Do you accept commissions?

I have resisted commissions up until now.
That’s not to say I haven’t painted things for friends, but they have been on my terms. I have painted what I like and what think they will like. Example: using other peoples props for a still life.

I recently agreed to paint something for friend but she is being quite restrictive about it. Actually she is only really being restrictive about the size if I’m honest, which is much larger than I am comfortable working. I guess it’s fair that she wants what she wants if she has to look at it on the wall, but I’m worried about how it will turn out.
It’s also a landscape which is currently outside my comfort zone (though I am hoping to improve).

Do you accept commissions? What do you find are the issues?

Hi Jacqueline, I’ve only had one experience of doing a commission so far. I asked a friend to commission me, but he briefed me to a certain extent. I asked him for 2 or 3 phrases that described what he was after - they were; autumn colours contrasting with snow mountains, and to have a sense of emptiness. He had taken a photograph of a place that meant something to him so I wanted to do a good job. I was out of my comfort zone when it came to landscape painting, still life was what I was mostly doing.

Anyway, if you’re interested you can read the story here. I have just had the painting framed and I will be presenting the painting (free of charge) to him at a special event in a few weeks (he has seen a photo of it). I only did this commission to see if I could do it and learn from the experience, as I would like to do more.

I would be careful if you’re being asked to paint something outwith your comfort zone because unless you are willing to work extra hard (it took 5 attempts to reach something I was fairly happy with) then you could be giving yourself a bit of a headache to say the least. In saying that, I would still encourage you to do it as you will learn tons.

I will be posting a picture of the finished painting shortly and I will no doubt post the reaction of my friend to the piece of work.
Good luck!

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I’ve done only a couple of commissions, and they were both out of my comfort zone. Because of that, I spent an inordinate amount of time on them, not to mention the anxiety. Right now I’m not actively looking for commissions, but if offered, I’ll be very careful about what I accept in the future. Maybe with a few more years under my belt, I’ll be comfortable with them!

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Thanks so much for sharing this experience Ken. You have given me lots to think about.
I’m going to think really hard about the composition before I start. Like your painting there are a few kind of dead areas that I need to do something creative with. Thanks!
I’m so looking forward to seeing your finished artwork!

Everything I did as an illustrator for 30 years was basically a commission. When I started painting, one of the pleasures was not always having to take art direction and please clients. I have duplicated a couple of my DPW paintings for buyers upon request, which was OK because the paintings were my idea in the first place, and I was able to make small changes and improvements the second time around. Otherwise, I now feel immediate resistance to any kind of painting “assignment” or suggestion from anyone else–even if it’s something I otherwise might have enjoyed. (Another exception might be portraits, but those aren’t my thing.)

One big difference I see between commercial and fine art commissions is that art directors and designers usually have some experience commissioning art, know basically what they want, and choose artists for projects based on the artists’ existing portfolio samples–minimizing the likelihood of unpleasant surprises. I would be very hesitant to promise (or accept an advance for) something very different from my other work or something I was unsure I could deliver. IMO, unless it’s your mother, an unsophisticated buyer asking a painter (particularly an inexperienced one) to do something completely different from anything else the painter has ever done is a recipe for suffering and disappointment. In short, I would only accept a commission if it was (1) something I wanted to do (or at least didn’t mind doing) and (2) something similar enough to my other work that both the buyer and I would know more-or-less what to expect.


I’ve only done a few commissions and even if you are comfortable with the subject (one was making an 8x10" painting of mine into a 16x20"—sounds easy right?) there is an immediate stress you don’t even know is there because it is for someone else, not yourself. All my buyers were thrilled with their paintings. Just make sure you charge enough for the stress. :slight_smile:


Yes! I do a lot of commissions! They make up between 1/4 and 1/3 of my sales. But I only do commissions that are in my style, my comfort zone. Most clients see a painting of mine that has sold and would like something similar. I don’t copy an existing painting, I use it as a starting point. I want each client to have a unique painting. Also most clients are wanting something custom because they want a particular size.

Now, this might not be the best idea for every painter. You have to ask yourself, do you like to do work for someone else (since this is my full time job, I do not have a problem making something for someone else). Also are you ok with a deadline? is it a subject you normally create? Etc… If you are only painting for yourself, and don’t necessarily have to make a living as an artist, you can turn down a commission if you are not comfortable.

I have had no problems, in doing over a hundred commissions, from a 12x12 to a 36x52, I keep people informed and updated on what to expect, and I ask for payment in advance. I think it is a special thing to have a unique painting created by an artist, it is personal and a great process. I like having communication with people who are purchasing a painting.

I have even commissioned two paintings from an artist we love, and was very happy with them.

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Everyone had such good answers to your question. Mine would duplicate a little from each so I won’t write about it but wanted you to know I was interested in this topic as well!

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I used to do a lot of portrait commissions. I found them really uncomfortable! One lady wanted me to do a portrait of her mother from a photo I couldn’t even SEE. It was so blurry and tiny. I kept explaining that I didn’t have an actual reference, and she kept referring me to that photo. This made me think really hard about the commissions I should accept, though the money was really good. My advice is to always think hard and check the viability of reference photos before you accept!

