Commissioning a bespoke painting.

Commissioning a bespoke painting.

How do commissions work? Who can commission a painting? What happens? How does it work?

Artists often produce commissioned artwork. It’s not something that many people are aware they can do.  Not all artists do commissions though, it depends on how they work.  I take on commissions when I can as it’s a great way to challenge myself with an unfamiliar bird.  

Usually commission requests comes from someone wanting a painting inspired by a particular bird but painted in my style.  Sometimes it’s a painting similar to one I have already painted but in a different size to fit the space the owner has for it.  I had a commission for a small painting of dippers from a lady who had always watched dippers with her late husband and so wanted a painting to remind her of this time.  I’ve painted a chaffinches and sparrows feeding on a different shaped canvas for a lady who wanted it landscape rather than square.  I’ve had a commission for sanderlings by a gentleman as it was a favourite bird.  And the most recent one is of kittiwakes, as that was the name of a couple’s new boat. 

The reasons for a commission are varied but always I am given a bird request and a rough size of painting as a starting point.  Once I know the bird I am to work with and the rough size I can give a range of prices that they can be.  A smaller one usually being at the lower price point.  A deposit is required upfront to guarantee first choice on the paintings.  I tend to work in batches of paintings - each one feeds of the other and so when I take on a  commission, I choose 4 or 5 canvases to start on.  This is good for the person placing the commission as they are able to choose which one they like best.  

Once the canvases have been chosen I study the bird.  If it’s not one I’ve studied before then I spend time watching it, drawing it, photographing it and researching it’s behaviour and habitats. From this I build up a picture of the essence of that bird.  I have the blank canvases propped up in my studio while i work out how I’m going to make them.  I love having a new bird to understand and the challenge of making the design work.


Once I’ve decided how to tackle the bird, I start building up the layers. Each time adding to the sense of the bird and how it behaves.  Often what works on one painting doesn’t on another, and so each one is considered and worked on independently as well as alongside the others. Often 2 or 3 will work and 2 will take longer to get to a finished point. 

I'm often asked "how do you know when a painting is finished?"  A finished point is when I’m happy with the composition and feel of the painting, it's definitely a personal decision and often it can take very small adjustments to me it work.  I always recall the lines from a Tessa Ransome poem "when it works, it feels like play".  Once I’ve got approx 3 paintings working, I will send images of those three to the customer.  Sometimes they immediately chose one and they are happy to take it. Other times they want to wait and see all the paintings before choosing, sometime choosing two rather than just one.  Once my commissioner has chosen and paid for their paintings, the other paintings are then released for general sale through my website.  

If you think you'd like a commission but are still unsure how much it would cost, how it would work - please feel free to message me. There is no obligation after an initial chat, and as a rough idea of prices I'd recommend looking at my paintings web page to get an idea of the rough cost of my paintings.

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