Chestnut Yard Studios - Wiltshire

Commissioning an Artwork

Skye Holland | 22 September, 2021

            Skye Holland commission artwork in loft

To commission a bespoke artwork, or not to commission?

Many artists avoid the commissioning process.  Why? 

There are lots of reasons they may feel reluctant to embark on what could be seen as a potential minefield or a clipping of their creative voice and wings.  This is mainly due to differing visions between themselves and their clients and a lack of clarity and communication. Worst cases can lead to disagreements, a loss of authenticity in the work, conflict and wasting precious time and efforts – in other words income. The pressure for some is unbearable.

Commissioning an artist is also difficult for would be clients.   This is sometimes because there isn’t a very clear communication path which not only spells out the terms and conditions (right from the start), but when an artwork becomes something that they didn’t bargain for.

This can be many things.   Some examples in my own experience (and some responses from clients (in italics) can be: 

  • the sketchbook drawings and planned artwork at small scale which received my client’s approval, look totally different at a much larger scale

I didn’t know that could happen, how am I supposed to realise that if you haven’t explained that to me at the outset?

  • Once I am really in flow and using my creative voice, the work becomes something a little different in feel to the smaller, more controlled sketches

The artwork isn’t exactly as you drew it, the outlines are sharper in the smaller sketches – I liked them that way.  You’ve added in extra marks and colours – I didn’t know that would happen.  I just wasn’t expecting this.  I’m not sure I like the bigger version.

  • When I consider the work completed, my client may feel there should be some changes…how do I navigate this when I feel this may compromise or even spoil an artwork in my view?

I have paid for this artwork, it’s my right to ask for changes if I’m not happy.   You didn’t explain that once the work was done, I couldn’t change my mind and ask you to alter the work.

  • I’m so happy with the end result. It’s authentic, I followed a brief but kept my integrity.  I listened to my client and my terms and conditions were in black and white and approved (plus I have an email trail to track our communications).  I have invoiced you.

I know.   I just don’t love it.   I want to, but I just don’t.   It’s not how I imagined it would be.

It seems to come down to a delicate balance between holding your nerve, keeping integrity and having a cast iron set of terms and conditions which your client is happy to sign at the outset.  Beyond that, it is about clear communication and a confident and experienced artist.

Listening and talking to clients is No.1 for me.  It’s often about determining how experienced my client is at the commissioning process.   If not, then every step of the way has to be clearly explained and understood by both parties.  It has to be seen as a collaboration. 

Sometimes early conversations reveal that a collaboration isn’t possible.  Then it’s a polite no, and we both go our respectful ways and that’s okay. 

Having had some of these pitfalls to negotiate and now being older and wiser, I have completed many, many successful commissions.   Please always ask for testimonials when you’re considering this process, plus to see some examples of completed projects. 

Click here to see some testimonials and a little more about me!


Showing examples of works at scale in virtual or real interior settings is also helpful for clients to visualise the final impact of commissioned artwork.