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Another good point. I’ve had that issue more than once! Much of the time, other people’s photo reference is awful. I take my own whenever possible.


I used to do commissions because I was once a member of an online gallery that suddenly decided ALL of its artists would be available for commissions. Should have dropped out, really, but I wanted to stay because some of my stuff was selling and I’d have cut off my nose to spite my face. Fortunately most of the commissions worked out ok, but I did feel stressed over them. Trying to create a painting that suits someone else’s vision is rather difficult, I think. I’d rather not do it now.

I do drawing commissions on another site. I really enjoy doing them, it’s quite satisfying when the client is pleased with the work. I’ve always had a positive response and have several repeat customers, which is awesome.

As far as painting commissions go… I did have an email through DPW from one woman who asked whether I’d consider doing a landscape painting for her, similar to something already in my gallery, but larger. I answered, saying I’d be happy to, and did she have a specific size in mind? I never heard from her again. Oh well!

Personally, I’d only accept painting commissions if they were within my comfort zone (genre, media, size…) I’ll challenge myself and experiment in my own time, so if it goes wrong I’m the only one that’s let down!

Thanks for the responses guys. It’s always interesting to hear other people’s experience - from painting tons of commission work down to almost none!
From now on at least I will be more mentally prepared when (if) someone asks me to do a commission and how to respond, instead of just automatically agreeing to do it.

I have just recently been working on my first large commission painting. It is stressful to do something that someone else wants, but in this case it has been a very good experience. Unknown to me, my client has been collecting note cards of my paintings for many years and sharing them with her son. She called me and said she wanted to come to my home and discuss painting a large painting for her. She and her son did come and fell in love with a pastel painting I had done many years ago and she really wanted a larger oil painting of it. She said she had been saving a wall in her home for this painting of mine.

So after choosing a size, 30" x 40", which is pretty big for me, I gave her a price. Next, and most importantly, I researched commission contracts. I had a friend work for weeks on a beautiful painting for a client, making many, many changes to satisfy the client. In the end the client came to see the painting, stood there and declared: “You know, I think I will just paint it myself.” And she left without paying anything. I learned my lesson from her story.

So in researching for Commission Contracts, I found many on the internet and took what I needed from them and made up one of my own. The client is required to pay 1/3 up front, 1/3 half way through and the final payment at the end plus sales tax. Don’t forget the sales tax, otherwise YOU will pay that! I printed two copies and we both signed them so everything she wanted is up front in writing!! I made it clear the copyright to the image is mine as I would like to make prints later. Also it was decided that she would be having the painting framed, and there are other clauses to clarify exactly what is expected on both of our parts.

If anyone would like a copy of my contract I would be glad to send it via email.

To keep my client interested in the progress of the painting, I have been posting photos on my blog. She has been emailing me letting me know how pleased she is, which is so nice to hear. I asked her if she would like to see the painting when it was about half done and she came by. She kept hugging me and said she was so happy. Then we both agreed on some changes. She grew up on a farm and her barn was red, but the barn I painted was white. So I made that change and we made more, which was to my liking as well. At that time she made her second payment.

So this is where I am so far on this commission painting. I plan to work on it more this week and will be posting more photos on my blog as I can. One thing I did find is that translating a smaller pastel into a large oil painting is not the same. For example, in the pastel I had a pink sky, but in the larger painting pink was overwhelming. So that is one thing we both decided to change. I will work on that this week. You can see my progress at:
Be sure and scroll all the way to the bottom of the page to see how I have been working from small studies in B/W and an 8x10 study, preparing the canvas, etc. Then come back later when I have finished the painting.

She will have to live with this painting for a long time, so I feel she needs to be very happy with it. Commissions are really a joint effort and all parties need to be happy. I hope my experience has helped you decide if you would like to take on a commission. I have been very lucky with this one, and hope to do more in the future.

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Hi there, for anyone interested, as I mentioned in a post here, I have uploaded an image of my commissioned painting. It can be seen at the link in my post, near the top of this page - cheers.

Thank you for sharing your process Rhett. I like that you did some oil sketches first. This is something I am going to do a lot more as I have started working larger, I think it becomes more important to work on the composition beforehand.

Thank you. I am glad it was helpful. We are always learning. I just updated my blog with the work I was able to do on the painting yesterday. Check it out. Still more work on it to come.

I have been very lucky doing a commission with a client who already loves my work and is delightful to work with. I am sure not all commissions go so smoothly. But again I think using a contract is the way to go and makes the artist look professional.

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Hi everyone,

I returned to this thread since I finished the commission I started out talking about and thought I would re-read some of the posts here.
Also just to briefly summarise my experience. - I procrastinated endlessly about starting the painting. It was larger than I’m used to for a start so I was very nervous about it. Once I got going on it though I was fine so I think I learned that you just have to stop thinking too much about it and just tackle it head-on. Everything is a learning experience and next time I’m asked to do a commission I won’t be so worried about it.

Thanks so much for all your responses. I took a look at all of the links and some of your blogs and websites. Blown away by some of the talent on here!

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I’ve had the same experience as in the procrastinating and although I learned from it…I still seem to do it each and every time. Sigh. More self-discipline!!

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Do you procrastinate with your other work Sunny ie the work you choose yourself rather the work you are asked to do?