One of the quintessential tasks of a working artist is to complete commissions.
Let’s say you’ve built up a body of work and marketed yourself well enough; the time will come when you’ll find that people that resonate with your aesthetics. Ideally they would like you to hire you to use your hard-won skill to manifest the vision they have in mind.
This, my eager Power Painter, is a defining moment for many-an-artist.
Though I’ve completed enough commissions to lose count, I still value the experience pretty much every time.
It’s a chance to connect with another person, formulate new ideas, and work on elements and themes you otherwise wouldn’t. It can be an incredibly rewarding experience for everyone involved.
Fortunately, that was definitely the case with this piece.
When Lindsay saw my work and emailed me, I had no idea it was going to be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding commissions I’ve been able to work on to date.
She wanted a gift for her husband, Mike. They’re both writers – really good ones at that.
Mike wrote a short piece of science fiction entitled “The Bone Seller” – And since his birthday was fast approaching, Lindsay sought my assistance in bringing Mike’s charming tale to a more visual format.
Let’s talk process for a minute:
The scene I was tasked with painting involved a strange and mysterious Martian being appearing before the protagonist and offering him a Bone.
Not just any Bone, but an engraved, dust-producing, Hallucinogenic Bone.
I wanted to convey the Protagonist’s unease, the persistence of the Martian, and the crusty transport where a good chunk of the story takes place.
After reading the short story, I produced three sketches. I always keep my sketches rough, yet readable, and assign them letters of the alphabet. It’s this step that allows the client to gauge the mood, composition, and feeling of the piece.
Once I get the go-ahead, I start forging ahead to the “WIP” Phase.
Oh yeah, I suppose it’s a good time to mention the overall pipeline that these things usually follow.
Prompt => Sketches => WIP => Refined WIP => Final.
“WIP” is short for Work in Progress, for those of you who aren’t yet up to speed on some of the creative jargon.
All the while I’m sending the piece to the client and making sure they’re liking the direction, adding their feedback as I steadily work towards a final image.
Here’s one of the shots I sent over before I hit the Final stage:
My sincerest joy comes from getting everything into place, because then it’s just a matter of refining the elements as they appear.
If you’ve done your diligence in the earlier sketches, you know that what you’ve built is solid, and ready to be rendered and polished. This eliminates headaches that can sometimes arise from fundamental errors that weren’t caught before forging ahead.
As long as you’re polite, professional, and take your time (within the confines of the deadline) then things tend to pan out favorably.
With Lindsay’s approval, I happily wrapped up the commission as I’d done numerous times before. I’m used to parting ways after exchanging a final email of pleasantries and light celebration.
However…What she sent me a few weeks later caught me by complete surprise.
I’ve been doing commissions for about 6 years now, and I never get tired of seeing the work bringing joy to it’s satisfied recipient. In this case that came with a photo and a little blurb:
“Thought you might like to see how happy Mike is with the print :D”
I felt humbled and overjoyed to be a humble instrument that helped a loving wife give her husband a completely unique gift.
In short, commissions can be a really rewarding aspect of being a professional artist. I don’t always have the time or inkling to take on the private ones, but in this case it turned out better than I could have hoped.
Cultivate your process, market your work, go the extra mile for your clients, and you too can share in something greater than yourself (and even pay a few bills doing so.)
I hope this little story is inspiring and helpful. If you’d like to read some of Mike or Lindsay’s works, their respective blogs are linked below:
While I’m on the subject, here’s a recent anthology they both got published in.
(isn’t it rad that a husband and wife both write and get published in the same sources?)
That about wraps it up for now, Power Painters. As always, feel free to sign up for the mailing list below for exclusive updates, assets, and awesomeness.