Monday, May 16

So you want to Commission a Painting....

Cue peppy 50's era music and narrator...

Here it is, demystified and laid plain; how commissioning a painting works. Lets use my client Samantha as a case study shall we? She contacted me a few weeks ago about a "large coral piece" FUN!

Samantha sent me a few photos of her bedroom, where she intends to hang her piece. Her accent color is coral! That stunning chandelier is our inspiration point, as well as that dusty blue bamboo chair off in the corner there.

Look at her space, pretty nice huh? This little vignette lets me see more of her style. (how dope are those lamps!) I can see she likes a bit of glamour, symmetry and texture! Since I know that her painting will lay over this wallpaper, I am already thinking of composition ideas; I think there should be big shapes, lots of layering but chunky and scribbly to balance the linear-ness all over the place.

 Step one: graphite "grid guides." I guess b/c I did graphic design in another life, this is how I always start. You can kind of see how the canvas is divided into three parts long wise.

She totally agrees, in fact two of her favorite pieces of mine are Float Away and Astragal. She tells me that she likes the drama of Antonia and Caspia, but wants her coral colors to not be so red, oh and also pops of black. Oh yes, no yellow! We determine that she has a loose time line, so I can take my time. I usually need between two to four weeks to complete any commission, but sometimes I can do it right away. It totally depends on my work load.

 Step two: I decide that light gray and blue with a bit of brown should be the base layer. Lots of texture here, but not too much dripping.

 Step three: I like to use scribbles in the beginning stages in this case b/c I want the overall painting to feel layered, but not be too busy, and I want some larger shapes to layer over the scribbles. Start playing with corals and pinks.

 Step four: Go sit in my chair and put my feet up to ponder....hmmm the left side is too dark, make a mental note to layer over that orange...needs more movement and blue on top....

Step five: Some more drips. I throw some liquid white paint and some army green in there...looking good, do some other stuff and let it sit there for a bit...

Finished! I am so happy with it, I secretly hopes she hates it so I can keep it! Just kidding...not really. I send her an email with this photo attached and explain my motivations for composing this piece and wait.

"I am so excited," she writes me two days later. Uh oh, I think, she might not like it. I am not worried though, I think this whole process is so much fun! Its a collaboration and my gut feeling is there might need to be more coral here...She gives me a call and we have a nice little chat. Her husband loves as is, but she says we need more coral! MORE! Yummy. No problem, I will add some, without sacrificing the dusty blue she loves on the bottom and top right of the piece. That will happen later this week after I get back from New York!! I will send her photos and then go from there, promise I will show you the final result.

Shipping: "Samantha" is 48x48 inches, a pretty large piece so we must go with Craters and Freighters to get it across the country to it's new home. This photo is not of her painting, but it is an example of the kind of custom crate that will be built to contain it and safely transport it! I can't tell you how much I love this company, they are the most professional shippers I have ever worked with, and the only shipper I use for large paintings. It ain't cheep, a painting this size will ship for around 400 usd. I will need your full mailing address, and phone number.

What if my painting is small, 36x36 and under? I will pack it up and ship it myself, via USPS. Usually around 150 usd.

Shipping to far away places: I can paint your piece on an un-stretched canvas, and ship it to you in a tube! Super cheep shipping, and you can have your local art shop stretch your painting for you (I leave you plenty of extra canvas for stretching and wrapping), and it does not alter the painting at all. Plenty of clients have taken this option with great success! Bravo. 

Price: Ahah! Price is per size. Samantha is 48x48, that is 1600 usd, see below for a list of prices.

Mystical shit: If you want something, buy it because if you don't, and you call me and say hmmm, I like this then someone else in the universe will hear you, and buy it before you do. I don't understand how the universe works, but I do know this happens, it is for reals yall.

