This spring, a collector of my works became a patron. Yes, it's as strange and wonderful as it sounds. I'm overwhelmed by this special person and their serious belief in the quality and value of my work. My patron vowed to commission me for as much work as I want, and they have kept their vow. I just hung their first commissioned piece in their home last month and today they will come to my studio to either accept or reject their second commissioned work of art.
That's right, I said accept or reject. In my 15 years as a graphic designer and illustrator, I watched my work evolve into something that was no longer my work — as it passed through the gauntlet of editorial boards, marketing directors, art directors and so on. I knew from the first few commissions I painted, I wouldn't...I couldn't create my best work, knowing that anyone would have more of a say in what I paint than I do.
So, I adopted a policy that may seem odd, but it works really well for me. I'm happy when I work and I don't apologize for making terms that create a working environment that truly lets me flourish.
Essentially, I work really hard at the beginning of a commission to be sure I fully understand the vision my clients want. I provide to them a digital image that is very representative of the painting I will paint. Together, we can alter and manipulate that image endlessly until both the client and I are very happy with it. Still, in essence, that digital image is just a reference, and in the course of the painting, if I veer from that reference, that is my prerogative.
Commission collectors understand, they know my work, they trust that the painting I will create for them will be of the highest standard and in alignment with the quality and sensitivity seen in all my works. So, before I've ever even touched brush to canvas, I'm very confident about what I'm painting. When Accept/Reject time comes, I'm never really nervous. I have 50% of the total due already in my pocket, which covers my time and materials. If the painting is by some wild chance, rejected, I know I've painted my very best work and it will be of value in some way. Perhaps I'll enter it into a competition, or sell it to someone else. This whole process is explained clearly in my contract, so it's never a question of changing the mouth just a little bit, or some other soul crushing change.
I also turned down a commission last month, which was really difficult to do. The collector is charming and kind and I am so thankful they thought to connect with me to see if I was the right artist for the job. But knowing myself, I knew I wasn't as excited as I should be about the idea and I recommended another local artist for the work. It wasn't an easy conversation, but the right one to have.
At the heart of it, I know if I'm the artist who is right for your project or not. In the end, you really want to work with the artist who is right for you.