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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Portrait Commissions

A friend of mine recently had a portrait commission rejected. The person she did it for was extremely rude in calling it a "caricature." Of course, the artist was disappointed and hurt at the reaction. I seriously doubt that she will want to try to make it right. I wouldn't, under the circumstances. I have great admiration for artists who do commissions of any kind, because there is so much pressure to perform with a commission. The stress is unbelievable. It's even worse for portraits, where a likeness is expected, and rightly so. One of my instructors told us not to worry about the likeness, as long as the portrait looked human. Good advice. Unless it's a commission. This portrait of my Little Artist isn't a perfect likeness, but it captures her spirit.

I did "house portraits" for awhile early on, but I had learned a few tricks of the trade from a friend who was constantly pestered by clients who wanted this and that changed in finished paintings, even though the elements they wanted weren't in the photos they provided. First of all, get a non-refundable deposit. Then, make it clear that you're going to paint it your way, and if they don't like it, they don't have to take it (but no deposit back). Then I would do a painting I liked and show it to them. Once in awhile I would provide preliminary sketches for approval. I never had a commission turned down. I was also extremely selective about what subjects I would paint on commission. It had to be a historic home or something with character that I would enjoy painting. I deviated from that once when my sister asked me to copy a watercolor of her home that I had given her as a gift. She wanted an original for each of her three children. I got around that one by using the same drawing three times--in different seasons. I think that was the last commission I ever did and I'm not likely to do another.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Susan Borgas said...

I have only recently finished numerous commissioned landscapes and left me totally exhausted. Thankfully all were excepted though I think I will be a bit choosier in future along with a higher price, which is sure to weed out some orders and yet bring in perhaps a similar income. The non-refundable deposit and painting it my way is excellent advice.

3:47 AM  
Blogger Nita said...

Good luck, Susan. I suppose all of us have to go through the commission passage at some point.

11:31 AM  

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