Commission fee: I have agonized over this decision, but I really feel good about it; there is a fee to order a custom painting, otherwise known as a commission. Please contact me for pricing. It simply takes so much more time to paint a custom order. Not to mention thought, I really to my hardest to deliver exactly what you want when I paint for you. Sometimes I have to go back several times to make changes before you see your painting. Most of the time they are minor changes, and I am happy to do that, because like I said, I want it to be perfect. This brings me to my next change.

contact me personally for pricing:

Other considerations about pricing: If you want a custom canvas size order, Yippee! I am super happy to do that, it costs 275 extra b/c I have to (naturally) order special parts, and pay someone to put it all together to make sure the frame is square, and sturdy, you know, all the usual crap. I am not making a profit on this, it is what I am charged by my framer. Always better to go in even numbers when sizing, by the way.
Two alterations allowed: Yup, two times I will go back and make changes to your painting after I show it to you and you consider for a while. Now, let me be clear, if you specify you want lots of blue, and I don't put any blue in your painting, do not despair, I will obviously not count my error as one of your alterations! Also, of course I will allow wiggle room. This policy has to be in place for people who ask me to make change after change b/c they don't actually really know what they want. It also forces both of us, you and me, to be very clear about what you expect from your painting, instead of waiting to see what I do, and then asking for a different look. Not that you guys do that as a rule! I am just noticing a trend of people who are not really paying attention, and this is very disrespectful of my time and efforts, and I think this is the best way of addressing this issue.
Cancellation Policy: This has not happened before, but I expect it will at some point in the future. If we can't find a happy place with your painting, I will offer a refund, and re-sell your painting. Now, I don't charge anything for the effort, but if this becomes an issue, I will come back and start charging a cancellation fee of 25% of the cost of the painting, or something like that. Good Lawrd I hope this doesn't have to happen.
Turn Around Time: I am running about 2 weeks, and I won't let this time frame grow any more. Its just  too hard to keep track of everyone in that kind of time frame. Most of the time is spent by me painting the commissions of everyone else who contacted me before you. It doesn't really take too long to paint a canvas, but there are so many others, not to mention the gallery, and the shop to paint for. Plus, ya'll know I like to layer, and I need a few days to stare at your painting to be sure I covered all the bases. Not to mention, ship happens! I get painter's block, or a cold, or my wrist starts acting up, or my more bitching, ok, I'm done.
Paintings in the Shop: Sign up to my newsletter if you want to be one of the first people to know when new paintings are up in the shop. I know they tend to sell out fast, I do try to keep it all updated and neat and fresh. Starting October 1st, there will be many more paintings in the shop to choose from, I am hoping that by charging the commission fee, more people will want to buy something from my shop instead. I am hoping this means I will have more time to paint for the shop. This really is the best way for you to get new ideas, and techniques and the coolest color combos I can think of. I can't make new cool things if I spend all my time painting custom orders. I will offer all sizes, and as the months go on, more and more paintings will be available! I have high hopes for this new arrangement.
Retail and wholesale: Contact me if you are interested in selling my paintings in your store. I offer two levels of discounted pricing, and you can order right from the store. I only choose about three or four places in the US to sell via retail, and this year I have met my quota already. Also, I like to be sure that the shops that sell my paintings are places that I love, and would shop at myself. In other words, I like to control how my paintings are perceived, that is basic brand maintenance, so I reserve the right to decline to sell paintings to stores on a case by case basis. Unfortunately I don't do retail offers for international sellers. I would have to paint on an un-rolled canvas, and this means I would have to essential paint on commission, and this is too much to deal with when I am accepting a lot less for the painting than I would on a regular commission. I hope you all understand! This reminds me, my turn around time is higher for retail orders (of course, unless you buy something directly from the store), because I make my commissions my priority.


  1. What a great post, Michelle. You make it such an easy, fun, rewarding process. I loved the peek into your studio and your head. You truly are amazing. And the mystical shit? You’re totally right. Happens ALL THE TIME.

  2. LURV reading about your process (obviously) and I laughed out loud at the Mystical Shit, Man (although I like the image of a Mystical Shit Man, sans comma; that's what I'm going to call the stinky Sadhus here in India from now on)

    You're a first class talent, lady. And a First Class Talent Lady. xo

  3. I am so glad you made a post like this. I love getting to watch your layers of paint go on. I just don't have the brain for abstract, so I really love getting to see how you do it.
    If I were a rich girl.... Oh, I would own SO much art! And yours would be the first on my list.

