my living room and I need it to be about 50cm long.”

And I would do a little happy dance because every artist loves to get a commission enquiry, it makes us feel important and real and valued. I would probably send a message back saying

“Hi, I would love to paint a picture of your hill in your colours for you. Let’s get together and talk about it.”

Then we would arrange to meet up – it’s easier to this bit face to face but if you live too far away we’d email a lot or I’d ring you. We’d meet at my place, or in a nice coffee shop and we’d eat cake and I would show you some pictures on my Ipad and ask you some questions: Do you like the sky in this painting or this one? Which colour do you like best? When you say red do you mean like a tomato or that ladies jumper? Show me on google maps exactly where you mean…

And then I’d tell you how much a painting would cost, usually a lot less than people think and I’d explain that I keep the price down by selling a set number of prints of the painting and that if you didn’t want me to sell prints that’s also fine but the price would be double.

And then I’d tell you about THE CONTRACT – it’s a promise between the two of us. We decide on the price and then I produce a couple of sketches and send you pictures or we meet up again (more cake) and look at them together. You tell me what you like or don’t like, sometimes you’re not sure and you take them away for a week to really look at them and think, then I do another sketch and we look again. You decide you love it, its perfect and I’m brilliant (or something along those lines) and then you pay me a deposit – usually 30 – 40%. I tell you your painting will take about two months to complete and that I’ll send you pictures every week or two so you can see the progress and let me know if there’s anything you don’t like. Sometimes I make changes as I go along, sometimes you do, sometimes you come and look at the “real thing” in progress, sometimes you don’t, it’s all totally up to you.

When the paintings finished you come along and have a look, then you make THE DECISION

You either decide you love the painting, you pay the outstanding balance, take my framers details and go home with the perfect painting of your hill in your colours for your wall.

OR you decide that actually for what ever reason you no longer want the painting – no problem, I keep the deposit and the painting and you leave with no hard feelings (this has actually never happened to me before but I expect it will do one day and that will be fine)

It’s all really quite simple and fun. You get a bespoke piece of original art which you can hang at home and I get to work from a brief (always easier than working from the millions of ideas buzzing round in my head) and the chance to create a little bit happiness to send out into the world.

Other artists will have different terms in their contracts, some might not offer commissions at all (I don’t know any who don’t) but I suspect that every artist is happy when a commission comes their way because it means that one of the people we need to love our work has found us rather than us having to find you.

S x

If you’ve got any questions about my commission process just ask, questions are always welcome and never stupid.
If you'd like to have a look at some of the commissions I've produced for other people you can find images in my Commission gallery.

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