Commissioning a Painting: It's Easier Than You Might Think

The other day, we received a message from a client unsure about the prospect of commissioning custom art, but she wanted to know more. While custom artwork may sound like a daunting prospect to pursue, modern art galleries are adept at managing the process on behalf of their clients in a fashion that takes the intimidation factor out of the equation altogether.“Cartoons with Dad” by Warren KeatingPerhaps you are looking to commission a family portrait, pet portrait, boudoir painting, a different size of an existing painting you have fallen in love with but which is too big or small for a space. Maybe you are looking for a gift for a special occasion such as weddings, anniversaries, retirements and birthdays. Knowing what to expect and the right questions to ask will help ensure a successful and rewarding art commission experience.


If You’re Considering Commissioning a Painting, What Should You Know?

There are several important things to keep in mind in order to ensure that you are comfortable with the process from start to finish. In the first phase of the project, the goal is to answer several questions, including what is your vision for the art commission? This is your opportunity to tell the story behind your ideas.

We recommend that you work with a gallery with an established art commission system in place. This protects your time and investment while still honoring the creative process for the artist.

PRO TIP: If you’re struggling to identify your general artistic preferences, researching different types of art and helpful guides may be useful.

As it relates to procuring custom art, we have found that these are some of the most common questions we encounter, which a reputable gallery should be well-prepared to answer:

Can I Choose the Artist?

A professional gallery assists you in finding the right match for your creative vision for the artwork, but ultimately you call the shots, assuming the artist you prefer is available and willing to work on the commission. In-house art experts provide you the tools to help you discover the best available artist for your desired piece.

Consider and closely review the artist's existing body of work. Industry experts recommend exploring the websites, galleries, and Instagram accounts of the artists whose work has caught your eye.

PRO TIP: If your commission includes people and faces, look at how the artist already paints faces. Your commission will probably look similar, so find a style you love, and for example, if they are stylized faces, don’t expect realism and vice versa.

Can I Collaborate With the Artist Directly?

While you probably won’t talk to them on a daily basis, a facilitated meeting and conversation between you and the artist is important to share your vision and confirm the details. This is usually arranged by the gallery and may be done in person, by phone, or through a video phone call which includes your gallery advisor. Your gallery advisor will make sure your vision is clearly communicated and will follow up with the artist to keep the project on track so that you stay well informed.

PRO TIP: If you are commissioning images of family members or pets, then higher-quality reference photos will help the artist most effectively capture their likeness. If you hope to recreate images of a place, providing many photos of the location is helpful. This is especially valuable to give the artist options of angles and lighting.

How Does Payment Work?

It is important to agree on an estimated price before the artist begins work on your masterpiece. Most artists will require a deposit upfront, and later the gallery will invoice you for the remaining balance once the work is completed. An agreement to commission art should include the relevant terms in writing, for which key components may include:

  • Name of the artist who will be creating the commissioned piece
  • Estimated price based on requested specifications
  • Terms of payment, including what you are expected to pay as a deposit and when you will be invoiced for the balance
  • Estimated timeline for completion of the artwork
  • General guidance with regard to the potential for changes to the scope of work after the fact

How Long Will I Have to Wait to Receive My Custom Artwork?

The most common question we get relates to how long the process will take. Every artist has a different schedule by which they complete their work, depending on the specifications of the artwork. UGallery art advisor Samantha Greene says the typical commission time can vary, but that “8 weeks is a pretty safe bet for most artists…” However, she also cautions that there isn’t a hard and fast rule.

For example, some custom paintings, such as those which capture a memory or an original portrait will often take a little longer than simply recreating an existing piece in a different size. It is important to note that if you love the artist’s work, it is almost always worth the wait.

UGallery artist Warren KeatingPRO TIP: You can request that the gallery share photos throughout the progression of the piece. Don’t hesitate to provide feedback if the early version is going in a direction you didn’t anticipate.

Will My Art Arrive Safely?

Ask the gallery about their shipping process. Your final artwork should be packaged in a custom-built box to ensure safe delivery, and be fully insured before making its journey to your doorstep. For reference, here is an example of a typical UGallery artwork being prepared for shipment.

At the end of the day, rather than scary and intimidating, the process for commissioning an original artwork should be an enjoyable experience.

“We try to make the process both approachable and fun,” Samantha shares. “It’s so wonderful watching a painting come to life after speaking with the artist about what the client has in mind. Our ultimate goal is for everyone to be happy throughout the entire commission.”

Looking to procure custom art? You can inquire about working with a UGallery artist by contacting us on our website.