Today I finished a watercolor portrait that a client asked me to paint. I enjoy doing commission work for several reasons, but mainly it gives me something new and refreshing to work on. I also like creating artwork for clients because making a custom piece of artwork for someone else is more straight forward and concrete than the work that I make for myself.
Pet-portrait: Lucy. Oil on canvas, 12" x 12". 2010
Work that comes from my personal, artistic vision is usually a long, mentally taxing, and sometimes confusing process. I never know what my projects will become or how they will end. On the other hand, when a client commissions me to create a picture for them, I know exactly what I'm working with. The difference between my own work and commission work is that I have an established process for creating another person's vision.
A secondary sketch for a client's project.
When I make work for a client, I start by drawing some initial rough sketches. Then I run those sketches by the client to make sure I'm drawing what they have in mind. After that, I make a second round of sketches, but this time I use color and create an outline for where everything is going to go on the paper or canvas. Again, I check in with my client and encourage them to speak up at any point to let me know if they are unhappy with anything. From there I create the final product. When I show it to them, they are always more than happy with the end result, which makes me happy!
A family portrait for a client. Watercolor on paper, 20" x 20". 2017
The weird thing about commission work is that I never would've gotten into it if it weren't for one dog. I used to work at Art Outfitters where there were two shop dogs, Billy and Cricket. Every now and again a customer would give the business owner a portrait of one or both of her dogs, which she'd display by the register. Customers asked me so frequently if the portraits were mine that I finally decided to do one of my own to put next to them. It wasn't long after that that I began to get requests for custom pet portraits.
Pet-portrait: Early the dog. Oil on canvas, 20" x 24". 2011
I had no idea when I painted Billy what it would lead to. Commission work has been a great way for me to get out of my own head and to take a break from my routine. It's also been an enjoyable way to meet new people. Additionally, creating work for another person expands the range of the type of work I do, and it stretches my comfort zone. So, thanks Billy. Here's to the scruffiest little shop dog I know!
Billy. Oil on canvas, 12" x 12". 2010