How To Commission A Painting

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A semi-abstract landscape painting by Laura Rich
A recent commission. ‘Push Through It’, oil on canvas, 130cms x 80cms

Why Commission A Painting?

You’ve found an artist who’s work you adore. Maybe you’ve chatted a little on social media or met them at an open studio event or exhibition. Perhaps you’ve been introduced to their work through a gallery and have never met them but their work speaks to you. Maybe the artist mainly works in a square format and you have a large rectangle piece in mind, or a series of small works in a particular palette or you want there to be a reference to a favourite place you know. There can be a number of reasons to want a bespoke piece of work made and this is where you might consider the commission of a painting.

How To Commission A Painting

It starts with a conversation…

The galleries I work with know that I am able to work to commission and will happily act as a negotiator for a bespoke piece, this is the best route in many cases as they will be experienced in advising on your expectations in a way that gets the best out of the artist.

I also sometimes get tentatively asked about commissioned works. I say tentatively because I think people are quite wary of asking an abstract painter about particular works and how they might like them to be. The best abstract paintings (in my opinion) are ones with emotion and freedom of mark-making, ones with a really clear and definable palette and a composition that comes from a mixture of observation, gut-feeling and experience. So asking an artist who works this way to ‘paint their favourite beach’ might seem a bit like an insult to the artist’s integrity I guess? I mean, how can I paint an emotional response to a place I’ve never visited? Well… let me explain.

Commercial Art

I trained in Illustration and Graphic Design, which wasn’t really my first choice but I did think I might be more likely to get a job in it. I don’t regret it for a minute because what I learnt was the discipline to work to a deadline and a brief. This has come in very handy in my career so far having completed big commercial projects for P&O and Cunard, as well as numerous private commissions. What I’ve learnt is that the ’emotional element’ is made possible by the restrictions put in place by the brief, such as a change in format or a limited palette for example.

3 of 30 paintings on board Cunard’s Queen Mary II Cruise Liner.

How Much Does It Cost To Commission A Painting?

Expect to pay the same for a commissioned painting as if you were to buy a similar-sized painting from a gallery. If you have a budget in mind, speak to the artist or gallery to see what that will buy you. You may be asked to pay a deposit once a price has been agreed, usually around 10-20% of the total price. Some artists reserve the right to add costs for amendments to the work so make sure that is also agreed up front too.

Completing A Commission

A large painting on aluminium by Laura Rich
Commission completed for Bils and Rye in 2017

I make no secret of the fact that I prefer to work in a square format – I just find it very satisfying. So when I was asked a few years ago by Bils and Rye Gallery to paint a huge portrait-format aluminium panel for clients who had a very specific space in mind, I don’t mind admitting that I was quite nervous!

Usually when asked to work to a certain size, I might buy 3 or 4 canvasses of that size and work on them all at once. Then I will offer the client a choice of all 4 of the works to pick from with the remaining works going out to galleries. I find this takes the pressure off trying to get it right first time and means I can maintain the emotion in the mark-making.

The Bils and Rye panel was so bespoke (and expensive) that I had one shot at it! You can watch this video to see the work in progress. Thankfully it turned out well and the clients were happy!

“If you don’t ask, the answer is always no”

I was recently approached to create a large painting for a contemporary home. The clients wanted a representation of their favourite beach and sent me an image to work from. They were clear that they liked my work but also wanted something that resonated with them as a couple. I asked them to show me which of my previous works were their favourites. We then had a chat about their characters and what they wanted the work to represent.

I wasn’t completely comfortable working on a representational piece so we talked about two paintings, that would be hung side by side – one would be ‘their place’ and the other would be more abstract and represent their characters rather than the physical place. The two pieces would work together to create the feel of one.

Two paintings hung together by Laura Rich
Final commissioned paintings

If you’re interested in commissioning a painting, please get in touch.

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