Commissioning a Work of Art

Commissioning a work of art can be a very rewarding experience. It’s the ultimate form of having something custom made that reflects the collector as well as the artist, and lasts for generations. The following is a step by step guide to initiating your project and successfully seeing it through.

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What is your style? Examples, artists, clockwise from top left: Jennifer Kane, oil; J. Harlan Ritchey, pen and ink; Adrienne Waterston, silkscreen; Elody Gyekis, oil

Step 1:

Develop some ideas about what you want. What is the nature of the piece you have in mind?
Consider size, subject, medium, style and concept. Also, have in mind a budget and ideal completion date.

Step 2:

Find an artist whose aesthetic and process resonate with you personally. Have a look at their previous work to be sure that you like their style. Read some of their statements to get a feel for the philosophy that shapes what they do.

Step 3:

Make contact with the artist. If they are available to do the project, set up a meeting. Be prepared with ideas, information and images.

Step 4:

If the pair of you are a good fit, proceed with signing a simple agreement from the artist which states what you are promised to receive and when, and the amount that you agree to pay for it. Usually the fee is payed in thirds, with the initial payment required to begin production. Note that the artist automatically retains all rights to the image. If you would like to use the image for other purposes, it should be negotiated and stated in the contract that you are purchasing full or limited use rights to the completed work.

Step 5:

Schedule a few more meetings and communications throughout the process to be sure that everything is on track, observe how the work is taking form, and to make the second payment. The artist may create sketches or other preliminary work to get feedback in order to develop the concept and composition in accordance with the collector’s wishes.

Step 6:

Upon completion of the work, the collector is presented with the final piece, and given an opportunity to express approval. As an extra option, some artists will consult or recommend a designer or framer to assist with the framing and installation. These steps insure the best presentation and safest mounting, especially if it is a larger piece.

Keep in mind that creating art is not always a linear process. It is an expression of the artist as a person who is in a constant state of growth and discovery. Having a mutually agreed upon deadline is important, but sometimes giving the creative some flexibility can result in a higher outcome, as they put extra time and eort into the work. Most of all, enjoy the process and the final outcome of having a very special piece of art, made just for you!


Jennifer Kane has been a working artist in Pennsylvania since 1992.