Commission work: the art of making patrons happy

I've had an active commission practice since my first real solo show in 2007. Following this show in Newton, MA I had consistent commission work for three years. Mostly the work I did for commission clients was for their children or a piece to celebrate the family as a whole. I love commission work for all the reasons I loved being a portrait and wedding photographer after graduating from college. I enjoy the process of getting to know a family or individual: what their passions are, their favorite colors and important bits of stories from their lives. It's all about communication when trying to meet a patron half way to create something that will be cherished for generations but also feels right to me and my creative voice. 

I've been working on four commissions this past few months. I thought it might be interesting for my blog readers to see a bit of the process I go through to create a commission. I am preparing to create a new page on my website that showcases the commissions I have done and how the ball gets rolling . 

When a patron reaches out to request a commissioned work, we start the conversation. The patron chooses a palettte and we focus in on the shade of blue (for example) that they love...or, the family of colors they want for their piece. I have a variety of ways to help us come to an understanding when it comes to the palette: from having them choose from the hundred + colors of colored pencils I bring to an apointment to sharing a "mode board" on Pinterest.

Next, we talk about imagery which they chose from pieces I have done previously and from brainstorming what might be what they are dreaming of, i.e.: "I love trees" ... "we love the mountains" ...

We discuss size and price ranges.

Then, it is time for me to go back to the studio and draw up a working sketch. The sketch is the next step in the conversation. I share the sketch with the cliet and they give me feed back. In the example I show here - the client wanted the blues to be more vibrant and there to be less purple. Also, she wanted me to try to incorporate her daughter's love of children.

The client gives me some details about the recipient of he commission: initials, birth date, quotes or bit sof songs they love, words that describe them or the family, hobbies, passions, etc... These get incorporated into the final piece - sometimes in the compostion and imagery and sometiems in the vintage papers I use. In this commission I used vintage Japanese pages from picture books and maps as the first layer - some of which got painted over but much of which peeks through the layers of paint.

I begin mixing colors and making notes on how I arrived at the particular colors so that I might recreate them when I start painting the piece.

Next, I begin the piece! I try to send occasional updates and let the client know how it's going, etc.. Finally, when I feel like I have done everything I can and included as much as can from their specifications I photograph the piece to show the client. If they give me the thumbs up it is time to deliver ! I have been fortunate that I have so far never had an unhappy patron. I have done about twenty commissions for familes, children and individuals. I would like to do memorial commissions but have found it hard to know how to market that concept. Would welcome any ideas!