Permission to Commission : Getting Clear On Client Expectations

Last week saw the completion of another commission and I was lucky enough to be able to deliver and install the piece myself.┬áThere’s nothing better than seeing your work in situ along with a happy client!

The fact that my client was happy was a huge relief because this commission turned out to be quite the challenge at times and taught me so much about the importance of getting the early stages of a commission right. In this case: getting inside the head of the client to understand what exactly it is that they’re picturing.

When it comes to a commission with a more specific brief (abstract silver birch trees to be precise), the client will always have a picture in their mind of what they want it to look like.

Looking back I can see that I wasn’t clear enough with my client about their expectations and went away with a somewhat dissimilar picture in my mind which led to setbacks (and a somewhat expensive waste of materials!) later on.

To make the process as efficient and stress-free as possible, it’s so important to ask the right questions and not just rely on one or two superficial (albeit lovely) creative conversations.

Asking questions such as: just how abstract does the client want the piece to be? Given the limited colour palette, do they want the overall piece to feel relatively restful too, or do they want something powerful and bold? Are they expecting to see actual tree forms, or is the colour palette/texture enough? … would have been a huge help and would have prevented me from going back and forth on the painting, and then later with the client, before getting it right.

In the end, because of my lack of initial planning and clarity, I ended up painting 3 versions and wasting over 2 metres of canvas! And as any artist knows, those rolls are not cheap…

So, thinking about it, next time I may tackle the confirmation of a commission in two ways. Firstly, some sort of questionnaire or written description from the client would be great and would also help them get clear on what it is they’re after. Secondly, a face-to-face conversation (or phone call) between the two of us would enable me to dig deeper and really draw out the kind of painting they’re imagining for their space. From there, I can go away and produce some mockups to send to them for approval, before I tackle the actual piece and put paint to canvas!

It all sounds so obvious and commonsensical in hindsight doesn’t it? Oh well. We live and learn!

L x

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