You’ve had the moment — the one where you’re at a local art show or one of the craft markets and fall head over heels in love with someone’s work. You think to yourself, “If only it were smaller/bigger/had my name on it/was another color.” You take the artist’s card sheepishly and promise yourself you’ll get in touch with them, but you never do. We get it; sending an email to an artist is super scary if you’ve never done it, right? Here’s a tip: Atlanta’s artists are totally psyched that you want to give them money. But, of course, there are a few dos and don’ts that apply to the buying process. After all, you can’t expect filet mignon if you’ve only got enough coin for a Happy Meal.
We asked four Atlanta artists advice on commissioning artwork that will invoke the warm and fuzzies every time you gaze upon it because it was made entirely just for you!
Multimedia artist Barry Lee‘s colorful and compelling work can be seen all over Atlanta, from his pop culture icon wall in the Bookhouse Pub to his sassy surfer mural for Forward Warrior, to playful MailChimp campaigns and enlightened illustrations for Wussy magazine. He would like you to remember that commissioning art is a business transaction, so when you’re ready to reach out, don’t slide into an artist’s DMs. You should be able to find the appropriate contact information on an artist’s website.
Monica Alexander‘s kaleidoscopic colored, quadruple-eyed characters are highly sought after. She’s created commissions depicting couples, individuals and pets for years. Alexander says that even though she wishes it wasn’t, money is definitely the deciding factor when it comes to taking a commission.
According to Alexander, having the same budget in mind as your client is essential to a successful relationship. “You’re paying for a purely custom piece of art,” she says, which means sketches, color testing, discarded first drafts, research and material costs, among others. “Don’t try to haggle,” she advises. Custom art isn’t cheap, nor should it be, and you should expect to pay a deposit up front — as this will more than likely pay for the supplies needed for your particular piece.
Jessica Locklar‘s classic painting techniques and darling doe-eyed dames have caused quite a few wallets to open up with commission requests for portrait work. When asked what her advice would be for those wanting a custom piece, Locklar encourages you not to be shy about what you want. “Direction is a must,” she says. “Otherwise, you’ll have countless confusing requests to slowly tweak into whatever is in their head. It’s far more frustrating when this happens, opposed to someone knowing exactly what they want.”
Rebecca Holt — whose magnificent metalsmithing abilities adorn the earlobes, decollete and digits of Atlanta’s jewelry lovers — finds joy in collaborating with customers.
“I see if it’s a fit first,” she says. “What are the stones you have or want? Which of my past designs inspire you? What is your budget? When do you need it? Once I have the answers to these questions, I can see if it’s a fit. When I complete something for someone that is that special, it’s so fulfilling. Some of my best work has been a mix of someone else’s ideas or inspirations mixed with my own.”
So with that in mind, here’s a step-by-step guide to commissioning some seriously awesome original artwork:
— Find an artist whose work you love, and get their email address.
— Do your research. Make notes about what you like about their style, and see if you can find out the prices their pieces usually fetch so you can avoid wasting time and potential embarrassment if they are way out of your budget.
— Send an email to the artist that tells them what your budget is, along with a description of what you would like to accomplish. If you love their style and want them to have complete control over what they deliver to you, then you must relinquish all authority; you can’t change your mind at the last second or show disappointment if the finished piece isn’t what you expected. One way to avoid disaster is to tell them which of their pieces resonated with you. That will set the artist up for success.
— Make sure you have a contract. It should include a timeline and a completion date, the payment structure, how many revisions are allowed and how the piece will get to you when it is completed.
— Let them do their work. If you must check on the progress of the piece, remember to be kind and thoughtful. It can be stressful to the artist when they aren’t given room to breathe and create; trust that they are working hard to deliver something that they will be proud of and that you will be proud to show off.
— When everything is done, tell your friends how much you love your new artwork. The best advertisement is word of mouth.