  4. DayUM that's mouthwatering! Love that you shared the process, too.
    Word to commissions.

  5. Wow, this post was kind of like exploring the great unknown, the mind of a real artist. Very cool to follow your process.

  6. Wow, that was so interesting. Thanks for laying it all out, Michelle. The painting is so beautiful and I love the bits of army green, as well as the tiny touches of minty, sea foam green along the left side. Your eye for color is so amazing.

  7. Oooh! I love it as is. Thanks for sharing your process.

  8. that was a great post. like how you showed the progression of your work and thought process. when I first saw the finished piece, I thought it was so cool that the coral was a part of the piece but not the whole piece, which to me, made it more interesting.

  9. Oh, Capri. I wish we could've had a threesome. Sigh.

  10. I totally want to commission your work....need to speak to hubs tonight on budget and then I'll reach out to you!

  11. Loved this post, thanks Michelle! I can attest to how lovely Michelle is to work with! Such a fun experience - and I'm dying to commission another painting!

  12. Michelle this post was perfection! I loved your detailed adventure from start to end. And that stuff about the mystical shit man, so true. your paintings are pretty much awesome lady!

  13. This is a really interesting post. I read the one the other day of the Aussie commission, she is one of the blogs I follow. I can't believe how open you are to clients telling you they want a bit more colour here and the and so on. Most artists wouldn't do that!
    I really like your work and hope to be able to adopt a piece in the future (will have to convince the non-abstract-art-lover partner that he'll love it too!) :)

  14. Thank you for posting this Michelle - it is so great to see all your processes and also about the shipping.
    Great to hear that your clients are so happy with your work and that you are able to adjust it for them and get what they really want.
    Great painting as well :-)

  15. What a great post! Can't wait to see the finished piece hanging in her bedroom.

  16. Beautiful...I love the one you did for her and think it will look fabulous in her room. So. Much. Talent.

  17. love seeing your process. Just beautiful.

  18. So neat to get a peak at how this process works! It was definitely a mystery to me. Very cool to learn some of the ins and outs.

  19. This is one of the main reasons why I was always intimidated about selling my work online, the whole shipping process. My husband works for the postal service and anything shipped any other way besides USPS was me not showing my loyalty bahahah. Good to know what's involved though.

  20. love coral. LOVE... It is my happy color, not my favorite color (red) but the color I envision when I am feeling bummed- it brings me back!
    That mystic stuff is SO true. I had an antiques business and would have some fabulous item that would NOT sell for "months and months". Then I'd be in my shop and I would see it and have a casual thought of "you're so amazing I can't believe no one has bought you" and I SWEAR to you it would sell in days!! I've had other dealer friends who said it would happen to them too! Energy.

    love your paintings!

  21. You did a great job and I glad you had fun!

  22. You are the coolest. Thanks for letting us into the mind of a masterpiece.

  23. This is a delicious post, lovely to see a fellow painter walking the reader through the process.

    We make very different paintings, you and I, but your colors make my heart talk the big happy cheese cow talk. Thank you for being so candid with your process, and goodness girl keep up the good work.

  24. looks like twombly. love it. love the crate too.

  25. Striking painting, I love it. Her expression is so well captured.
    This is beautiful. Really enjoyed catching up with your blog. What a great painting. There were so many amazing views - I could have painted many more too
    it's very nice blog, keep wondorfull and sharing your blog.
    Edmonton Painters
    Painters Edmonton

  26. Michelle - What a fantastic helpful post! As a new artist, these are things that I really need to know, and I need to know how to explain to clients too. I love you work . Thank you for the advice and inspiration.

  27. AnonymousJuly 19, 2013

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  28. Loved this! Mystical shit indeed! Stumbled across this and as an artist, it has given me to kick in the ass I needed! And, from Houston as well..


Yay! Your gonna reach out to me! I am so excited. I have tried to make commenting here easy for both of us. So please try your hardest to read the squiggly letters so I can chat with you.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Popular Posts