Shalt’s and Shalt Not’s When Commissioning Art

For some, the idea of commissioning a piece of unique artwork for their living or work space conjures visions of grandeur, something only reserved for the ruling elite, not the great unwashed.  In reality, there are lots of different artists working in lots of different styles and many are very affordable for us the mob to consider either to brighten the place up or to invest some of our hard earned cash into.

Some artists might advertise commission opportunities on their website or elsewhere, such as  It may be that you just want to approach an artist who does a piece of work you like.

There are some considerations you need to at least think about before you proceed, and they are very important.

You have envisioned a unique piece of art.  How then are you going to get an artist to make it for you; something that they have created with their style which somehow fits with what you have in your mind’s eye?  This could get tricky.  You need to find an artist whose work you like and would like to own.

Commissioning something new can be intimidating if it’s your first time.  It is about developing a relationship with the creator, the artist.  Like any developing relationship, collaborating can be fun.

In order that you end up with the result you want, we have set out some commandment-type advice which should help you and the artist you choose to both stay happy.

1) THOU SHALT take care and invest time in the initial contact.

So you have an idea about what you want and you know the artist who you want to create it.  Now you need to connect with the artist and confirm that they will undertake the job you need done.  Often artists will have their own websites and emails, or maybe you will need to go through a gallery.  If you are lucky, the artist might be amenable to communicating through their social media accounts.

You only really get one chance to get the artist to agree.  Get to the point.  Describe what you want.  Most professional artists are too busy to read waffle and don’t like time wasters.  Why have you chosen them?  Why do you like their work?  Why do you want their work in your life?

The artist may want to ask you some questions before taking on the work; so be prepared to talk about yourself and your motivation.

2) THOU SHALT NOT assume that the artist you contact wants or needs your work.

Materials, mediums, price, schedule are all things you need to get out of the way as quickly as possible since any and all of the points are things artists use to turn down commissions.

Commissions are a minefield for some artists and for both the commissioner and the creator it is very easy for the thing to turn sour.  The way to avoid heartache is to talk about, agree and confirm everything up front.

Like any relationship, the earlier time is called and parties can go their separate ways; the heartache is reduced.

Try and put the creator’s mind at ease by getting them to talk about materials, mediums, price and schedule.

3) THOU SHALT be very clear about what you want and expect.

Speak, write down, use images from the internet and elsewhere to create a montage of a design brief.  It will help the artist to understand fundamentally your expectations.  Giving the artists an idea of where the piece will ultimately live will also help them to try to match your styles.

You need to be clear which giving them latitude to create.  Enough so that you are both singing to the same tune, but you must watch that you are not stifling.  The artist needs to do what they do best.

4) THOU SHALT NOT be vague with the artist about your likes, dislikes and expectations.

So many commissions have been started and agreed with a doodle on the back of an envelope or fag packet, a handshake and a bottle of whiskey; only for one or other party to claim a misunderstanding.

You want to be happy with the finished piece.  Communication is the name of the game

5) THOU SHALT work on a contract together.

Either they draft it or you do before the work is kicked off.

If the artist treats the idea of a contract like an anathema, then you should be concerned.

The contract will have the following where relevant:

  1. Your name
  2. The artist’s name
  3. A description of the commission (what is being created).
  4. Dimensions (in agreed units – cm’s, inches, meters)
  5. Price (some artists will have a price for the work and expect you to pay expenses for materials and process too, others will give you a fixed all-inclusive price)
  6. Payment terms (lots of artists like a deposit, some will accept instalments)
  7. Schedule
  8. Progress points (when you can check with the artist whether they are on track)
  9. Break Clauses
  10. Inspection
  11. Revisions (do these come at additional cost to you?)
  12. Rights (When and how you or the artist can use the work)
  13. Delivery Date

This list is not exhaustive, is illustrative only and does in no way in part or as a whole substitute qualified legal advice

The contract should include the price, with all applicable expenses associated with creating the piece, and payment terms.

There are a number of sources for example contracts.  If in doubt we recommend qualified legal advice.

6) THOU SHALT NOT assume that anything will work itself out.

There is a reason why contracts have been used for hundreds of years when work and money are involved.  It is, by definition, professional.  A professional artist will have no issue with the idea of it and it does protect the artist and provides you with clear expectations.

7) THOU SHALT enjoy the process.

Regularly be in contact with the artist.  It depends on the size and schedule agreed whether you are in contact daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or quarterly.  It depends of course on what has been agreed in the contract.  Communication needs to be effective but not onerous.  Does the artist need anything more from you?  Does the artist or do you have any more questions?

8) THOU SHALT NOT let the relationship lapse.

Your relationship with the artist needs to be maintained by you.  The artist will be busy working and may lose track of time.  You need to ensure that you have connected regularly throughout the process if only to double check that you are happy with the direction the artist is progressing.  Waiting until delivery day to see the piece for the first time is a gamble.

If extensive revisions are needed, it may be very expensive, waste everyone’s time, the artist may have scheduled other works for after yours is delivered so revisions can add considerable time.  They can also damage the relationship you have with the artist.  Regular communication is part and parcel of the commissioning process.

It is a rare opportunity for most people to be part of a creative process.  Breathing life into an idea, a notion.  Giving substance to a dream is something which is incredible.  Your collaboration with the artist you choose will give birth to something which stands as a legacy of your vision and the artist’s skill.

It is a great way for artists to connect with collectors and step outside the comfort zone.

In most cases, artists who upload work to ArtMarketDirect have shared their contact details.  You can message them today and ask them if they accept commissions.




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With artists are able to take control of their own careers, list their own pieces for sale to collectors and undertake their own fulfilment of orders.

The only stipulation on is that the work you list is your own and is original. Where prints are for sale, we ask that all image copyrights belong to you and that you are legally disposed to sell the pieces you have on offer.

The site is FREE to use with only 10% sales commission OR for those willing to bet on themselves with only a nominal subscription (from less than £1/month) to upload unlimited artwork and very low 3% commission on sales. If you are a creative is the best option you have.

Header Image by Albrecht Fietz from Pixabay

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